I wrote a column in May about the five big questions I had going into the first Democratic debates. Well, the debates are here, this Wednesday and Thursday, so how about some answers to those questions?
The first was about former Vice President Joe Biden. I wondered where he’d settle after his post-announcement surge in the polls. As it turned out, he hit his peak (via RealClearPolitics) that same day; he has since dropped back to about where he started, losing the 10 percentage points he added in April to wind up at an average of around 30% in ballot test surveys. That’s not bad, if he stays there for a while, but anything stronger appears to have been temporary. I also wondered whether Biden’s surge would net him an impressive array of endorsements. That, too, is a mixed bag: He retains his overall lead in endorsements, but Senator Kamala Harris has matched him in points added since May 9.
My second question was about what would happen to candidates who didn’t qualify for the debates. So far, it doesn’t appear that anyone is going to drop out; as I expected, at least one non-qualifier, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, is trying to milk the exclusion for more publicity than he might’ve received if he had actually made it to the debate stage.
Would any new candidate bubble inflate before the debates? The answer is … sort of. Senator Elizabeth Warren has moved up about four percentage points in the RealClear polling average, which isn’t much, and she’s only picked up one minor endorsement during that time. She’s certainly picked up some news coverage, however. If the goal was to hit the debates as the “now” candidate to get more attention, I’d say she’s achieved that.
What about going negative? Despite some criticism of Biden over his friendly remarks about old-time southern senators, there really hasn’t been too much. Not enough, I’d say, for debate moderators to feed an ongoing confrontation. I still think a couple of the one-percenters should’ve staged a phony feud to draw attention to themselves.
The last question I asked concerned what was happening in the policy primary, and the answer is: a whole lot. Warren’s policy proposals have been the most prominent, but Senator Bernie Sanders, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and others have been aggressive in rolling out fairly detailed plans. If one goal of having debates is to force candidates to set out positions on public policy, then this one is already a big success.
1. Rachel VanSickle-Ward and Kevin Wallsten at the Monkey Cage on the partisan divide on over-the-counter contraceptives.
2. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Timothy L. O’Brien on Trump’s bluster-and-retreat presidency.
3. Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer have a very good one at Politico on Warren’s policy shop.
4. Alex Seitz-Wald on electability.
5. Emma Gray on the latest accusation that the president is a rapist.
6. And Ryan Goodman and John T. Nelson on the effort to stonewall congressional oversight.
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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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