Elizabeth Warren isn’t leading polls. But that hasn’t stopped some from calling her the frontrunner.

July 9, 2019

Joe Biden’s feeble performance in the first primary debates has some in the media declaring a new frontrunner.

According to an analysis by the Hill, “Uncle Joe” has been supplanted by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The Massachusetts Democrat was rising in polls for weeks before the debates, but according to the Hill, she’s well-placed to shoot over the top.

For many debate watchers, though, the biggest winner of the first round was not Warren but Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Warren leading Democratic race?

For weeks before the debates, the candidates were considered more or less locked in place: Biden led the pack, trailed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), while Warren, Kamala Harris (D-CA), Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke rounded out the next tier. The first round of Democratic primary debates have shaken up the primary race, with both Warren and Harris on the rise, while Biden and Sanders have stagnated.

The best evidence for a post-debate shakeup comes from national polls showing Warren and Harris closing on the former vice president. A new poll from the Hill shows Biden leading Harris, Warren, and Sanders, all tied for second place, by fifteen points.

At this stage, speculation about who is leading the race is conjectural. But the Hill places Warren in first, despite noting that she isn’t leading in any national poll. The Hill points to Warren’s improved polling numbers, a conjecture that she is “on the brink” of overtaking Sanders as the party progressive, and other theorizing.

The site further notes that Warren “clearly” won the first round of debates. Her poll bump seems to reflect that claim, but the idea that Warren’s message is “resonating louder” than the other candidates is conjectural.

Certainly, Warren has experienced something of a summer surge, and her detailed policy plans have garnered praise, even from conservatives like Tucker Carlson. But how much do voters care, really, about that level of detail? President Trump won an election with simple slogans, not treatises, that expressed what voters felt.

It’s not unreasonable to speculate that Warren’s populist economics could pose a challenge to Trump in the Rust Belt. Her rise shouldn’t be discounted, and it definitely seems that Warren is having a moment right now. But, as the Hill notes, Warren continues to poll in third behind Biden and Sanders.

Speculation all over

However much the media may hype up Warren’s rise, candidates typically go through boom and bust cycles. Remember Beto?

All that can be said with certainty is that Biden is still in the lead, if less so, and that Harris, Warren, and Sanders are duking it out for second place. But if Biden does continue to sink, Harris actually seems like a more likely candidate for his replacement than Warren.

Harris has placed second in two national polls since the debates, and she’s the only Democrat who really stood out in a positive way. She has a more mainstream appeal than Warren, too; Harris is a Clinton liberal with a progressive edge, a reality betokened by her law and order past, which may be one of her main vulnerabilities with the left. Warren, on the other hand, is a far-left progressive who favors eliminating private health insurance.

Harris has her own skeletons in the closet, like her aggressive prosecution of truancy, but Warren has to deal with the baggage of her Native American heritage claims and a charisma gap. The Hill claims that her academic image isn’t as much of a problem as her critics say, but that seems like a charitable assessment. Are working-class voters really going to back an Ivy League technocrat with Warren’s demeanor?

The primary is looking more and more like it belongs to Harris. She might be a phony, but she’s got enough of a broad appeal to win the nomination, at least compared with Warren, and her focus on racial issues could help with black voters, who are already starting to sour on Uncle Joe.

Tracking polls is a bit of a mug’s game, especially this early in the race. Outside of a few polls, there are few solid indications that Warren is leading the race. If we are going by polls, then Democrats should hope that Warren’s not the nominee. According to a new poll, Biden is still in the lead over Trump, while Warren and Harris are trailing him.

All of the speculation about the primary misses a bigger point: are any of these candidates a serious threat to President Trump? If Biden or Harris is the best they can do, should Trump even be worried?

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.