First things first: The theme song of the week is “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” from the show “Cheers,” by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo.
Poll of the week: A Monmouth University national poll of the 2020 Democratic primary finds Joe Biden leading the field at 29%, Bernie Sanders second at 16% and Kamala Harris in third place at 11%.
Most polls since last year have had Biden and Sanders one and two, but few have had Harris as high as third.
What’s the point: It is pretty clear from the numbers that, at least so far, Harris had the best campaign launch of any of the 2020 Democratic contenders. The Monmouth poll is one of a number of recent polls that suggest Harris has climbed in the Democratic field since announcing her candidacy last month.
Two months ago, Harris was in the bottom tier of candidates. A December CNN poll had her claiming just 4% of the national primary vote. My aggregate of all the polling had her at only 5% at that point.
Today, the aggregate has her at about 12% and the quality Monmouth poll puts her at 11%. In other words, she more than doubled her support in a very short span of time.
Interestingly, Harris is the only candidate so far who has seen a truly sizable announcement bump when aggregating all the polls. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, who had formed exploratory committees in late December and January, respectively, saw little to no improvement. Gillibrand remains in the low single digits, while Warren has seen a slight increase, from 5% to 7%. The only other announced candidate who is polling above 2% is Cory Booker at 4% (although polling has almost all been conducted before he declared his candidacy).
National polling isn’t the only place where Harris seems to have succeeded. Another way to track interest in candidates is to see how often people are searching for their names on Google. Since December 30 (a day before Warren said she was forming an exploratory committee), Harris has generated more search traffic than Booker, Julian Castro, Gillibrand and Warren combined. She has done this despite announcing her candidacy after all except Booker.
Of course, primaries are not won or lost nationally. They are won one contest at a time, beginning in Iowa. There hasn’t been too much polling since Harris got in the race, though what little polling we do have suggests that Harris has seen a significant bump in support. She also holds a small lead in Google searches in the Hawkeye State since Warren formed her exploratory committee.
Harris’ gain seems, at least for the moment, to be Beto O’Rourke’s loss. After his 2018 defeat in the Texas US Senate race, O’Rourke received a major boost in the polls. He topped out close to 10% in the average poll during the middle of December. O’Rourke’s support has been cut in about half to 5% right now.
Harris’ recent rise and O’Rourke’s at least momentary fall shouldn’t be too surprising. Many Democratic voters still haven’t formed opinions of the majority of candidates. Plenty more twists and turns in the 2020 primary are possible, if not likely.
For now, Harris had the best month to start the 2020 campaign.