Winning Might Not Beget Winning, But It Does Win a Second Look
Senator Bernie Sanders is the candidate to beat in the still crowded Democratic primary, cleaning up in both the delegate and total counts in the Nevada caucus, a strong showing of the diverse coalition his campaign has built.
Tonight’s debate is the last time the leading candidates will be able to speak directly to voters in South Carolina, and the upcoming Super Tuesday states before they hit the ballot box. Ipsos pre-debate polling with FiveThirtyEight shows nationally, voters are turning a cold shoulder on underperforming candidates and taking a second look at some of the winners of the early states.
Since the December debate, Biden’s electability-driven campaign has lost ground on the vote consideration question, dropping 14 points among likely voters. Over half of that loss has come over the past three weeks, after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A lot of this loss has been driven by a dip in black voters no longer considering the former vice president, bad news for the Biden campaign heading into tonight and South Carolina’s primary vote on Saturday. Specifically, Biden has dropped by 10-points among likely black voters since the beginning of February. Black voters make up about 60% of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina.
Sanders, now the current frontrunner, has moved up by eight points since the beginning of February, driven by upticks in vote consideration among both black and white likely voters.
Sanders is not the only candidate experiencing a bump in vote consideration. Klobuchar maintained her place on voters’ list of possible candidates, a strategy that proved to be effective for the Minnesota senator. Klobuchar’s upset third place finish in New Hampshire was in part achieved by persuading undecided or late deciding voters to her side through a strong ground game and convincing debate performance.
Still, support for candidates other than Sanders seem to be falling as the vote is fractured among the rest of the contenders.
Buttigieg dropped by about six points over the course of February, despite top finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Likewise, Warren’s support took a hit. She lost the most ground among likely Hispanic voters, dropping by ten points. Though, there may be signs of a rally from her campaign. Twitter liked the revitalized Warren that took the debate stage last week in Nevada, with her attacks sinking into Bloomberg.
Previous FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos pre-debate polling showed that a modest uptick in vote consideration and a good showing on stage translated into an overperformance at the ballot box for both Buttigieg and Klobuchar in New Hampshire. This could be a good sign for Sanders heading into this week, though he has not been the favorite to win South Carolina.
How the candidates do on the debate stage in South Carolina tonight and on Saturday will provide voters with insights into how much life some of these campaigns still have. Based on our vote consideration tracking there is still room for some movement though that is becoming less and less the case.
For more data, crosstabs and sourcing material, explore here https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-and-polls/overview