2019年11月8日 星期五

On Politics Poll Watch: No One’s in Control

A new equilibrium in the Democratic race, and new warnings for President Trump.

Welcome to Poll Watch from On Politics. Every Friday, we'll bring you the latest data and analysis to track the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Current state of the race

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Who's up? Who's down? Here's the latest.

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By Alexander Burns

National Political Correspondent

In national polls, the Democratic race appears to have reached something of a new equilibrium, at least for the brief period before the next debate. Joe Biden has stabilized his position in the mid-20s, while Elizabeth Warren is hovering around the 20-percent mark with Bernie Sanders a few points behind her. Pete Buttigieg is in a clear but distant fourth place.

No one appears to be moving dramatically right now. And no candidate can claim to be in control of the race.

Mr. Biden may have steadied himself, but he is worse off than he was even in the middle of the summer and does not have a comfortable lead over either Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders. Ms. Warren is the candidate who has gained the most ground, by far, over the course of the race, but since the October debate her numbers have fallen for the first time, if only slightly. While Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg have both risen by a few points recently, neither is close to taking the lead; Mr. Buttigieg's quick gains in Iowa have not translated in a major way to other states.

Polling in the early states is more ominous for Mr. Biden, but not much more conclusive about who should be seen as a favorite to win. Ms. Warren appears to be the leader in Iowa by only a hair over Mr. Sanders, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Biden, while Mr. Sanders was slightly ahead in the most recent high-quality poll of New Hampshire.

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Should either Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders emerge from the early states as a dominant standard-bearer for the Democratic Party's populist wing, she or he might become difficult to catch up to. Both have powerful fund-raising machines and enthusiastic political organizations that extend beyond the early states — something that neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Buttigieg can claim.

But as long as Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are carving up the left, there is a route to the nomination for Mr. Biden, who could triumph with an unimposing plurality, or Mr. Buttigieg, who could use an upset victory in Iowa as a national launch pad.

The next debate, on Nov. 20, could shake the race again, giving one of the leading candidates a new jolt of momentum or propelling one of the underdogs — like Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris or Cory Booker — into a more prominent position.

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Warnings for Trump, and not just in the suburbs

From governors' houses to state assemblies, many Republican incumbents lost their seats on Tuesday — largely thanks to suburban Republican voters disillusioned with President Trump.

Since Mr. Trump's rise in 2016, Republicans have seen their support slip in affluent suburbs such as those around Philadelphia and the Virginia counties near Washington, D.C. And Democrats on Tuesday notched big wins in those regions.

But election results and polling data suggest Mr. Trump's support may also be threatened elsewhere: among the rural, less-educated voters who have so far formed his base.

A series of New York Times/Siena College polls of swing states conducted last month found that in the rural Appalachian counties of Pennsylvania — the vast majority of which Mr. Trump won in 2016 — only 44 percent of voters said they would definitely choose him over a Democratic candidate in 2020.

By comparison, Mr. Trump commanded the backing of well over 60 percent of voters in most of those counties in 2016.

In Kentucky, where the Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear, leads in the race for governor — though the Republican incumbent, Gov. Matt Bevin, has refused to concede — it was in the rural, Appalachian counties across the eastern part of the state where Mr. Bevin had the most trouble matching the level of support Mr. Trump had in 2016: Just 60 percent of voters in those counties went for Mr. Bevin, compared with the 78 percent who voted for Mr. Trump three years ago.

Much of this decline stems from Mr. Bevin's personal unpopularity: His approval rating has remained under 50 percent since 2017, according to Mason-Dixon polling.

Still, there are warning signs for Mr. Trump within Mr. Bevin's struggles. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted just before this week's election found that in most parts of Kentucky, Mr. Trump's favorability rating was just a few points lower than his share of the vote in 2016. But in those eastern, Appalachian counties, the president's 67 percent favorability rating — while still high — sits 11 points below his 2016 vote share there.

"Those are folks who have been left out of any economic recovery that the country has been experiencing," Larry Harris, a pollster at Mason-Dixon, said in a phone interview.

"When Trump sells a good story about the economy and the like," he added, it may not resonate with "the folks in eastern Kentucky and Appalachia and rural areas, where hospitals are closing" and where unemployment remains high.

When combined with Tuesday's results, the recent polls of swing states suggest that the president may not command enough loyalty from his core supporters to insulate him from losses among suburban voters.

In Iowa in 2016, exit polls showed Mr. Trump winning big among voters with some college education but no degree, taking those voters by 18 points. But the recent Times/Siena poll revealed that those voters are now split down the middle on whether to support him in 2020.

In Wisconsin, a similar story is playing out. Mr. Trump also won in 2016 by an 18-point margin among voters with some college education, according to exit polls, paving his way to an upset victory in that state. But according to the Times/Siena poll of Wisconsin voters, respondents with some college education are now just as likely to say they plan on voting Democratic as to say they are going to support Mr. Trump.

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