The October Democratic Debate In 6 Charts

Last night, 12 candidates duked it out in Westerville, Ohio, in the fourth Democratic debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren built on her past debate successes, receiving high marks from both voters who care more about defeating President Trump and voters who care more about a candidate whose positions they agree with. But she was not the only winner in the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar had strong performances, too, and used the debate as an opportunity to push back on whether Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s progressive policies are realistic.

We will be keeping an eye on the polls to see if Warren’s solid performance will help her pull ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden, or if Buttigieg and Klobuchar will manage to shore up more support. But for now, here’s a look at how the candidates performed, summed up in six charts:

Which candidates performed the best?

First, we wanted to see which candidates impressed the viewers we surveyed. To do this, we compared each candidate’s pre-debate favorability1 to debate-watchers’ rating of their performance to see if any well-liked candidates disappointed during the debate or if any less-liked candidates received good ratings. By this metric, Klobuchar and Buttigieg were the two candidates who exceeded expectations given their pre-debate favorables, though Warren still received the highest debate grade overall.

Warren performed well among voters who care about defeating Trump

In our poll, about two-thirds of Democratic voters said they value a candidate who has a good chance of beating Trump over someone who agrees with them on the issues — and that didn’t change after the debate. So with “electability” central to the election thus far, we wanted to see whether there was a difference in debate performance evaluations from respondents who said they cared about electability and respondents who said they cared about issues. Differences were small, but there are a few things that stand out.

First, even though Warren has pitched herself as the “issues” candidate — and she did do well among voters who care about the issues — her performance also appealed to respondents who said they prioritized defeating Trump. In fact, they rated her performance higher than that of any other candidate. Sanders also got high ratings from both voters who care more about defeating Trump and voters who care more about the issues, which means candidates making more issued-based appeals can still do well among voters who care about defeating Trump. But it’s a tricky balance. Buttigieg and Biden, for instance, did not do quite as well among voters who cared about the issues, but they did almost as well as Warren among voters who care about beating Trump.

How voters who care about the issues, defeating Trump rated the candidates

How well debate-watchers thought candidates performed in the fourth Democratic debate, by which type of candidate they prefer

Type of candidate preferred
candidate Similar issue positions Able to beat trump
Warren 3.1 3.3
Buttigieg 2.9 3.2
Sanders 3.1 3.1
Biden 2.7 3.1
Klobuchar 2.7 2.9
Booker 2.6 2.9
Harris 2.7 2.9
Yang 2.8 2.7
O’Rourke 2.5 2.7
Steyer 2.4 2.6
Castro 2.5 2.6
Gabbard 2.4 2.3

From a survey of 3,360 likely Democratic primary voters who were surveyed between Oct. 7 and Oct. 14. The same people were surveyed again from Oct. 15 to Oct. 16; 712 responded to the second wave and said that they watched the debate.

Source: Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight

Who made a positive impression?

We also wanted to see how viewers’ opinions of the candidates changed as a result of the debate. So, to see who made a positive (or negative) impression, we calculated the candidates’ net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) before and after the debate.

Although both Buttigieg and Klobuchar were on the attack, their net favorability increased by 2.6 points and 3.2 points, respectively. That said, even with her modest bump, Klobuchar is still not viewed as favorably as candidates like Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris. And not every candidate made a positive impression: former Rep. Beto O’Rourke lost the gains he made in the last debate and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s return to the stage did not impress viewers either.

More people like Klobuchar; O’Rourke took a hit

Change in net favorability for candidates in a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll taken before and after the fourth Democratic primary debate

Net favorability
candidate before debate after debate change
Klobuchar +11.8 +15.0 +3.2
Buttigieg +30.9 +33.5 +2.6
Warren +52.1 +54.3 +2.2
Sanders +43.1 +45.2 +2.1
Biden +47.4 +48.6 +1.2
Steyer +0.8 +2.0 +1.2
Yang +14.2 +14.5 +0.3
Booker +26.3 +25.3 -1.0
Harris +30.8 +28.4 -2.4
Castro +11.6 +8.2 -3.3
Gabbard -2.3 -6.8 -4.5
O’Rourke +22.6 +16.9 -5.7

From a survey of 3,360 likely Democratic primary voters who were surveyed between Oct. 7 and Oct. 14. The same people were surveyed again from Oct. 15 to Oct. 16; 1,761 responded to the second wave.

Who spoke the most?

Warren got her first taste of being the race’s front-runner, and spent much of the debate deflecting other candidates’ attacks. She spoke almost 3,700 words — more than any other candidate and 600 words more than the second-most-prolific talker, Biden. This is a notable change from the September debate, when Warren was third in words spoken behind both Biden and Booker. Impressively, O’Rourke and Klobuchar — who were both near the bottom for words spoken in the last debate — clocked in at third and fourth in words spoken, respectively. They surpassed Booker, who after being second in words spoken last time spoke the fifth-most words last night.

Who held the floor?

Number of words candidates spoke in the fourth Democratic debate

Candidate Words Spoken
Elizabeth Warren 3,695
Joe Biden 3,064
Beto O’Rourke 2,584
Amy Klobuchar 2,559
Cory Booker 2,267
Pete Buttigieg 2,266
Kamala Harris 2,256
Bernie Sanders 2,085
Andrew Yang 1,791
Julián Castro 1,666
Tulsi Gabbard 1,497
Tom Steyer 1,318

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

We also compared the number of words candidates spoke to their polling average, to see if higher-polling candidates spoke as much as expected or if lower-tier candidates managed to steal the mic. (The polling average is based on nine debate-qualifying polls released since the third debate on Sept. 12.)

O’Rourke and Klobuchar way outspoke their lower polling averages. Warren, Buttigieg, and Harris also outperformed their averages, but not by as large of a margin. On the other hand, Sanders and Biden held the floor less than we might expect considering their standing in the polls.

Harris led the pack in calling out Trump

In addition to tracking who spoke most, we also counted how many times the candidates mentioned the president by name:

Who talked about Trump?

How often Trump’s name was mentioned by candidates in the fourth Democratic debate

Candidate Trump Mentions
Kamala Harris 11
Andrew Yang 9
Pete Buttigieg 8
Amy Klobuchar 7
Tulsi Gabbard 6
Elizabeth Warren 5
Cory Booker 4
Bernie Sanders 4
Tom Steyer 4
Joe Biden 3
Julián Castro 3
Beto O’Rourke 3

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

As a group, the candidates mentioned Trump’s name almost twice as often as in the previous debate — perhaps because the first question asked about impeaching the president. Once again, though, Harris mentioned Trump the most. Candidates who barely mentioned the president by name in the last debate — like Klobuchar (0), Buttigieg (1) and Andrew Yang (2) — name-dropped Trump more often, too, trailing only Harris in number of mentions. After saying Trump’s name the second-most number of times in the previous debate, former Cabinet secretary Julián Castro dropped to the bottom of the group. The candidates who held the floor the longest, such as Warren, Biden and O’Rourke, didn’t mention Trump as much as the other candidates who spoke less.

While the September debate — the first one-night event — was watched by about 15.3 million viewers, preliminary ratings indicate that this debate drew just over half of that, a mere 8.3 million people, despite featuring two more candidates. Interest may be dropping, but the debates will go on: The next debate is scheduled for Nov. 20, and so far eight candidates have qualified. We will be here live blogging and analyzing the debate, so stay tuned!

A Lot Of Americans Say They Don’t Want A President Who Is Over 70. Really?

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Gallup recently released new data on Americans’ willingness to vote for presidential candidates with certain traits. About 1,000 adults were asked3 whether they’d vote for a well-qualified candidate who was nominated by their party and was black, gay or had one of 10 other characteristics that are rarely or never seen in presidential nominees.

Almost all Americans said they’d be comfortable voting for a woman (94 percent), or a Catholic (95 percent), Hispanic (95 percent) or black (96 percent) candidate. But there are characteristics that big swaths of Americans said would be disqualifying — in particular being older than 70, being an atheist and being a socialist.

What types of candidates would Americans NOT vote for?

Share of respondents to an April survey who said they would not vote for a “generally well-qualified” presidential candidate from their own party if the candidate had each of the following characteristics

Democrats Independents Republicans Overall
Socialist 24% 48% 80% 51%
Atheist 28 33 56 39
Older than 70 35 37 37 37
Muslim 14 26 62 33
Younger than 40 21 28 34 28
Gay or lesbian 17 18 39 24
Evangelical Christian 27 20 6 18
Jewish 5 9 5 7
Woman 3 6 9 6
Catholic 4 6 3 5
Hispanic 3 3 8 5
Black 1 4 5 3

Source: Gallup

These results are fairly similar to what Gallup found when it previously asked this question, in 2015. There were a couple of interesting exceptions, however. Americans in 2019 said they were slightly more comfortable with a candidate who is an evangelical Christian (the share who said they’d vote for such a candidate rose from 73 percent in 2015 to 80 percent this year) or a Muslim (from 60 percent to 66 percent). Socialists, meanwhile, remained unpopular (47 percent in both 2015 and 2019).

So with Democrats obsessed with finding an “electable” candidate, does this mean that Bernie Sanders (who’s over 70 and identifies as a democratic socialist) and Joe Biden (who’s over 70) have big problems? Not so fast. So how seriously am I taking these numbers?

For the 2020 presidential election, I’m not taking them too seriously. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said they would not back a GOP presidential candidate over the age of 70. Well … yep, President Trump was 70 on Election Day in 2016, and he’ll be 74 in 2020. I’ll bet that more than 63 percent of Republicans will vote for him — his job approval rating among GOP voters is currently in the 90s. In short, it’s important to remember that the survey question asks about categories of people, not individuals. The negative feelings that some Americans might have toward the idea of a gay or socialist presidential candidate, for example, might not apply to Pete Buttigieg or Sanders specifically.

On the other hand, these numbers could be understating some Americans’ resistance to certain characteristics. In particular, I’d view the numbers on ethnicity, race and gender skeptically. It could be true that virtually all Americans are comfortable with a black, female or Hispanic president, as the Gallup data implies. But I’d expect Americans who aren’t comfortable to be unlikely to express that view to a pollster. So I wouldn’t use this data to suggest that, say, Julian Castro wouldn’t run into electoral problems caused by racism or Elizabeth Warren because of sexism if either were the Democratic nominee.

In terms of which groups might face overt discrimation in the U.S., I’m taking these numbers more seriously. The results generally lined up with my expectations of which categories of people Americans are both somewhat wary of and willing to say so to another person.

Being a socialist is an expression of left-wing political views, so it’s natural and unsurprising that a lot of Americans, particularly Republicans, would openly oppose a socialist candidate. Similarly, it’s not surprising that some Americans wouldn’t want a president who is in her 70s as president (maybe they suspect that person wouldn’t have the energy for the job) or who is younger than 40 (a lack of experience). This is also a view that is perhaps not particularly controversial to express — columns suggesting that Biden (76) and Sanders (77) are too old to be running for president are published regularly.

What views about candidates are more controversial? Disqualifying people based on gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality. Again, I’d expect some Americans with negative attitudes toward certain religious groups, racial groups and sexual orientations not to admit that to a pollster.

Here’s where it gets interesting, however: The share of Americans who were willing to tell a pollster that they would not back an atheist, evangelical Christian, gay or Muslim presidential candidate was nonetheless fairly high. That lines up with how these four groups are treated in American culture — they face open, direct criticism based on their identities. (I don’t want to cast all parties as equal here — Republicans’ high level of opposition to an atheist or Muslim candidate jumps out.)

In terms of understanding the diversity of the Democratic Party, I’m taking these numbers very seriously. I’ve written that Biden is essentially the candidate of the un-woke Democrat (or maybe “less woke” is more accurate) and that those voters still represent a substantial bloc of the Democratic Party. This data is more evidence of that bloc’s existence. I was surprised that the share of Democrats who are uncomfortable with an evangelical Christian president was matched by about an equal share wary of a president who is an atheist or a socialist, since the Democratic Party is often characterized as becoming less religious and more liberal on economic issues. The share of Democrats who said they would not vote for a gay or Muslim candidate was also larger than I anticipated.

Other polling bites

  • 46 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina say they would vote for Biden, according to a new Post and Courier/Change Research poll, with only two of his rivals reaching double digits. Sanders (15 percent) and Kamala Harris (10 percent) are far behind the former vice president, as is the rest of the 2020 Democratic field.
  • Biden leads in Pennsylvania too, with 39 percent of the vote, according to a new Quinnipiac University survey. The only other candidate in double digits was Sanders (13 percent).
  • The Quinnipiac survey also found Biden leading Trump 53 percent to 42 percent in Pennsylvania in a hypothetical general election matchup. Sanders also bested Trump (50-43).
  • In the Republican nomination contest, Trump leads former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld 72 percent to 12 percent in New Hampshire, according to a recent Monmouth University survey.
  • 61 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, and 31 percent oppose it, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Support for same-sex marriage varied by party (75 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, compared with 44 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents). It varied by race (62 percent of white Americans, 58 percent of Hispanic Americans, 51 percent of black Americans). And it varied by religion (79 percent of those who are religiously unaffiliated, 66 percent of white mainline Protestants, 61 percent of Catholics, 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants).
  • 47 percent of registered voters rated the economy as “excellent” or “good,” according to a new Fox News poll.
  • Also from that Fox News poll: The share of voters who said Trump hasn’t been tough enough with North Korea is up to 50 percent; that number was 19 percent in September 2017.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.0 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.1 points). At this time last week, 42.4 percent approved and 52.7 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -10.3 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 42.1 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.3 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.2 points.

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Biden Is Way Out In Front. Second Place Is Anyone’s Guess.

Last week, when he launched his presidential campaign, I made the case for why Joe Biden is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. This week, with the release of several new polls, that case has become clearer.

Four national polls released on Tuesday all showed Biden’s support significantly higher than it was in previous editions of the same surveys. CNN’s poll found Biden at 39 percent — up 11 points from 28 percent in their previous poll in March — and well ahead of Bernie Sanders, who was at 15 percent. Quinnipiac University had Biden at a similar 38 percent, but with Elizabeth Warren nominally in second place at 12 percent of the vote, compared with 11 percent for Sanders and 10 percent for Pete Buttigieg.


Biden leading FiveThirtyEight's endorsement tracker


Morning Consult also released its weekly tracking poll, and it showed Biden at 36 percent, up from 30 percent last week — an impressive result, especially considering that about half the poll was conducted before Biden officially launched his campaign. In interviews conducted after Biden’s announcement, he was polling closer to 39 percent. A HarrisX poll for ScottRasmussen.com found the smallest bounce, with Biden at 33 percent, up from 29 percent in its poll last month.1 The Morning Consult and HarrisX polls still had Sanders fairly clearly in second place.

New national polls show Biden clearly in front

Democratic primary polls released on April 30, 2019

CNN HarrisX Morning Consult Quinnipiac
Candidate Latest Change Latest Change Latest Change Latest Change
Biden 39% +11 33% +4 36% +6 38% +9
Sanders 15 -4 16 -2 22 -2 11 -8
Warren 8 +1 6 +1 9 +2 12 +8
Buttigieg 7 +6 5 +2 8 -1 10 +6
Harris 5 -7 5 -1 7 -1 8 0
O’Rourke 6 -7 5 -1 5 -1 5 -7
Booker 2 0 3 -1 3 -1 2 0
Klobuchar 2 -1 1 -1 2 0 1 -1
Castro 1 +1 1 0 1 0 1 0
Yang 1 N/A 0 -1 2 0 1 +1
Gabbard 2 +2 1 +1 1 0 0 0
Gravel N/A 1 N/A N/A N/A
Gillibrand 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Hickenlooper 0 0 2 +2 1 0 0 -1
Delaney 0 0 1 0 1 +1 0 0
Inslee 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 +1
Williamson 1 N/A 0 -1 N/A 0 0
Swalwell 1 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Ryan 0 N/A 0 N/A 1 0 0 N/A
Moulton 0 N/A 1 N/A 0 N/A 0 N/A
Messam 0 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A

Source: polls

On average between the four national polls, Biden has gained 8 percentage points. Where did he take that support from? It came from all over the place. Sanders is down 4 points, on average, as is Beto O’Rourke. Kamala Harris is down 2 points; Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar are each down 1 point.

But some other Democrats have also gained ground. Warren is up 3 points, on average, in the new national polls. So is Buttigieg, although that’s a little misleading since the previous HarrisX, Quinnipiac and CNN polls were conducted before his surge had really kicked in. In the poll that offers the most recent basis for comparison, Morning Consult, Buttigieg is actually down 1 point from last week’s edition.

Biden’s support is driven by older Democrats and by nonwhite Democrats — two groups that aren’t always well-represented on social media or in other forums that sometimes dictate the conventional wisdom about the candidates. Biden had 50 percent of nonwhite voters in the CNN poll, well ahead of Sanders’s 14 percent. In Morning Consult’s poll, Biden polled at 43 percent among black Democrats, compared to Sanders’s 20 percent. Biden had 46 percent support from Democrats age 50-64 in CNN’s poll and 50 percent support from those 65 and older.

In addition to the various national polls, Suffolk University also released a poll of New Hampshire on Tuesday, and it can’t leave any of the Democratic contenders feeling especially satisfied. Biden was in first place at 20 percent, with Sanders and Buttigeg tied for second at 12 percent and Warren in fourth place at 8 percent. Suffolk has not previously polled New Hampshire this cycle, but compared with other recent polls of the state, this is clearly a poor result for Sanders, while it’s roughly in line with the previous polling for the other candidates.

The latest New Hamphire poll shows weakness for Sanders

Recent New Hampshire Democratic primary polls as of April 30, 2019

Latest Poll Earlier Polls in April
Candidate Suffolk UNH Saint Anselm Coll.
Biden 20% 18% 23%
Sanders 12 30 16
Buttigieg 12 15 11
Warren 8 5 9
Harris 6 4 7
O’Rourke 3 3 6
Booker 3 3 4
Klobuchar 1 2 2
Yang 1 2
Gabbard 1 1 1
Ryan 0 2
Gillibrand 0 1 1
Delaney 1 0 1
Messam 0 1
Swalwell 0 1
Hickenlooper 0 0 1
Castro 0 0
Bullock 0
Williamson 0 0
Inslee 0 0 0
Bennet 0
de Blasio 0
Moulton 0
Gravel 0

Source: POLLS

What should we make of all of this? I have roughly four conclusions:

Biden’s bounce will probably fade. Biden’s not the only candidate to have seen his numbers improve following his announcement; Sanders and Harris did too, and so, to a lesser extent, did O’Rourke. All of those candidates have since seen their numbers revert to their previous position, however. Sanders has fallen back to the low 20s in his better polls and the low-to-mid teens in his worse ones, and Harris and O’Rourke are now back to polling in the mid-to-high single digits.

And it’s not clear that much has changed in terms of voters’ underlying attitudes toward the candidates. Biden’s favorability ratings are strong in the Morning Consult poll, but they’re also largely unchanged from earlier editions of the poll, which suggests that some of his new support is fairly soft and consists of people who are suddenly hearing his name a lot more often in the news, and who might switch candidates again once the news cycle moves on.

Nonetheless, the bounce is sorta important. At least in the medium term — basically, from now through the Iowa caucuses — Biden is more likely to lose support than to gain it. Other candidates will become better known, and they will tend to take support from candidates such as Biden and Sanders who already have essentially universal name recognition. Biden is doing very well among black voters for now, but Harris and Booker might have something to say about that later in race. Biden benefits a lot from perceptions that he’s electable, but that could also fade over time as voters grow more comfortable with the rest of the field.

But it’s precisely for that reason that starting from a higher perch is important. If you’re polling at around 28 percent — where Biden was before his announcement — you don’t have much margin for error, given that it usually takes support in at least the low-to-mid 20s to win Iowa and New Hampshire. If you’re at 37 percent, however, you can lose 5 or 10 points and still hold up in the early states against a candidate making a late surge.

In addition, Biden’s bounce comes near an empirical inflection point of when early polling leads tend to hold up and when they don’t. Well-known candidates polling in the mid-30s in the early going2 are about even money to win the nomination, historically. Well-known candidates polling in the mid-to-high 20s have roughly a 1 in 4 shot, conversely.

In some ways, the bounce exposes the weakness of the other candidates — especially Sanders — as much as Biden’s strength. Although previous bounces, such as Harris’s, have faded, that doesn’t necessarily mean the candidates who were hurt by those bounces have regained ground. Instead, it has sometimes opened up an opportunity for yet another candidate to surge instead.

What that means is that it’s time to take stock of the three candidates who have clearly fallen from their peak (so far) in the polls — Sanders, Harris and O’Rourke. You might think that on the basis of his current polling, Sanders remains in a better spot than the other two. However, he’s also much more of a national brand name. And as I wrote last week — and as you can see from the chart — polling at 20 percent is not all that strong a position for a candidate with near-universal name recognition. Sanders, however, polled at just 16 percent in the average of the four national polls released on Tuesday. And he was at only 12 percent in New Hampshire, which should be one of his strongest states. Sanders can win — he’ll raise a lot of money, he came from way far back last time, and he’d likely benefit from scenarios where the field remains divided. But given his name recognition, those polling numbers put him right at the divide between someone whose campaign is going well and someone whose campaign is going poorly.

Harris and O’Rourke are not as widely known as Sanders, and they still have reasonably good favorability ratings and plenty of cash on hand, which suggest that they have upward potential if and when the media’s attention turns to them again. But it’s become harder to make the case that they’re on the lead lap with Biden, especially for O’Rourke, who is competing against a field that’s overstatured with white male candidates and whose polling has fallen further than Harris’s.

Buttigieg doesn’t have any reason to be unhappy; given his low name recognition, polling in the mid-to-high single digits — sometimes higher than that, especially in polls of Iowa and New Hampshire — is a pretty decent position. But if you were expecting a further immediate surge into the teens or beyond — and I sort of was — it isn’t as clear now whether that’s coming. Instead, Buttigieg will need to work to expand his support beyond his initial coalition of highly educated white voters and survive media coverage that’s both less plentiful and more skeptical than it was initially.

But Warren is in an intriguing position. Warren’s the candidate who we thought might have the least overlap with Biden and therefore would be least hurt by his entry into the race — and the polling seems to bear that out. Although both candidates are broadly within the Democratic mainstream, she’s toward the left half and he’s toward the moderate half. She’s a woman and he’s a man, obviously. His case rests heavily on electability and big, abstract, meat-and-potatoes themes; she appeals to voters on the basis of her highly detailed policy proposals. Her base is college-educated whites; his is non-college-educated white voters and black voters. Biden and Warren have directly clashed over issues such as bankruptcy laws.

In short, Biden and Warren make pretty good foils for one another, probably better foils than Biden and Sanders make, as both are old white men who aren’t especially well-liked by party activists. A showdown between Biden and Buttigieg, or Biden and O’Rourke, could also leave big segments of the party unhappy, including parts of the left and many women and nonwhite voters.3

So in the scenario where the nomination comes down to a battle between Biden and one other Democrat — not the only way the race could unfold, but one plausible path — Warren could turn out to be that Democrat. Together, they capture most of the major Democratic constituencies. I’m less convinced that you could have a Biden-versus-Sanders showdown. I think a lot of voters, and certain parts of the Democratic establishment, would go shopping for a third candidate in that eventuality.

But Warren could also become a major player in the race in other ways. Independently of Biden’s entry to the race, she seems to be gaining ground from the candidates who are fading, including gathering some of Sanders’s support on the left, some of O’Rourke’s college-educated whites, and perhaps some of Harris’s support among women.

With that in mind, it’s time for one more rendition of my not-to-be-taken-too-seriously presidential tiers. I’d already had Biden as the front-runner — note that doesn’t mean I think he has a better-than-50-percent chance to win (I don’t), just that I think he’s more likely to win than anyone else. But we probably need to create an additional half-step between Biden and everyone else. That means I’m demoting Harris, Sanders and Buttigieg from tier 1b (which we’ll leave empty for the moment) into tier 1c. However, I’m moving Warren up to tier 1c from tier 2. Harris, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren can all make interesting arguments for why they’re the next-best-positioned candidate after Biden, and I really have no idea whose argument is best, so it makes sense to group them together.

Nate’s not-to-be-taken-too-seriously presidential tiers

For the Democratic nomination, as revised on April 30, 2019

Tier Sub-tier Candidates
1 a Biden
b [this row intentionally left blank]
c Harris ↓, Sanders ↓, Buttigieg ↓, Warren ↑
2 a O’Rourke
b Booker, Klobuchar, Abrams*
3 a Yang, Castro, Gillibrand, Inslee
b Hickenlooper, Bennet*, Ryan, Bullock*, Gabbard ↑

* Candidate is not yet officially running but is reasonably likely to do so.

Beyond that, O’Rourke, Klobuchar and Booker probably belong in the next tier down. But the safest conclusion right now is that this is a race with one frontrunner — Biden, who has both some clear weaknesses and some overlooked strengths — and no clear No. 2.


From ABC News:
Joe Biden on his 2020 run and Barack Obama


Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Biden’s Leading The Iowa Polls, But That Doesn’t Mean Much Yet

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

With the 2018 midterms (mostly) behind us, focus has shifted to the 2020 presidential election. The Iowa caucuses are usually the start of the presidential nomination process, and as of right now, they’re scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020 — just over 400 days from now. While we’re still more than a year out, two new polls found former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. At least 30 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa listed him as their top choice for president.

The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll from Selzer & Co.14 found Biden at 32 percent while a survey from David Binder Research on behalf of Focus on Rural America found Biden at 30 percent.15 In both polls, no other candidate cracked 20 percent. In an even earlier poll Biden led the field with 37 percent listing him as their No. 1 pick.16

Even though we’re still a ways from the caucus, these numbers could be read as a good sign for Biden. In the last four presidential elections where there was no Democratic incumbent running, the Iowa caucus winner went on to become the party’s nominee: Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Moreover, Biden has never polled this well in Iowa. In both his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids, Biden failed to hit the double-digits, and even when it seemed possible that Biden might run in 2016, his best Iowa marks were in the low 20s against Clinton and Sanders.

A good poll in Iowa doesn’t mean much … yet

Presidential aspirants that polled 30 percent or more at least one year prior to the Iowa caucuses

Year Party Candidate No. of Polls ≥30% Best poll result Iowa result Nom.?
1984 D Walter Mondale 1 58% 1st Yes
1988 D Gary Hart 2 59 7th No
1988 R Bob Dole 1 33 1st No
2004 D Al Gore 1 39 Didn’t run
2008 D Hillary Clinton 1 31 3rd No
2008 D John Edwards 2 36 2nd No
2008 R Rudy Giuliani 1 30 6th No
2016 D Hillary Clinton 1 48 1st Yes
2020 D Joe Biden 3 37 ? ?

Sources: Dave Leip, DES MOINES REGISTER