Opinion writer

The latest Quinnipiac and Morning Consult polls confirm suspicion that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is running a much better campaign — brimming with ideas, relating her personal story to policy and directly appealing to African American voters — than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who’s running the identical campaign he ran in 2016. That’s just one of the takeaways from the latest round of polling.

More vividly than ever, we also see that despite President Trump’s claims of exoneration, the winner of the Democratic nomination has a solid chance to beat Trump, Quinnipiac’s poll tells us:

President Trump begins his reelection campaign in a deep hole as 54 percent of American voters say they "definitely" will not vote for him, compared to 52 percent in an April 30 Quinnipiac University National Poll. Today, 31 percent say they "definitely" will vote for Trump and 12 percent say they will "consider voting for him."

Definitely voting for Trump are 76 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independent voters. . . . American voters give Trump a negative 38 - 57 percent favorability rating.


Trump’s ratings on policy are awful. On approval/disapproval of his performance handling the economy, Trump barely gets a plurality (48/45). On everything else, voters pan him. (“37 - 58 percent for handling foreign policy; 39 - 53 percent for handling trade; 40 - 50 percent for handling the nation’s policy toward China; 37 - 47 percent for handling the nation’s policy toward Iran.”) And this all comes when the electorate has an overwhelmingly positive view of the economy. “The total 71 percent for ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ is the highest total number for American voter attitudes on the economy in almost 18 years.” And yet more than half of voters won’t even consider voting for him.

On the Democratic side, all but five candidates have converged in a scrum, with support of 3 percent or less. Beto O’Rourke is at 2 percent (down 3 from the prior month). In the top five, former vice president Joe Biden draws 35 percent, Sanders only 16 percent, followed by Warren (13), Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) at 8 percent and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (5). It is always possible for others to break out of the pack with a great debate performance, but with 18 candidates drawing 3 percent or less (and many of them not registering even 1 percent) their task is formidable.

The main reason Biden continues to do so well is that people actually like him. In the general electorate, “With a 49 - 39 percent favorability rating, former Vice President Joseph Biden is the only presidential contender, Democrat or Republican, with a clear positive score.” Buttigieg’s split is 23-19 percent favorable, with Sanders at 41-48 percent and Warren at 32-41 percent. The worst is New York Mayor Bill deBlasio who gets 8 percent approval - 45 percent disapproval.

The Morning Consult poll shows similar results. Biden is at 39 percent, Sanders at 19, Warren at 9, Harris at 8 and Buttigieg at 6.

There are a few critical numbers in the data.

First, Trump has a gi-normous problem with women: according to Quinnipiac, 60 percent will definitely not vote for him, 28 percent would definitely vote for him. Among white women (a group he won in 2016) he has a 20-point gap between those who will definitely not consider him and those who definitely will vote for him (55/35 percent). His party’s total war on Roe v. Wade is about the worst thing for a candidate that faces a rising wall of female opposition and also opposition from white college grads, both men and women (59 percent definitely won’t vote for him, 28 percent definitely will).

Second, the race is quickly becoming a contest among five Democratic candidates, not 23. This polling, unfortunately for the candidates at the back of the pack, may becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Should the DNC raise the threshold for admission into the debates from 1 percent to 2 percent, the debate field would shrink to only eight.

Third, Sanders’s biggest problem in the short run is Warren, who is statistically tied with him in the Quinnipiac poll. If she in fact passes him — and she could well do so with a terrific performance in the debates with her policy chops and Oklahoma roots — it’s not clear how Sanders would strike back. Trump may have done Democrats and the country a huge favor by raising the “socialist” problem. He might as well have painted an “unelectable” sign on Sanders’s back. (Biden’s hope would be that Sanders stays in, just as he did 2016, thereby preventing Warren from consolidating the progressive vote.)

With the debates, we’ll see if the other four candidates in the top five can dent Biden and which, if any, can become the undisputed “not Biden” choice. The most intriguing question for the remainder of 2019 may be which candidates drop out even before Iowa, where a lowly showing could do more harm than good to one’s political ambitions.

Read more:

Henry Olsen: Trump doesn’t need Pennsylvania to win reelection

Paul Waldman: Why Trump actually has many advantages in 2020

Hugh Hewitt: Democrats will pick a fight with Trump over Iran at their 2020 peril

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s biggest problems for 2020: Joe Biden and women