At the end of August, the Monmouth University Polling Institute released a survey of the Democratic presidential primary with a surprising result: Joe Biden was actually in third place, with 19 percent, behind tied frontrunners Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, with 20 percent each. Some people, including myself, were skeptical. “That’s a pretty small sample and a pretty high margin of error for a national poll. But the Democratic political world took that poll fairly seriously — in part because the result was genuinely surprising, and in part because that result helped the narrative that this Democratic presidential primary is a dramatic and unpredictable battle that is worth watching.”
After a day or two, as other new surveys continued to show Biden with a comfortable lead, Monmouth Polling Institute director Patrick Murray issued a statement declaring his institute’s most recent results looked like an outlier to him. “In the end, we must put out the numbers we have. They should always be viewed in the context of what other polls are saying, not only as it applies to the horse race, but also for our understanding of the issues that motivate voters in their decision-making process.”
Now we’re in mid-September, and that Monmouth poll doesn’t look quite as out of whack as it did a few weeks ago. The latest Reuters poll puts Biden at 22 percent, Sanders at 16 percent, and Warren at 12 percent; the latest Economist poll has Biden and Warren tied at 26 percent and Sanders at 16 percent, and CNN’s latest poll has Biden at 24, Warren at 18, and Sanders at 17 percent. Biden’s biggest lead in a recent poll is the Hill/Harris poll, which has Biden at 27 percent, Sanders at 15, and Warren at 12. Biden’s still consistently ahead, but more polls are putting his lead around six points, instead of the double digits of before.
It’s probably not time for the Biden campaign to panic. But his less-than-ideal campaign persona in recent weeks — a little forgetful, his bleeding eye, some odd dated references (“make sure you have the record player on at night, the, the, make sure that kids hear words”) — might have some of his previous supporters kicking the tires on other options, just to see what else is out there.