Wednesday, August 28, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Elizabeth Warren: Harbinger Or Throwback?

The extended interval between the first Democratic presidential
debate in late July and the first actual voting in Iowa (caucus) and
New Hampshire (primary) in early February next year has already
provided some apparent movement between leading contenders
--- and is likely to provide much more before we have the decision
of the voters.

After that first debate, Senator Kamala Harris (who had sharply
confronted former Vice President Joe Biden, the leader in the polls)
garnered media attention and rose in her polls. Biden took a dip
in the polls and became a target for his rivals. Then Mayor Pete
Butigieg got some media attention, and rose in the polls. Senator
Bernie Sanders, the only candidate returning from the 2016 cycle,
maintained a high media profile and poll numbers --- although at
some distance from Biden. Senator Elizabeth Warren issued several
position papers, was strong in the second debate, but often trailed
Biden, Sanders and Harris in polls.  Biden throughout this period
maintained a substantial poll lead over the others, and Sanders’
numbers declined a bit.  After the second debate, and issuing some
policy positions, the Harris poll numbers declined sharply, and
she received some criticism.

Another “tier” of the 26 candidates deemed “major” by the media
received some attention, but rarely exceeded 5% in the polls, and
many of them have not exceeded 1% in any poll. Twenty did qualify
for the first two debates, and ten have already qualified for the next
two (with a few more close to doing so).  At least five candidates
have formally withdrawn, but several of those who will not likely
qualify for the next debates have indicated they are nevertheless
remaining in the race.

One very recent poll suggests the Biden, Sanders and Warren are
now in a three-way tie for the lead --- with Biden’s poll numbers
down, Sanders somewhat up, and Warren making the biggest poll
gains. But several polls released after the one with the three-way
tie have Biden back in a double-digit lead. Polls, at this stage, with
so many different standards of the persons they sample, sample
size, and subjective interpretation of data, are simply often

Perhaps more of a bona fide signal, Warren has in recent days
drawn very large crowds (12,000 in  St. Paul; 15,000 in Seattle).

Elizabeth Warren, 70, professorial, tenacious, and ambitious, 
for several years now, along with her senate colleague Bernie
Sanders, 77, has been a loud and persistent voice for Democrats
to move much more to the left. She proclaims herself a
“progressive” --- Sanders proudly accepts the term “socialist” ---
but on most issues it is difficult to tell them apart. The question is
whether Warren and Sanders are harbingers of some imminently
new redistributionist U.S. policies or throwbacks to old leftist
notions that American voters have rejected in the past.

So far, as I continually point out, we have had no evidence from
actual voters. Americans have had to depend on the very subjective
views of the media and on early polling, usually of “registered”
voters (and not the more credible group, “likely” voters). With
Warren’s recent crowd-drawing, we have an additional useful
metric for evaluating how the various candidates are doing. It is
not a dispositive metric, of course, because a particular crowd can
be staged, but if any candidate can routinely draw very large
audiences, it might well mean something. We need only recall that
Donald Trump’s huge rallies beginning in 2015 were early clues to
his political appeal. (His continued ability to draw large crowds
indicates that his political base is intact.)

Already, Biden, Sanders, Harris and Warren have had fractions
of momentum --- with Warren currently having hers --- but as we
saw so vividly (as a recent example) in the 2012 Republican
nomination contest --- Mike Huckabee (who led in early polls but
did not run), Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum,
Newt Gingrich, and finally, the winner Mitt Romney) --- many
candidates rise and fall in the course of a long and tough contested
campaign. The voters of the Democratic Party are still divided in
their ideological direction --- and those who lean very “progressive”
have yet to fully explain and make credible their controversial
policy programs and positions.

“Decision” 2020, as some might label it, remains a distance away,
but that does not mean we cannot take note of certain signals from
those who will likely actually vote.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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