How did the Democratic debates affect the candidates’ standing in the polls? The early returns indicate that, as expected, Kamala Harris has surged. Her gains have come in small doses at the expense of most of the other candidates.
The only poll I’ve been able to find in which all of the responses appear to have been obtained after both debates is this one from Scott Rasmussen/HarrisX. It finds that Joe Biden is still well out in front with 28 percent support. That’s more than twice the support of any other candidate. It’s lower by about 5 points than his pre-debate average, but virtually identical to his number in a Rasmussen/Harris poll taken a few days before the debates.
Bernie Sanders’ support in the Rasmussen/Harris poll is at 14 percent, down three points from before the debates. I don’t know whether the drop is statistically significant. However, whether Sanders’ backing is 14 percent or 17 percent, he should probably be worried. Too many Democrats seem to be looking for a different alternative to Biden — be it Harris, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg — to make the Vermont socialist feel good about his prospects.
Kamala Harris has moved into third place according to Rasmussen/Harris. She’s at 11 percent now, a near doubling of her support level in just a few days. Polling by Morning Consult suggests that Harris is doing even better than that and, indeed, may be tied with Sanders for second place.
Elizabeth Warren has fallen into fourth place in the Rasmussen/Harris poll at 8 percent. However, this organization had her at only 9 percent going into the debates. Other polls had her doing a few points better than that.
Pete Buttigieg is at 4 percent in the Rasmussen/Harris post-debate survey, about where he was going in. It’s “as you were” for the rest of candidates too, including, surprisingly, Beto O’Rourke. How he has any support after the first debate is a mystery to me.
We’ll need to see more surveys before we can evaluate the true state of the race. Right now, though, it looks like there are three tiers. Biden is in the first, alone but feeling the heat. Sanders, Harris, and Warren occupy the second tier. Buttigieg seems to be alone in the third, with a few others — Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and maybe Beto — knocking the loudest on that door.