Washington (AFP) – The two Democratic presidential candidate debates appear to have reshuffled the deck in the crowded field, with California Senator Kamala Harris surging and former vice president Joe Biden slipping.
Three polls conducted since last week’s debates have shown eroding support for the 76-year-old Biden, who has been the frontrunner since entering the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in late April.
Harris, the 54-year-old junior senator from California, picked up substantial backing, meanwhile, from Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters in the polls conducted by Quinnipiac University, CNN and Politico/Morning Consult.
Twenty percent of Democrats surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll published on Tuesday said they backed Harris, a former California attorney general who aims to be the first black female US president. Harris was at just seven percent in a June 11 Quinnipiac poll.
Biden, the former Delaware senator who served as vice president under Barack Obama for eight years, saw his support drop to 22 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll from 30 percent in the June 11 survey.
The surge in support for Harris in the Quinnipiac poll — and Biden’s fall — was roughly mirrored in the polls conducted by CNN and by Politico/Morning Consult.
Harris’s exchange with Biden on racial discrimination was seen as a standout moment during the two debates among the two dozen candidates seeking to become the Democratic standard-bearer against Republican President Donald Trump in November 2020.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, 70, was at 14 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll, down from 15 percent, while 77-year-old Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was at 13 percent, down from 19 percent.
Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who if elected would be the first openly gay US president, received four percent, down from eight percent in the June 11 Quinnipiac poll.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was at three percent, up from two percent.
Several other candidates were at one percent, including former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
– ‘Red flags’ –
“Biden’s once commanding lead has evaporated,” said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Mary Snow.
“There are other red flags for him in areas where he still leads, including double digit drops among Democrats and Democratic leaners who view him as the best leader, or as the best candidate to defeat President Trump in 2020,” Snow added.
Despite his fall in popularity, Biden was nevertheless seen by respondents in the Quinnipiac poll as the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump next year.
Forty-two percent of those polled said they thought Biden had the best shot against Trump, followed by Harris with 14 percent and Sanders with 13 percent.
Forty-seven percent of those polled said Harris did the best job in the debates, followed by Warren at 17 percent, Biden at six percent, and Sanders at five percent
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted June 28-July 1 among 554 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters and has a margin of error of five percentage points.
Months of campaigning remain for the Democratic contenders, with the opening Democratic primary contest in Iowa set for next February.
And polls in the United States have been wrong before, most notably during the 2016 presidential election, in which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton led in most polls but nonetheless lost to Trump.