Multiple polls in the last couple days suggest the Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is on the rise as Democrats prepare to match wits Thursday evening on a debate stage in Houston. Former Vice President Joe Biden still leads the pack nationally, but his front-runner status appears to be sliding. In the meantime, an NPR/PBS/Marist poll found Warren had the highest favorability among Democrats and Democratic leaners (it also gave her more room to grow based on people who still hadn't heard of her).
A YouGov poll also found that Warren leads the field in a ranked-choice poll, where votes eventually fall to people's second choice if their first choice is eliminated. Vox writes that "respondents who initially favored Sanders and Harris prefer Warren over Biden, by about a two-to-one ratio." But in terms of long-term trend lines, CNN's poll provided some of the more striking evidence of Warren's slow but steady rise. Here’s the top five’s standings this week versus back in April when Biden finally announced his run, courtesy of The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel.
- Biden: 24% (-15)
- Warren: 18% (+10)
- Sanders: 17% (+2)
- Harris: 8%. (+3)
- Buttigieg: 6% (-1)
Polling aside, one of the best indications of whether a front-runner is starting to feel the heat is the media narratives that start to circulate about candidates who pose a challenge to them. The Biden camp appeared to take a small jab at Warren in a Bloomberg article Wednesday in which a campaign adviser said Biden planned to use the debate to advocate for greater transparency about candidates' finances and past business dealings. While Biden might direct the barb at Donald Trump, Bloomberg also suggested the inference could be a "veiled attack" on Warren and her work advising corporate clients over a decade ago. To date, Warren has posted her tax returns on her website dating back to 2008.
But the knives really came out when party establishment stalwart, former Pennsylvania governor and now-Biden backer Ed Rendell placed an op-ed in The Washington Post Wednesday afternoon flatly calling Warren a "hypocrite" for shunning high-dollar fundraisers back in February after drawing on about $10 million in funds from her Senate reelection campaign, some of which came from high-dollar fundraisers. For Rendell, using the existing funds to partially fuel her presidential bid negates Warren’s effort to spend nearly all her time as a candidate brainstorming policy and talking to regular voters rather than focusing her energy on wooing wealthy donors. Apparently, it's always too late to try to do the right thing.
But make no mistake, the gauntlet has clearly been thrown. Things are finally heating up as Democrats head to the debate stage, where America will finally have a chance to see all the Democratic front-runners take their best shots at winning voters over.