The Corner


After the Second Democratic Debate . . . No Big Changes?

From left: Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington governor Jay Inslee, and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio pose before the start of the second night of the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Mich., July 31, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Today Morning Consult revealed the results of its first post-debate survey and concluded, “this round, no candidate made a similar gain [to Kamala Harris after the first debate], and the shape of the race remains largely unchanged. Biden didn’t make gains, but he weathered attacks: Despite facing criticisms from competitors all night, Joe Biden held steady in terms of favorability and vote share.”

Biden’s at 33 percent in the Morning Consult poll, with Bernie Sanders at 19 percent and Elizabeth Warren at 15 percent. Kamala Harris, who enjoyed a surge after the first debate, is sliding back, now at 9 percent. Gee, it’s almost like Biden surviving means Biden wins.

Yes, we can look at surveys too closely at this time of year. But the surveys across different polling companies and in fact most primary states have been pretty consistent for several months: This is a four-person race among Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris, and maybe Pete Buttigieg isn’t out of it. Everybody else started in the low single digits (except Beto O’Rourke) and everybody is staying there.

Lesser-known candidates counted on the debates to offer the best opportunity for a breakout moment. Maybe that was miscalculation. For all of the candidates polling behind Harris, the goal of the debate, reaching the biggest television audience they are likely to have for a while (or maybe ever!), is to convince people to start supporting them.

It is likely that other polls will affirm that a candidate having “a good night” is not the same as convincing people to abandon another choice and support you.

Quite a few pundits thought Cory Booker had a good night; Morning Consult has him at 3 percent. Julian Castro had his second straight pretty good debate. He’s at one percent. Tulsi Gabbard memorably dissected Harris’ record as prosecutor. Harris lost ground, but Gabbard is still at one percent.

Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, John Hickenlooper, and Jay Inslee came it at zero percent, in poll with “ 9,845 survey interviews conducted between August 1-4, 2019.” Give it up, fellas.

Some trailing candidates may offer the not-that-plausible excuse that Democratic primary voters aren’t really paying attention yet, and that the level of support will change once contests in Iowa and New Hampshire get closer. But if that’s the case, then announcing a presidential campaign and staffing up in early 2019 looks like an enormously risky waste of money.

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