Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had high hopes for her 2020 presidential campaign, but if early polls are any indication, her road to the White Houes may hit a dead end much earlier than expected.
Although Warren was at one time thought to be in the lead among 2020 Democrats, particularly in early primary states, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) entry into the race has shuffled the top contenders, and left even New Hampshire Dems — who live just one state over from Warren’s base of operations — questioning whether the Massachusetts senator is the best choice for the top job.
A University of Massachusetts Amhurst poll released Wednesday shows Warren running a distance fourth, not just to Sanders and fellow Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), but also to former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t even decided if he plans on entering the race.
The vast majority — a whopping 28% of New Hampshire “likely Democrat voters” — say they want Biden for the top office. Around 20% are leaning “Bernie Sanders,” which isn’t surprising given that New Hampshire chose Sanders over Clinton in 2016 by a 22% margin (to add insult to injury, every New Hampshire county went for Bernie Sanders).
For Warren, the feeling isn’t just that they find other candidates better, apparently it’s that New Hampshire voters really just don’t like her. An astounding 26% of likely Dem voters say they “definitely wouldn’t” support Warren; that pack of negative voters she easily leads.
Although the Amhurst poll grabbed headlines, Warren isn’t doing well in other early states, either. She trails Biden again in Iowa by a wide margin, according to Real Clear Politics, and she’s behind Bernie Sanders, but she also trails former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, according to a Des Moines Register/CNN poll from last month. She and Kamala Harris are tied in Iowa at a miserable 5% each.
In South Carolina, the news is even worse. A Change Research poll released Wednesday found Biden tops there, too, trailed closely by Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris. Warren came in fifth in that poll, behind Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and just ahead of Beto O’Rourke.
Her cache with the national liberal base also appears to be waning. A Daily Kos poll that had her well ahead just a month ago shows her experiencing a double-digit drop in popularity. She’s now well behind progressive favorite Kamala Harris.
Warren is suffering from a few issues: one, she can’t seem to decide what her identity as a candidate will be, and that’s hurting her among both progressives and moderates. Although she’s been a dedicated economic populist in the Senate, she’s dwarfed by other senators who haven’t had to work on specific policies and can lay claim to territory further left than Warren’s record demonstrates. She’s also unconvincing to moderates, even though she’s adopted a more touchy-feely approach to socialist economic policy than contenders like Sanders and Harris.
Warren also loses ground to bigger names, more established politicians, and Democrats who don’t necessarily represented a repeat of 2016, where a milquetoast, moderately unlikeable middle-aged moderate Democrat lost to now-President Donald Trump.
Lucky for Warren, there’s at least one issue Democrats don’t care about: her identity. Despite the “fauxcahontas” jokes and the disasterous unforced error involving a mail-order DNA kit, most liberals are willing to grant Warren a pass, at least for now. That may change when she comes up against an identity politics expert like Harris in early debates.