The national Monmouth poll (a leading poll of public opinion on important state, regional, and national issues in the US) is just the latest survey (national and state) showing the top Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, catching up and even inching ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Former US vice-president Joe Biden is out in front with 32 per cent but Warren is now at 15 per cent, Sanders at 14 per cent and Kamala Harris at 8 per cent. Sanders is obviously a lot closer to Harris than to Biden.
Warren’s strength, if you look at the poll’s cross tabs, comes from liberals (25 per cent vs 17 per cent for Sanders), women (Warren plus five points), older voters (plus eight) and especially those voters with a college degree (23 per cent vs 9 per cent). This is hardly surprising given that Warren has batches of detailed plans, many designed to help women and children (e.g., subsidised day care, free college, black maternal mortality).
Many observers with no favoured candidate say Warren is running the best campaign of any Democratic contender. Eschewing fund-raisers, she has more time to campaign (famously willing to give anyone and everyone an autograph or a selfie) and, she said recently, to hold more than 100 town halls and take 2,000 questions. She appears the most energetic, best prepared and most accessible of the top candidates. She’s excited about all her plans — and that gets voters excited about her.
Warren has also taken her biography — which could have been problematic (Massachusetts law professor, afflicted with the Native American controversy) — and turned it into a plus.
“Living on the ragged edge of the middle class” is how she describes her Oklahoma upbringing. Even after she climbed into the professional class as a teacher and then law professor, there are anecdotes that voters can relate to and explain her focus on certain issues.
By the end of this campaign, everyone will know the story of Aunt Bee (seven suitcases and a Pekingese named Buddy, stayed 16 years) who came to bail her out when childcare problems could have dislodged her career. Somehow the ex-law professor and US senator married to a Harvard law professor comes across as super approachable and someone who voters think understands their problems.
Meanwhile, Sanders is being Sanders. Medicare-for-all. Wall Street is crooked. Socialism is our salvation. Democratic voters have not only heard this before, but, super-attuned to electability, have figured out that calling yourself a socialist is a gift to President Trump. And while he is “only” 77, he just looks a lot older than Warren, a spry 69.
Of course, when Sanders feels threatened by the media or by another candidate, he goes on the attack. He did it in the most unconvincing way possible, however, on Twitter: “The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’ They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class.”
Warren a lackey of corporate America?! No one outside his circle (and probably not all of them) think Warren is a tool of Big Business. In saying so, Sanders sounds desperate and reinforces just how far out of the mainstream Democratic Party he is. (If he thinks Warren is a corporate pawn, what does that make him?) In fact, if you’re trying to split the difference between progressives and centrists, the voter might select Mayor Pete Buttigieg, not the woman with a zillion plans to expand the social welfare state.
Given this state of play, Warren may have lucked out being placed on the first night of debates without any competition from a top-tier candidate.
She has the capacity to dominate the debate, leaving Sanders on night two to swing at the absent competitor who most threatens his campaign.
Women might think Warren has had to work twice as hard as some lightly prepared male candidates. If so, that might have been a blessing. She now stands out in the crowd as exceptionally hard-working, earnest, serious and lively.
Jennifer Rubin is a prominent American journalist and political columnist.