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Another Progressive Straw Poll Puts “Three B’s” at Top of 2020 Democratic Pack

In post-midterms America, the Democratic Party is all about the “B’s”– Bernie, Biden and Beto.

A new straw poll by the progressive political action committee Democracy for America gives Sen. Bernie Sanders a big lead among its supporters, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the second and third spots. And, once again, Sen. Elizabeth Warren lags well behind.

Vermont progressive Bernie Sanders topped with list with 36 percent, followed by Biden at 15 percent and O’Rourke–the Left’s flavor-of-the-month–at 12 percent. Sen. Warren was in fourth place with just 8 percent of DFA’s support, narrowly edging out California Sen. Kamala Harris at 7 percent.

“Let’s be clear: Progressive support in the 2020 Democratic primary is up for grabs and so is Democracy for America’s endorsement,” said DFA’s incoming chairman Charles Chamberlain, in a statement released to Politico.  “Unlike 2016, no candidate has support strong enough for the Democratic Party establishment to clear the field, which means progressives will have an excellent opportunity over the next year to kick the tires on a wide range of different candidates and find the best one to take on Trump.”

DFA, an organization founded by progressive Howard Dean, endorsed Sanders in the heated 2016 Democratic POTUS primary, so it’s no surprise that he’s the top choice of their membership.  However, the fact that a series of polls–both among progressives and Democrats as a whole–put the same three candidates in the top tier gives a good indication of how likely primary voters view the current field of contenders.

And perhaps most significant, one-time front-runner Elizabeth Warren doesn’t crack the top three in any of these surveys.

For example, last week the progressive activist group released the results of their own straw poll. Beto was on top, with Biden and Bernie close behind. Warren trailed Harris and came in fifth. Similarly, a national poll of Democrats released by CNN over the weekend put Biden at top, followed by Bernie and Beto, with Sen. Warren in seventh place and just 3 percent support.

Pollsters and political pros all agree that polling and surveys two year ahead of the general election are far too early to be significant. The consensus, rather, is that there is no consensus.

“There is no frontrunner there,” pollster Frank Luntz said on Fox News. “There are twice as many candidates they may run for the Democrats this time as ran for the Republicans two years ago.”

Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner argues that the strong performance by Beto O’Rourke is less a reflection of the Texas Democrat’s strength than the weakness of the field overall. “The fact that O’Rourke, without doing much, could leapfrog all of the other candidates who had been clearly positioning themselves to run for years, suggests that none of the Democratic candidates enter the race in a particularly strong position,” Klein writes.

And despite his consistently strong showing in these surveys, Joe Biden insists he won’t make his decision to run based on the polls.

“I don’t think about the polling data,” Biden told CBS News. “I think about whether or not I should run based on very private decisions relating to my family and the loss of my son and what I want to do with the rest of my life. But I don’t think of it in terms of can I win, can I – will I lose. That’s not part of the calculation.”

Iowa Confirms Early-State Trends: Biden, Bernie and Beto Rise as Warren Wanes

First Politico, then SRSS and now a new CNN/Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers confirms that, in the early going, the top names in the Democratic field are Biden, Bernie and–surprise!–Beto.

In Iowa, Biden’s at the top of the pack with 32 percent support, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders at 19 percent and Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 11 percent. They were the only people in double-digits.

On the same day the poll was released, dozens of grassroots supporters gathered in Manchester, NH for a “Day of Action” organized by the Draft Beto 2020 movement.

The Iowa numbers are similar to a recent Politico poll of Democrats nationwide: Biden 26 percent, Sanders 19 percent and O’Rourke at 8 percent. The three Democrats shared the same ranking in another CNN poll, conducted by SRSS, of Democrats across the country: Biden 30 percent, Sanders 14 percent and O’Rourke 9 percent.

In all of the latest polling, Liz Warren lags behind the top tier of candidates.

While Beto’s numbers, hovering around 10 percent, aren’t particularly impressive, the fact that he consistently ranks ahead of more established candidates–Sen. Elizabeth Warren in particular–is a sign of how he’s sparked interest among Democrats. A year ago, the Texas congressman was virtually unknown outside his district while Sen. Warren was viewed as a front-runner. Today, Warren’s suffered high-profile setbacks while O’Rourke has inspired a movement to pull him into the primary.


A group of Beto O’Rourke supporters gathered in Manchester NH for a Day of Action


Other numbers that should concern Sen. Warren are the favorable/unfavorable ratings from Iowa caucus goers. While Joe Biden’s favorables are extremely high at 82 percent and his unfavorables are a low 15 percent, Warren’s numbers are a more modest 64 percent approval, 20 percent disapproval. That 20 percent is the highest negative numbers among Iowa Democrats (Though nowhere close to Hillary Clinton’s gasp-inducing 47 approve/49 disapprove.)

For his part, O’Rourke acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that the question of his preparedness for the job of president is a legitimate one.  “I ask it myself,” he said.

“I just don’t feel comfortable talking to anybody in Iowa or New Hampshire, because I don’t want to stoke. I just truly have not made a decision or even really begun the serious work of making a decision, so I just don’t want to lead anyone to think that we’re doing something or not doing something.”

But that’s not stopping Democrats across the country from expressing true interest in his candidacy. So much so that, according to the AP, the Biden camp is considering an “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy, floating a Biden/Beto ticket for 202o.

The Associated Press reports that past and current advisers to Biden, 76, have expressed some “concerns about age” and have raised the possibility of O’Rourke, 47, as a possible running mate. If 76 sounds old, keep in mind that Biden’s fellow front-runner, Bernie Sanders, is 77. He would be 79 if sworn in as president in January 2021.

This may be part of the reason why so many Democrats are taking a second look at a fresh new face like Beto’s.

Beto’s Up, Warren’s Down and Avenatti’s Out

Lots of 2020 news for New Hampshire, starting with the departure of 2018’s Summer Superstar, Michael Avenatti.  The L.A. lawyer had an electric effect on the crowds at Democratic events in New Hampshire, and some longtime Granite State politicos had high praise for him.


Michael Avenatti works the crowd at a NH Democratic fundraiser in August, 2018.

Today, however, Avenatti announced on Twitter that he’s out of the 2020 race.

“After consultation with my family and at their request, I have decided not to seek the Presidency of the United States in 2020. I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family.”

In addition to his pledge to keep representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with President Trump, Avenatti also reiterated something he told NHJournal in an interview over the summer:

“I remain concerned that the Democratic Party will move toward nominating an individual who might make an exceptional President but has no chance of actually beating Donald Trump,” Avenatti said. “The party must immediately recognize that many of the likely candidates are not battle-tested and have no real chance of winning. We will not prevail in 2020 without a fighter. I remain hopeful the party finds one.”

Avenatti suggested to NHJournal that the right fighter for the Democrats was…Michael Avenatti. But he’s out now, and while some are dismissing it as “dropping out before getting in,” in fact Avenatti started a political action committee– FIGHT PAC (motto: “Join the Fight Club”) and even ran an ad:


Interestingly, Avenatti was still talking up his prospects as a POTUS hopeful as recently as last night, tweeting out a national poll that had him at 2 percent and the comment “Better than Trump polled in 2015.”

Ah, but there is that whole “arrested for domestic violence” thing, so…

Oh, and about that poll Avenatti tweeted. Check it out, and look for the names “Warren” and “O’Rourke.”

That’s the Harvard/Harris poll. Here’s another version, but with Hillary Clinton added:

Notice a trend? Despite the fact that she’s been a darling of progressives for nearly a decade and he came out of nowhere over the summer, Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is leading Sen. Elizabeth Warren in both polls.

Here’s another poll:

Aha, Warren’s beating Beto! Albeit by a point, but hey!

Wait. Check again. This is a poll of Democrats…IN MASSACHUSETTS.  Warren is essentially tied with a previously unknown congressman from Texas, in her home state. That’s not good. And smart people are starting to notice.

Harry Enten, former FiveThirtyEight numbers cruncher now at CNN, has a piece entitled “Some 2020 Warning Signs Elizabeth Warren Needs to Pay Attention to — Stat.” He points out that, not only is her polling underwhelming, but that her performance in her 2o18 re-election bid was uninspiring, too.

“Warren’s 24-point margin may sound impressive, until you realize Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts by 27 points in 2016,” Enten wrote. He did a simple formula analyzing all 34 of the 2018 US Senate races based on the fundamental partisanship in each state. His conclusion:

“Controlling for a state’s weighted average partisanship and incumbency, Warren’s performance was the sixth worst of all Democrats. She did 7 points worse than expected. (For comparison, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders outperformed their baselines by 9 and 12 points respectively.)

“Bottom line: Elizabeth Warren is an underwhelming candidate right now, and there’s no reason to believe she’s going to get stronger as time goes on.  O’Rourke, on the other hand, continues to catch fire and is in the top tier of candidates despite having done…nothing.
Meanwhile, the top Democratic name in every 2020 poll continues to be former Vice President Joe Biden. If that doesn’t change, every other conversation is moot. And, according to Biden, why should it change?

“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” the former VP reportedly said earlier today.

Are Progressives Catching BetoMania in the Granite State?

Is there really a bout of BetoMania spreading through the New Hampshire Democratic party?

Democratic Party activist Jay Surdukowski sure hopes so.  The Concord attorney has been pushing for the Texas congressman, Senate candidate, and political phenom to make his way to the Granite State.  Thus far, Rep. O’Rourke (whose real name is Francis Robert) hasn’t responded to any of the invitations from New Hampshire, but the conversation alone is generating news at Politico and CNBC.

(Longtime New Hampshire media hand James Pindell crankily tweeted “Didn’t realize unanswered invites were news but here we are.”)

So, is O’Rourke a real player in New Hampshire? The obvious–and obviously true–answer is that it’s way too early to say. “There’s a lot of chatter and a lot of buzz about a lot of people,” one Democratic insider told NHJournal. “Have I heard Beto’s name? Sure. I’ve also heard Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown.  Most New Hampshire Democrats are waiting to meet these people, look them in the eye, watch them campaign.”

On the other hand, how many of those people have fans posting Facebook pages about them? Or have political activists in New England start a PAC (“Draft Beto 2020”) to encourage them to run?

And then there’s the fact that, despite being a political unknown just a year ago, Rep. O’Rourke is near the top of (very early) polling for the Democratic nomination, ahead of big names like Warren, Harris and Booker.

This weekend, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard–who has actually talked about possibly running in 2020— is coming to New Hampshire to talk to voters. And yet it’s safe to say that more Democrats this week will be talking about the outgoing Congressman from Texas than the incumbent Congresswoman from Hawaii.

Why? In part it’s because O’Rourke is a legitimate political talent.  Jeff Roe, Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, said after his candidate’s narrow victory over Beto: “The Democrats don’t have anybody like him,” Roe said. “I’ve seen all of them. They don’t have anyone of his caliber on the national stage. I pray for the soul of anyone who has to run against him in Iowa in 453 days.”

But it’s also more than that. O’Rourke is a talented progressive politician, at a moment when the party’s base is hungry for progressive leadership.  Bernie Sanders hit the right notes, but voting for Bernie was voting for the progressive platform alone. O’Rourke brings the Left’s ideology, but adds charisma, skills and–let’s face it–sex appeal.

“Beto is exciting, he’s articulate, he’s passionate,” New Hampshire progressive activist and broadcaster Arnie Arnesen told NHJournal.  “But he also used his time in the limelight to speak to the future. So even though he was running against one of the most hated Republicans there is, he didn’t use that fact as an excuse to moderate his message or soften his agenda.”

“And that’s a wonderful thing,” Arnesen said.

Not everyone agrees. Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel responded to the Beto craze this way:

“If Beto O’Rourke wants to go and run for president, God bless him, he should put his hat in and make his case. But, he lost. You don’t usually promote a loser to the top of party.”

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic player Jim Demers, who has publicly expressed support for Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ),  is more moderated in his views:

“I think Beto O’Rourke has a few interesting options. Some people would like to see him run for President, others think he is in a very strong position to challenge John Cornyn for the Senate seat in Texas in 2020,” Demers told NHJournal.

“Regardless, I hope Democrats will take the pledge not to devour each other in the presidential race and to stand united when the nominee is selected. The goal is to change the occupant in The White House, period.”

Are New Hampshire Democrats ready to give that job to a guy from Texas? Whose entire political resume is three terms in Congress and a losing bid for the US Senate?

“I’m not sure I couldn’t be convinced Beto O’Rourke should be President,” the Democratic insider told NHJournal.

And given how many big Democratic names are on the 2020 list, and how little New Hampshire Democrats actually know about O’Rourke, that’s something.