The question facing Democrats after five debates is, can you turn buzz into votes?
“There’s been a lot of buzz about different candidates,” said Emporia State political scientist Michael Smith. “Yet, when we look at the actual poll numbers, both in the early voting states and nationally, it’s still two well-known candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders that generally are showing in the lead. The one exception to that is Elizabeth Warren.”
This campaign, as it has been for the last several months, seems to be about the search for a challenger to Joe Biden.
“Biden is keeping his numbers up in the polls,” said Smith. “He’s well-known. His supporters still like him, particularly older Democrats. He’s the standard bearer. Warren, I think, really has the best shot right now at being the challenger. Of course, there’s this wild card in the race. That’s Bernie Sanders.”
Young voters, in particular, are still excited about Sanders. They’re not flocking to Warren as an alternative, yet.
“She has got a following in her own right and it’s growing,” said Smith. “She isn’t really peeling off Bernie Sanders supporters. Would a new candidate, like Deval Patrick, Hillary Clinton, or maybe one of the existing ones, such as Senator [Amy] Klobuchar, would they peel off votes from Biden in such a way that Warren or Sanders could win?”
Smith said that’s not clear, but with so many candidates in the race, the longer more stay in, the better chance of Warren or Sanders finding a way to win. This is particularly true in Iowa, where the caucus format more easily allows for second choice candidates to become a person’s first choice on that night.