Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has passed former Vice President Joe Biden in a new national poll, marking the first time the Massachusetts legislator has led the field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Politico reports that the Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday morning shows Warren pulling ahead of Biden by two points, 27% to 25%, among Democrats and “Democratic-leaning independents” who plan to vote in the 2020 election.
That’s still within the poll’s margin of error, as Politico points out, but there’s no denying that Warren’s campaign is on the upswing and that she’s taking voters who may have previously pledged themselves to Joe Biden. In the last Quinnipiac national poll, taken around this time in August, Biden was comfortably ahead of Warren, 32% to just 19%.
At the time the previous poll was taken, Biden seemed well-positioned to sail to the nomination, leaving the 20 or so contenders in the dust even before the third set of Democratic National Committee debates, set to take place in October, just a year out of the presidential election. But Biden has never been a “sure thing,” and as voters tuned into the Democratic primary race, his numbers declined markedly.
Biden’s problems are systemic. First, assuming he was the party’s inevitable nominee, Biden didn’t do much on the ground campaigning in early primary states — even as other Democrats, like Warren, started their tours of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina back in the spring. Now playing catch-up, Biden has given speech after gaffe-filled speech, engendering little confidence in his nascent presidential campaign.
The Quinnipiac poll was taken last week, so it doesn’t tangle with Biden’s latest issue: Allegations that he used his position as vice president to intervene in a criminal prosecution in Ukraine, steering prosecutors there away from investigating and charging a corporation that had his son as a board member. The burgeoning scandal has embroiled President Donald Trump, but there’s no doubt that scrutiny will also fall on Biden, particularly from competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Warren’s surge also follows a series of state-level polls, including a Des Moines Register poll from the weekend, that show her pulling comfortably ahead of Biden in early primary states — including the all-important Iowa, where she and Biden have been campaigning aggressively for the last two weeks. Warren is also approaching the lead in Nevada and also led in one recent poll in New Hampshire.
Biden’s campaign has brushed off news of a steady decline, telling the media in early September that the former veep doesn’t need to win Iowa to secure the presidential nomination, especially since his popularity in Rust Belt and swing states, which have later primaries, could both make up for his lack of early success and prove he’s competitive with Donald Trump where it matters. But Biden made that excuse when he was still well ahead in Iowa and his closest national competitor was Sanders — not the more universally acceptable Warren.
If the trend continues, Biden could be out of contention completely by the winter — and that would certainly make progressives who find Biden far too moderate for the modern era happy.