The latest CNN poll has some welcome news for former vice president Joe Biden. The survey shows Biden with a 15-point lead over Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and his other rivals in the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Biden led Warren by a margin of 34 to 19% in the latest CNN/SSRS poll, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in third place at 16%.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Senator Kamala Harris both hit 6% in the poll, while Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke both registered 3% support.
Other recent polls showed Biden either tied with Warren or slightly trailing. The RealClear Politics average of polls shows Biden leading Warren by about six points nationwide.
The story of primary season so far has been Warren’s steady rise in the polls, emerging from single digits earlier in the year to now being Biden’s closest rival.
Unlike Biden, Warren puts less emphasis on taking on President Donald Trump and prefers to focus on her sweeping proposals for what she likes to call “big structural change.”
In Iowa this week, Warren compared her campaign for political reform to the difficulties faced by those who waged the struggle for civil rights.
“This is our moment in American history,” she said. “Our moment to dream big, fight hard and win!”
Warren has risen in the polls thanks in large part to some smooth debate performances. But last week’s Democratic debate in Ohio showed that her rivals are now eager to go after her, said Steve Peoples of the Associated Press.
“She did not waver. But she clearly has some things to figure out as she gets comfortable in that front-runner status,” Peoples said.
As Warren has risen in the polls to challenge Biden, however, she also is getting greater scrutiny now, not only in the candidate debates but out on the campaign trail on a regular basis.
Biden continues to press her about how she would pay for her expansive “Medicare-for-all” health care plan that relies on a government system and phases out private health insurance.
“Credibility matters. It matters,” Biden told reporters in Ohio. “And the question I think that Senator Warren is going to have to face is she is going to have to tell the truth or the question will be raised about whether or not she is going to be candid and honest with the American people.”
During last week’s debate, Biden and several other rivals pressed Warren as to whether she will raise taxes to pay for her health care plan. Warren refused to say but added that she will offer more details about her proposal in the weeks to come.
On Wednesday, Biden turned his focus back to Trump and went after the president’s record on the middle class during a speech in his childhood hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Biden said the president has “no idea” what ordinary Americans are going through in the current economy.
Even as most of the spotlight remains on Biden and Warren, Sanders served up a reminder this week that he remains a force in the Democratic race.
Sanders is in third place in most recent polls, though he drew a large crowd in New York last Saturday where he welcomed the endorsement of New York Congresswoman and progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Sanders is back on the campaign trail after his recent heart attack and sought to put to rest concerns about his health and stamina.
“I am more than ready to assume the office of president of the United States,” Sanders said to roars from the crowd.
More than a dozen Democrats remain active in the primary race. But for the moment, the Biden vs. Warren dynamic is getting the most attention.
“I think still the big picture is that Joe Biden has support among the African American and support among older whites and moderates,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “Elizabeth Warren is starting to become more of the choice of the progressives, and also Bernie Sanders.”
Republicans are keeping a close eye on the Democratic race and many are hoping Warren emerges as the nominee since they see her as an easier target for Trump to depict as a far-left candidate.
“She is the one who is most in tune with the progressive base of the party,” Republican strategist John Feehery told VOA. “She has got the most fiery message and she checks all the diversity boxes within the Democratic coalition. She has got the most energy and seems to be getting the most energy with crowds.”
‘Nervous party Nellies’
Even with all the Democratic choices, some party activists reportedly are anxious about the chances of any of the announced candidates actually beating Trump next year.
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported this week there are concerns about Biden’s uneven debate performances and his weak fundraising abilities. Other Democrats fear that Trump will depict either Warren or Sanders as far-left radicals in a general election matchup should they win the nomination.
That has led some Democrats to muse about the possibility of other notable party figures getting into the race, including 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, 2004 nominee John Kerry and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Democrats experienced similar jitters in 1992 before Bill Clinton emerged victorious, and in the early stages of the 2004 campaign when former Vermont governor Howard Dean gained a following.
The latest CNN poll could help bolster Biden’s argument that he remains popular with moderate and conservative Democrats, many of whom are looking to pick a nominee with the best chance of denying Trump a second term in November of 2020.