Biden Leads, Warren Rises, Kamala Falls In Wake of Second Debate

One week out from the second Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren appears to be the biggest beneficiary. while Kamala Harris appears to be falling behind.

With the July debates between the 2020 Democratic candidates for President, which were held on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, a trio of new polls shows that Senator Elizabeth Warren appears to have benefited the most from the debates, but that former Vice-President Biden continues to lead the field.

The first of these polls, from Politico and Morning Consult, shows that voters mark Warren as the candidate who did the best overall in the debates, and she appears to be moving ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren easily prevailed in last week’s primary debates in Detroit, according to a poll out Tuesday.

Three out of 10 respondents dubbed Warren the winner for her debate performance last week, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of registered Democratic primary voters found. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden rounded out the top three with 18 percent and 14 percent of respondents dubbing them the top performer, respectively.\\

Warren also received the highest percentage of “excellent” ratings from voters on her debate performance, with 44 percent of primary voters giving her top marks. Sanders came in second, with 32 percent giving him an “excellent” rating, followed by Biden, who 27 percent said put on an “excellent” performance.

Voters were least impressed with the performance of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; just over a quarter — 26 percent — of voters called his performance “poor.” This could be in part because of de Blasio’s willingness during the debate to criticize former President Barack Obama’s record on deportations, despite Tuesday’s poll finding that Obama enjoys a 94 percent favorability rating among Democratic primary voters.

Respondents were also cool on Sen. Kamala Harris, despite her being one of the breakout stars of the first debate because of sparring with Biden.

“Democratic primary voters were underwhelmed with Senator Kamala Harris’ debate performance last week as her poll bounce continues to fade,” Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president, said in a statement. “Notably, 43 percent of Democratic primary voters said Harris performed ‘excellent’ at the June debates, compared to 20 percent who said the same about last week’s Detroit debates.”

Despite voters decisively saying Warren put on the best performance out of the 20 candidates featured over the two nights, they were not as confident in her ability to beat President Donald Trump in next year’s general election.

That distinction went to Biden, who 42 percent of primary voters said has the best chance of unseating Trump — more than twice the percentage that said the same of his next closest competitor. Sanders came in second, with 17 percent giving him the best chance of beating the president, followed by Warren, who 13 percent of voters said had the best chance of knocking Trump out of office.

In the candidate preference part of the poll, the numbers break down like this:

  1. Joe Biden — 33%
  2. Bernie Sanders — 19%
  3. Elizabeth Warren — 14%
  4. Kamala Harris — 9%
  5. Pete Buttigieg — 6%
  6. Beto O’Rourke — 3%
  7. Cory Booker — 3%
  8. Andrew Yang — 2%
  9. All other candidates under 2%

The numbers are roughly the same in the new Quinnipiac poll:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren enjoyed a bump in her polling numbers following the second round of Democratic presidential primary debates last week, but she’s still trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University out Tuesday.

Biden leads with 32% of support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters, followed by 21% for Warren, 14% for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 7% for California Sen. Kamala Harris, 5% for Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 2% for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and 2% for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Warren is up 6 percentage points since Quinnipiac’s last poll, taken before last week’s debate in Detroit. Other candidates remain relatively steady, while Harris took a 5 percentage point dip.

Much of Warren’s bump came from those Democratic voters who consider themselves “very liberal.” Four in 10 said they would support her in the most recent poll, up from 29% in July.

Biden continues to pace the field for the candidate who would be the best leader (33%), but Warren has gained since Quinnipiac’s last poll (up from 17% in July to 22%). Warren also gained in supporters who said she has the best policy ideas (up from 26% in July to 32%), while 17% said Biden and 16% said Sanders.

Regardless, half still think Biden has the best chance of winning against Trump in 2020. Democratic voters slightly prefer a candidate who is more electable (50%) over someone who shares their views (46%). The opposite was true last time the question was asked in March (51% said shares views, 45% most electable).

Warren is also considered to be the one who “won” the debate, according to Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters who watched, listened or paid close attention to the debates. Fewer, 15%, said Biden did the best job, 8% for Sanders and Harris each, 7% said Booker, 4% Buttigieg, 3% Gabbard and 2% each name O’Rourke, Yang and Williamson.

Meanwhile, no candidate was overwhelmingly picked for doing the worst job among Democratic voters who watched, listened or paid close attention. Almost 1 in 10 said Biden did the worst job, the same for author Marianne Williamson, while 7% said Harris, 6% said former Rep. John Delaney and 6% said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The full Democratic field looks like this in the Q-poll:

  1. Joe Biden — 32%
  2. Elizabeth Warren — 21%
  3. Bernie Sanders — 14%
  4. Kamala Harris — 7%
  5. Pete Buttigieg — 5%
  6. Cory Booker — 2%
  7. Beto O’Rourke — 2%
  8. All other candidates under 2%

Finally, as it has for much of the race to date, the new Economist/YouGov poll shows a tighter race than most other polls:

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the crowded Democratic field by 6 points in an Economist-YouGov poll released on Wednesday.

The poll found Biden as the first choice for 22 percent of those surveyed, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with 16 percent and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 13 percent.ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg(D) rounded out the top five, both with 8 percent, according to the poll.

The survey, conducted Aug. 3-6 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens, found Biden continuing to maintain stronger numbers among African American voters than the general primary electorate, with 33 percent identifying him as their first choice, followed by 13 percent for Warren and 10 percent for Sanders.

The poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points and 2.9 percentage points among registered voters.

Both Warren and Sanders have lost ground from a July 27-30 poll, which also showed Biden in first place at 26 percent and Warren at 18 percent.

Here’s the full field in the poll:

  1. Joe Biden — 25%
  2. Elizabeth Warren — 18%
  3. Bernie Sanders — 15%
  4. Kamala Harris — 8%
  5. Pete Buttigieg — 7%
  6. Tulsi Gabbard — 3%
  7. Beto O’Rourke — 2%
  8. Cory Booker — 2%
  9. Andrew Yang — 2%
  10. All other candidates under 2%

Moving on to the RealClearPolitics polling average, we find that Biden remains in the lead while Sanders is slowly slipping into third place behind Warren:

  1. Joe Biden — 31.0%
  2. Bernie Sanders — 15.8%
  3. Elizabeth Warren — 15.5%
  4. Kamala Harris — 8.3%
  5. Pete Buttigieg — 5.5%
  6. Beto O’Rourke —- 2.5%
  7. Cory Booker — 2.3%
  8. All other candidates under 2%

Even with only a handful of polls since the second debate, there’s been clear movement:

The biggest takeaway from all these numbers, of course, is the fact that Elizabeth Warren appears to be benefiting the most from the second debate. To be fair, of course, she was rising in the polls prior to this after a period during which many pundits were getting ready to write her campaign off due to the fact that she was being overshadowed by Biden and Sanders after their entry into the race. Slowly but surely, though, Warren continued with her strategy of releasing new policy proposals on a regular basis and began rising in the polls. The pace of that acceleration continued after the first debate, from which she also came out as a perceived winner, and Warren’s slow rise accelerated to the point where she, and fellow Senator Kamala Harris, became part of the lead group of candidates along with Senator Sanders and the former Vice-President.

On the other hand, Senator Harris appears to have lost significant momentum after the second debate. Her confrontation with Vice-President Biden was, of course, the primary reason for her rise in the polls after the first debate, but it appears as though she has, at least for now, hit her peak and is falling behind Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Whether that continues or whether she’s able to turn it around remains to be seen. So far, though, she seems to be the candidate who lost the most ground as a result of the second debate.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Politicians, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Biden and Booker both gave pretty amazing speeches today.
    Not sure how Trump weathers his white supremacy. It may not destroy him…but it has to be hurting him.

  2. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Not among his supporters, which is all he cares about

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Not among his supporters, which is all he cares about

    Yeah, I get that…but there have to be pursuadables out there who will ultimately say “enough.”
    Perhaps I’m naive…but the most disliked person in America beat him by 3M votes.
    Halifax is a nice city…I guess I’ll start looking for work there…

  4. al Ameda says:

    While Biden did come prepared for this round, I’d be concerned that the insurgent core, in both polls, exceed Biden by over 10 points. Warren and Sanders have the combined polling that Biden has, and if you add Harris and Buttigieg, it tells me that Biden has a lot of selling to do. Democrats do not want a Biden coronation 10 months ahead of the convention

  5. Kylopod says:
  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Interesting that the post debate rating by the pundits, were down on Warren, but the voters seem impressed by her. While Warren can be professorial in her presentation, she seems to be mastering the trick of presenting her plan and relating them to the real life circumstances of the middle class. I can imagine that in a debate with Tiny, he’ll bluster about something he’s done for the middle class and she’ll be ready to disprove him and then effectively explain what a Warren administration will do differently and why the Warren approach would work.

    A couple of other things about Warren, she is building a juggernaut ground operation and she is beginning to peel off supporters from Bernie. From my beach chair, Bernie is the ranting lunatic on the left who wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything and Warren is the well organized sort who can effectively implement at least a portion of her policies through administrative action. Gotta have the Senate for legislation,

    If Bernie were to drop out, Warren would become the favorite for the nomination, but Bernie won’t and the lefties will be left sputtering when Biden receives the nomination.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:


    Oy vey

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Has there been new polling on second choices?

    A month back, or so (who can measure time anymore?), Biden and Bernie were each other’s supporters’ second choice, with the same dynamic between Warren and Harris. It seems counterintuitive, especially based on policy, but I think it just means that people aren’t paying attention yet.

    (And that those who are paying attention have completely written off Bernie and Biden? Ok, probably not…)

  9. Gustopher says:

    Harris does not seem to be able to hold onto support. She can get people’s interest, but can’t seem to close the deal and make them supporters.

    Her campaign should be very nervous and be retooling things. I don’t know what she is missing, and as a candidate she seems likable, competent and articulate, and her policies are fine.

    Everything else in the polling just seems like more of the same.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Right now I’d like to see Warren/Beto. Especially if Beto stays po’ed. Policy AND emotion.
    But we are still 6 months away from Iowa.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I find it kind of interesting that everyone’s assuming the vp will come from the pool of current candidates. I discovered from looking it up that it’s actually not that common historically for the nominee to choose a former rival in the primaries as a running mate. 2008, 2004, and 1980 are exceptions. It might have something to do with the friction that develops between rival candidates (the mutual loathing between JFK and LBJ is legendary, and everyone remembers “voodoo economics”; after Obama chose Biden, the McCain campaign put out this ad). Harris and Biden are reportedly friends, but are her attacks on him going to make it less likely they end up on the same ticket? I don’t think she was all that nasty toward him, but he may think differently.

    There are actually several people not currently running who might make good vp choices, such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

  12. EddieInCA says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I think Warren/Beto lose 30+ states. Largest demographic of the Democratic base is women of color. I can’t see them rally him a Warren/Beto ticket.

    But I’d vote for them. Hell I would do for Warren Beatty and Danny Trejo if they were the nominees.

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Only because he is out there getting in Trumps face. Warren will need a pitbull at her side.
    I agree with you on Duckworth.

  14. SenyorDave says:

    @Kylopod: Also agree with you on Duckworth, plus it is a bonus that she coined the term (or at least popularized it) “Cadet Bone Spur” in reference to Trump.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: On Harris, it may just be that Progs won’t vote for a former prosecutor if they can avoid it. I know I’m less inclined to believe that she’s the best choice because of that factor.

  16. EddieInCA says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    On Harris, it may just be that Progs won’t vote for a former prosecutor if they can avoid it. I know I’m less inclined to believe that she’s the best choice because of that factor

    Is being a former prosecutor is suddenly a bad thing? If so, why?

    I stlll think it should be, based on the info i have now, Biden/Harris. But I’m curious as to this idea that progressives won’t vote for a former prosecutor. I’ve heard way too many Progressives say that they want Harris to prosecute the case against Trump. So which is it?

  17. Guarneri says:

    I’ve finally seen the light.

    The first 4 candidates total percentage totals 75. Now, add MSNBC. That’s 5 letters. So add them, and that’s 80. Now I was thinking. 4 candidates x 2 polls. WELL! That’s 8. Get it? 80 plus 8: 88. 8-8. That’s Heil Hitler!!!

    You see, Trump has been sending subliminal messages to the electorate. That’s why the numbers add up that way. So its so simple. This is proof positive that Mika and Nicole are absolutely spot on. Trump wants to exterminate Mexicans and create mass shootings.

    Seriously, you guys were way ahead of me. MSNBC has it all there in black and white for anyone not willfully blind. Oh, wait, I just triggered the DSParty. Please forgive me.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    I haven’t seen recent polling on second choices. I did see an article earlier in the week on Warren making inroads to Bernie’s base. I agree with you that at the time of that poll, before the debates, Bernie and Biden supporters chose the other as the second choice. Most likely a result of name recognition.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    You see, Trump has been sending subliminal messages to the electorate.

    There’s nothing subliminal about any of this or this…of course, there is also nothing subliminal about you carrying water for this scumbag…birds of a feather…

  20. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party: to paraphrase somebody on Twitter, Guarneri and the Republicans are the couch, Trump is just the blacklight.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Interesting point made by Frank Bruni…namely, that the trash in the White House gets away with shit that would be unacceptable in anyone else…

  22. Roger says:

    @EddieInCA: I don’t think it’s opposition to any former prosecutor. For me, at least, it’s her particular record as prosecutor and attorney general.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    In thinking ahead to a debate withTrump, the only one who won’t get rocked back on their heels by Trump doing something outlandish is Harris. And Trump is most certainly not going to try to simply debate them. When Trump was prowling around the stage trying to intimidate her Hillary should have turned around and said “What the hell is wrong with you?! This is not how adults behave!” And stuck to her guns until he went back to his podium or they cancelled the debate. I can only picture Harris having that as an instinctive reaction.

  24. Paine says:


    That was exactly my thought as well. Kamala strikes me as someone who wouldn’t tolerate that sort of nonsense for a second. Hillary’s mistake was that she was over-coached to be “likeable” and so was unwilling to be tough when it was needed the most. I can very easily imagine Kamala telling him to sit his fat ass down and waiting patiently until he complied.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: I. Not sure “he’s on my side of the debate stage” would have merited greater sympathy than “he’s on my side of the car seat” would have.

    Best to just mace the fvcker. Let the pundits debate whether making a sitting president was a good move, or just playing to an already motivated base.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    Drunk and senile? Not a good look for you, Drew. Either or dude, not both.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: I wouldn’t say suddenly as it’s a prejudice of mine going back to while I still considered myself a conservative. My experience has made it seem that prosecutors tend to be “tough on crime” (i.e. black crime) which makes them fast and loose with civil liberties (again directed mostly at “those people”). I may be wrong, but even Tulsi Gabbard was able to lay the smack on Harris during the last debate about her record as a prosecutor. Harris is certainly better than Trump, but that’s not a compelling standard and will not solidify Democratic support–the weakness of the prior candidate as I recall. I’m not sure that Harris is good for 200,000 more Democrats in 3 states, if you will. If there are enough red neck bigots who don’t like Trump, Kamala may be the girl, but even then…

    ETA: Smacking Trump around will be satisfying, but may not win the White House. But accrochez toi a ton reves.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think you’re being fair. That was about the most clever, coherent thing he’s said in about the last 1o or so posts as far as I can remember. If he keeps this up, he’ll be able to compete with Paul L for alpha dog very soon.

  29. Tyrell says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I am looking for a candidate who represents the middle class working folks. I am looking for someone who has done some heavy lifting, getting hot and dirty kind of work. Someone who has changed oil and replaced a flat. Preferably someone who has been in the military. And they have gone through some rough times. Schultz has said some sensible things, but it looks like the Democrats turned on him for some reason.
    Some of my favorites were Truman, Humphrey, Carter, Johnson, Goldwater.
    Hickenlooper seems ok, but he won’t get much coverage.
    It seems now that to get any attention a candidate has to talk loud, wave their arms around, and take extreme positions.

  30. Teve says:

    @Paine: If Kamala Harris gets nominated I fully expect “N______ Bitch” to trend on Twitter. That’s the level the Trump Chumps are at.

  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    I am looking for a candidate who represents the middle class working folks. I am looking for someone who has done some heavy lifting, getting hot and dirty kind of work. Someone who has changed oil and replaced a flat. Preferably someone who has been in the military. And they have gone through some rough times.

    And so you voted for Trump???
    Good thinking…

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    I am looking for a candidate who represents the middle class working folks.

    First of all, the terms “middle class” and “working folks” no longer go together, so good luck with that. More seriously, if we look at “middle class” as a lifestyle rather than a economic level, most of the candidates meet your “represents the middle class” measure. Actually living a middle class lifestyle requires an income in the top 10 or 12% of incomes because of the way we have speculated–particularly real estate (especially on the Left Coast)–and have very effectively gutted working class wages. So, from that standpoint, having a bunch of candidates who are professional people who have net worth in the million-plus range and have risen to the top levels of government are probably about as middle class as you can get.

    Congratulations, you get your wish! Sort of…