By Danny R. Johnson – Political News Editor
Washington, DC – A new poll has some bad news for Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, I-Vermont., has slipped from second place to third in a new poll, with Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, taking his spot among likely caucus-goers in Nevada.
The poll, conducted by Monmouth University, showed Warren leading Sanders with 19 percent support compared to his 13 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden continued dominating the field, however, with 36 percent in Nevada, an early indicator of Democratic success during the primaries. The survey was the first Nevada poll released this cycle that meets the Democratic National Committee’s criteria for qualifying for the debates. Previous polling has shown Warren trailing Sanders as both push a more progressive message against the frontrunner and perceived moderate Biden.
While Biden led the field among “moderate or conservative” voters, “very liberal” voters, who made up about a quarter of likely caucus-goers, supported Warren and Sanders with 27 and 26 percent respectively. According to polling, likely caucus-goers rated health care (41 percent) as their most important issue when thinking about a candidate. Environmental concerns (17 percent) and immigration (19 percent) as the top issues voters identified.
Only 14 percent, however, said “beating” President Trump was their top priority. Trump has become such a negative symbol among Democrats that many have cautioned against choosing a candidate based on other criteria. Others, like Jacobin Magazine editor Bhaskar Sunkara, urged Democrats to push Biden to the left and force the party to endorse more progressive proposals. Among those proposals was “Medicare for all” which both Sanders and Warren have proposed as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act passed when Biden was Vice President.
Two months ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential hopes appeared to be fading. The Massachusetts Democrat’s poll numbers were stuck in the mid-single digits, placing her fourth or fifth among Democratic candidates. After swearing off high-dollar fundraisers, she had brought in less money in the first quarter than South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a relative unknown who was still building a national profile. Media coverage of Warren’s campaign focused less on her bold ideas than on her perceived lack of “electability.” Summing up the conventional wisdom, one CNN headline proclaimed, “Why is Elizabeth Warren struggling? Democrats aren’t looking for policy.”
Yet, to borrow a phrase, Warren persisted. And with the first debate quickly approaching, she has jumped in the polls and emerged as the clear leader in the Democratic “ideas primary.”
Last week, Warren unveiled a sweeping new plan for what she calls “economic patriotism.” Her proposal calls for $2 trillion investment in clean energy, which she says would create more than a million jobs and advance the goals of the Green New Deal. In a boost to workers, the plan would require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and offer 12 weeks of paid family leave. It would also convert the Commerce Department into a new Department of Economic Development, focused on job creation. By linking the causes of environmental and economic justice in one package, Warren is reimagining the American Dream for these times.
On the stump, Warren has shown an ability to effectively connect these proposals to her own experiences, from the threat of losing her house as a child to her struggle to find affordable child care as a young mother. Meanwhile, she has rolled out several plans in shrewdly chosen locations. Warren introduced her $100 billion plan to address the opioid crisis ahead of a visit to West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. And she announced her plan to break up big tech companies ahead of a visit to Long Island City, N.Y., where Amazon intended to build its new campus before a backlash from local activists caused the company to reverse course.
What truly distinguishes Warren, however, is that her ideas add up to a bold and coherent vision for the future. In contrast with former vice president Joe Biden, who has said that President Trump is a historical “aberration,” Warren grasps how systemic corruption, which took root over the course of many years, created the conditions for Trump’s election. (For example, she has introduced anti-corruption legislation in the Senate to “padlock the revolving door between big business and government.”) And she’s offering a powerful, populist vision for ending American plutocracy.
Warren is certainly not the only Democrat in the field running on innovative, important ideas. Sanders, in particular, has built on his transformative 2016 campaign, with bolder proposals for public education and Medicare-for-all. One also hopes that Warren will show the same audacity and vision in foreign policy as the campaign continues. But no matter what happens, it’s now obvious that pundits who argued that Warren had missed her moment were wrong. The presidential race is better because she is in it.