Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is in trouble.
While much of the attention in post-debate polling has focused on the drop of former Vice President Joe Biden, Sanders’ polling looks far worse. Sanders’ Iowa and national polls are quite weak for someone with near universal name recognition.
Sanders was at just 14% in CNN’s latest national poll. That’s down from 18% in our last poll. As important, Sanders is now running behind California Sen. Kamala Harris (17%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (15%). These are candidates who have lower name recognition than he does.
It’s not just the CNN poll, either. Sanders doesn’t look much better in Quinnipiac’s latest poll, which puts him at 13%. A poll released Wednesday morning by ABC News and The Washington Post did have somewhat better news for him, putting him at 19%, second behind Biden, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Still, an average of the three polls out this week puts him at 15%.
History has not been kind to primary runner-ups of previous primaries polling this low of a position. I went back and looked at where 13 previous runner-ups since 1972 have been polling at this point in the primary. All six who went on to win the nomination were polling above Sanders’ 15%.
Indeed, we can widen it out and see how perilous Sanders’ position is. Among all well-known candidates, only 9% polling at between 10% and 20% at this point went onto win the nomination.
The early state polling is not much kinder to Sanders. A new Suffolk University poll has him at 9% among likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. This first-in-the-nation contest for Democrats is probably a must win for Sanders. He barely lost it in 2016. Yet, he’s behind Biden (24%), Harris (16%) and Warren (13%).
It doesn’t seem like there is a reservoir of support available for Sanders either. A mere 6% of likely caucusgoers say he is their second choice. All told, only 14% list him as a first or second choice.
Worse for Sanders is that he seems to be slipping in Iowa. That 9% for first choice is the worst he’s done in any Iowa poll since at least December.
Now, it’s not as if Sanders is disliked. According to our CNN Poll, Sanders still overwhelmingly holds a positive rating from Democrats nationwide.
The problem for Sanders is that there are a slew of alternatives. Warren has co-opted much of Sanders’ message. Additionally, Harris seems to hold her own among liberals as well. Neither Harris nor Warren have to deal with the stench of the nasty 2016 primary.
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any sign from Sanders that he has healed the wounds of the 2016 primary. You can best see this in the endorsement primary. Pretty much all successful previous runner-ups do a good job of capturing endorsements from members of Congress and governors.
Sanders has the endorsement of just one member of Congress outside of Vermont.
The good news for Sanders is that he has a ton of money. He raised another $18 million in the second quarter of 2019. Sanders also has a lot of fervent supporters. That means it’ll be difficult to run him from the race.
That base looks to be not that large, though. We’ve obviously got a long way to go, but Sanders 2020 looks to be in major, major trouble.
This story has been updated with additional polling Wednesday morning.