As the next Democratic candidates’ debate approaches, in the civil war consuming the party’s presidential nomination process, the first major takedown was of Sen. Kamala Harris.
As the dwindling contenders desperately seek to stay alive, or drop out like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in this unprecedentedly large nomination fight, you can bet Harris won’t be the last to be attacked by her rivals.
The only question is: Who will be the next voted off the island?
A Fluid Race With Fluid Polls
After Sen. Tulsi Gabbard’s beat down of Harris in the second debate, Harris declared that she, and not Gabbard, was a top-tier candidate. However, the post-debate polls show that, as I said on Fox & Friends, Harris has a glass jaw and she now looks more like a second-tier candidate.
Just how bad are the post-debate polls for Harris?
Well, a new poll has her within the margin of error of Gabbard at 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. So much for Harris’s different tiers.
Before that, a Quinnipiac poll showed Harris’s support among black Americans plummeted from second place, at 27 percent support, all the way to 1 percent. That isn’t a typo and likely is unprecedented. It’s also likely that her fall isn’t reparable, at least for that demographic.
What Harris’s drop demonstrates is the fluidity of the Democratic race. Ever-changing polls tell you that support for the candidates is soft and subject to change. Yes, former Vice President Joe Biden is in the lead—except in one poll. Yes, Sen. Bernie Sanders has a dedicated army—especially in Iowa. However, the rise and fall of Harris and Beto O’Rourke, who has also plummeted in the polls, and the fall and rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tell you there is still a competition for the other 70 percent or so of the Democratic primary votes not claimed by Biden.
Who Will Finish Fourth in Iowa?
Always remember that the nomination process isn’t about national polls as much as it is about individual primaries and caucuses. The first of those, of course, is Iowa and the order of finish in Iowa is paramount every single time. Just ask Biden, who withdrew from the nomination race after his fifth-place finish in Iowa in 2008.
Finishing in the top tier in Iowa is essential for candidates if they want to stay in the race. The attention of the media and donors becomes fixated on those who finish in the top tier, while five through 10, let alone 10-plus, struggle to the point of dropping out.
In 2020, given that as many as 15 or so Democrats will compete in Iowa, the difference between fourth, fifth, and sixth place could, literally, be a few hundred caucus-goers. Think about it.
The recent RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of polls for Iowa currently shows a 4.5-point difference between finishing second or fourth. The latest Monmouth Iowa poll shows third place at 11 percent, fourth place at 9 percent, and fifth at 8 percent. The recent RCP average of polls for the second primary state, New Hampshire, shows a 2-point spread between fourth and fifth place.
In other words, amid the fluid polls, third through fifth and beyond are up for grabs in those states with six long months to go. That means the candidates, who are currently fifth through 20th, must do something, if not everything, to get into the Iowa and New Hampshire mix. They either have to spend a lot of money (calling Tom Steyer), or learn from Harris and Gabbard and go on the attack.
So, who will be the target of the next attack?
Biden will remain a target. Few voters say it’s “Joe Biden or bust.” Many Democrats know he remains vulnerable (gaffe central, that he is), which is why low-level candidates such as Sen. Corey Booker and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio felt free to attack him in the last debate. But while Biden will continue to be attacked, he’s likely to stay in the top three, for now, barring an awful gaffe. That means someone else has to be the focus of attack as well for the poll-climbers to get to the top of the hill.
Will it be Sen. Bernie Sanders? Sanders has a dedicated army of volunteers (he says more than 20,000 in Iowa) and is polling well in New Hampshire and leading in Colorado. The other Democrat candidates, however, don’t see him as a long-term threat, and they know the media and the Democratic Party apparatus shuns Sanders. As a result, they expect him to fade by himself and won’t go after him for now.
Who does that leave? Warren, who continues to rise in the polls, was on the outs in 2018 and has made a comeback at the expense of Sanders, Harris, and everyone below her. Is the candidate who wants to increase federal spending $130 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, taking the federal budget from $5 trillion to $18 trillion, invulnerable?
The answer is plainly no, if your last name is Buttigieg, Harris, Gabbard, Booker, Steyer, and on and on. If the others are smart, she’s next up to be taken down a notch.
Overall, the large-field dynamic is one key reason the Democratic contenders are openly fighting each other in sometimes biting fashion. With so much at stake, and potentially razor-thin “victory margins,” you also shouldn’t expect the fighting to stop anytime soon on the Democrats’ nomination island.
Thomas Del Beccaro is an acclaimed author, speaker, Fox News, Fox Business, and Epoch Times opinion writer and the former chairman of the California Republican Party. He is the author of the historical perspectives “The Divided Era” and “The New Conservative Paradigm.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.