Aug 7, 2019

Kamala Harris' post-debate polling slump

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the Detroit debates hosted by CNN. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

After June's Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Kamala Harris has gone from a high of 20% of Democratic voters who favor her to just 7% on Tuesday, per Quinnipiac.

Why it matters: That 13-point drop in just one month indicates Harris' post-debate "sugar-high" might not be aging well, despite the fact that she's firmly established herself in the top tier of candidates in several national 2020 polls.

  • Meanwhile, Joe Biden — a frequent target of Harris' attacks — has gone from a low of 22% after their debate brawl and has inched back up to 32%.
  • He fluctuated between 29% and 38% between March and June.

Between the lines: 14% of Democratic voters said they would "absolutely not vote for" Biden if the primaries were held today — the only candidate to earn double-digit percentage points on that question, and twice as much as the 7% who said the same of Harris, per a Politico/Morning Consult poll.

By the numbers: 43% of Democratic primary voters said Harris' performance was "excellent" after the first round of debates in June, according to Politico/Morning Consult.

  • That fell to just 20% of Democratic voters who said the same of her Detroit debate performance in July.
  • Only 9% of Democratic primary voters prefer Harris, per a Morning Consult poll out this week — down 3 percentage points from their pre-debate polling.
  • Her net favorability has dropped by 11 points, which Morning Consult notes is 7 points more than any other 2020 Democrat.

What they're saying: "One reason for her fall: I don’t think anybody can figure out what her message is. We know what Warren’s message is, and Bernie’s message, and we kinda know Biden's message even if he’s not delivering it very well," said a Democratic pollster who's talked with several 2020 campaigns. "But who is she really? And what is her message?"

  • Other pollsters, who asked to speak candidly because their firms are aligned with various candidates, described it as a "sugar-high" right after the first debate that now might not have aged as well since.
  • Harris' campaign declined to comment.

The bottom line: Harris' numbers certainly aren't the end of the world — and she's positioned herself among the top five candidates. But as one Democratic pollster put it: "None of this has to be fatal, but she’s got to get out of this rut."

Go deeper: How Kamala Harris' Medicare for All plan differs from Bernie Sanders

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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Kamala Harris joins CNN climate change town hall after criticism from activists

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Jill Biden tells voters to pick the candidate who can beat Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former second lady Jill Biden at a May campaign rally in Philadelphia. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jill Biden has a message for voters backing 2020 rivals of her husband, Joe Biden: Your candidate may be better on a policy issue, but the bottom line is "we have to beat [President] Trump."

What she's saying: In video filmed by MSNBC at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Monday, she said, "I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who's going to win this race." She pointed to his consistently strong poll numbers, with some showing he'd beat Trump.

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