New poll provides big boost for Elizabeth Warren

A new poll by the progressive Daily Kos has good news for Elizabeth Warren — and bad news for Bernie Sanders

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 11, 2019 9:25AM (EST)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, speaks during an organizing event at McCoy's Bar Patio and Grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, speaks during an organizing event at McCoy's Bar Patio and Grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)

A new poll reveals that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a substantial lead over her potential Democratic Party challengers as the 2020 primaries gear up.

Warren won the first Daily Kos Presidential Straw Poll of the 2020 cycle with 22 percent, followed by Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas with 15 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris of California with 14 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden at 14 percent and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 11 percent, according to the Daily Kos. The most notable detail here is Sanders' poor showing; as the runner up to Hillary Clinton from the 2016 presidential primaries, and a man who rejuvenated the Democratic Party's progressive base, Sanders would have had good reason to anticipate dominating the Daily Kos poll.

As Daily Kos put it:

So who on that list above can do that? Warren, O’Rourke, Sanders, Booker, and Harris have already built that infrastructure. Bernie, however, has a “yesterday’s news” feel to him. He has universal ID and the best he can manage is 11 percent on a site of Democratic activists? He can’t play the “I’m more progressive than thou” card in this field, so he’s got nowhere to go but down, as other candidates become better known.

Same with Biden: Universal name ID, and he’s eclipsed by the party’s new stars. Where is he going to grow support? His only direction will be down.

Dave Weigel, who covers politics for The Washington Post, had a similar reaction on Twitter.

"The dKos community is a really interesting sample of voters, more like the Dem electorate than, say, MoveOn. A pool of partisan Democrats who are liberal, but really really want to win. Remember, they helped draft Jim Webb for Senate!" Weigel tweeted.

Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, had similar thoughts.

"That Warren is doing pretty well here and Sanders pretty badly is interesting. Sort of a cross between the left and the D mainstream. Bernie routinely won their straw polls 4 years ago," Silver tweeted. He later added, "I don't know what's in Bernie's head obviously but just from the outside you have to wonder about the possibility that Warren preempts his candidacy. She was smart to declare early."

One concern about Warren's prospective candidacy among some political insiders is that she has a "likability" problem, although pundits are readily dismissing this as covert sexism. As Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post wrote:

The political-insider chatter is already suggesting that Warren might have a “likability” problem, just like the one that supposedly was Clinton’s downfall. And if two or three other women join the race, which appears likely, they will no doubt hear that as well. As a headline on the humorous McSweeney’s website put it: “I Don’t Hate Women Candidates — I Just Hated Hillary and Coincidentally I’m Starting to Hate Elizabeth Warren.”

Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, had a similar observation on CNN:

Even if it were a fair metric without overtones of sexism, likability has not been a very good way to judge Elizabeth Warren's political strength throughout her career. My company has been polling Massachusetts voters about Warren going back to her first campaign, which began in late 2011.

Warm feelings from voters have never been at the heart of Warren's success. It would be mistake for anyone to try to predict her presidential chances based on her perceived affability. She has risen more on her reputation as a reliable ally of everyday voters rather than someone voters would invite to the proverbial backyard barbecue.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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