The latest word on the Democratic primary is that once Joe Biden jumped into the race, he grabbed a big lead from Bernie Sanders. Not true. Here’s a typical statement before Biden got into the race: “Over the past several weeks, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has emerged as the early frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but that could all change now that former Vice President Joe Biden has hopped in the race.” What the commentator meant was that Bernie was ahead among the declared candidates. Among all candidates, declared or no, Biden has always been the leader.
But from what I can see on the graph above from the Economist, this was never so. Supposedly, Sanders had a lead in February 2019 and again in March and April, by I don’t see that in the 538 polls. The only time Sanders took the lead was when Biden wasn’t included in the poll. Sanders did take a lead in some state polls, but not in national polls.
Right now, Biden does appear to be pushing ahead. If you compare the total votes in December 2018 with the situation in April 2019, Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg are rising, while all the others are falling or (like Warren) are relatively even with where they were. Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Booker, and Harris have fallen. O’Rourke has fallen drastically (as some commentators have indicated, his downhill performance appears affected by Buttigieg’s quick rise.).
If you would like to compare 2016 with what’s happened here thus far, take a look at the Sander-Clinton graph. Bernie started out with virtually nothing prior to July 2015, while Hillary was about 60% By April 2016, they were both a little below 50%. Right now, Biden is well below where Hillary was on a comparable 2016 date, and Bernie’s approximately 25% is well above where he was then. Of course, the situation still remains a multiple candidate horserace, but we can see that O’Rourke , Booker, Gillabrand, and Klobuchar are probably out, along with Harris, unless something unusual happens. (I’m not sure why the graph shows Delaney and yet tells us nothing about Castro and other candidates).
My overall conclusion is “wait and see.” Biden and Sanders both seem to have strong positions compared to the other candidates, but it’s hard to tell if Biden’s momentum will continue or where Sanders will go. Buttigieg is the dark horse, given that he has an unusual background and virtually no important election history. But we said that about Trump, too, and look what happened.
Michael T. Hertz