Support dropped by 2 percentage points for former Vice President Joe Biden to 19%. It fell by 3 points for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to 14%, and it declined by 1 point to 6% for Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul, entered the race as the fifth-most popular candidate with 4% support.Support for Warren dropped by 2 points to 9% in the national poll, the worst showing for the U.S. senator from Massachusetts in the Reuters/Ipsos poll since August.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) is at 4 percent as well.
This is one poll — a national poll at that, but still. If one looks at either state or national polling, Warren’s numbers have dropped significantly over the last few months. The media have been so fascinated with the “Biden is faltering” meme that they seem to have ignored the bigger, more accurate assessment: Warren has been in decline as Sanders and Buttigieg rise. In the RealClearPolitics averages, Warren is third in both Iowa and New Hampshire, both races she looked poised to win just weeks ago. Unlike Biden, who can afford a mediocre showing and wait for states with high percentages of African Americans, Warren so far is not pulling heavily from nonwhite voters.
The reasons for her decline are several: Her botched Medicare-for-all plan, an overreliance on plans (when others now have plenty of plans as well), questions about electability (tied to Medicare-for-all) and the rise of fresher candidates who are more interesting. Certainly she is still in the top tier and has the organization and money to potentially prevail, but if you believe in political momentum, hers is going in reverse.
It is worth stressing that the parade of debates has not helped the primary electorate settle on a favorite. When nearly a third of voters are still undecided, you wonder if some of the dropouts might have hung around for a while. (Klobuchar is the quintessential example of a candidate who is stuck in low single digits but just keeps chugging along; she isn’t yet in the top tier, but she at least is going in the right direction.) It is also possible that when candidates leave the race, voters, even ones for whom the departing candidate was the top pick, reassess. So who is left now? What’s my choice? People are intuitively illogical in that they can prefer A to B and B to C, but not A to C. (A voter might say, “Hey, I like Warren more than Biden, Biden more that Klobuchar, but whoops, I’d take Klobuchar over Warren.”)
Throw in one more possible reset moment: As of now, it looks like only six (maybe up to eight) candidates will qualify for the December debate stage. Perhaps that will help voters settle on a favorite. Certainly it is easier to choose one of six than one of 12. Those candidates who do not make the stage — some for the second time (e.g., Julián Castro) — may finally have to call it quits. Where those voters land is anyone’s guess.
In sum, less than 60 days out from the Iowa caucuses, the race is entirely up in the air. It’s good news for Warren that voters are still kicking the tires; the bad news is some voters have already bypassed her.