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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The early boom for 2020 Democrats' left turn is yielding to moderate muscle as Elizabeth Warren falls, Joe Biden persists and Pete Buttigieg rises.

  • What's happening: Poll after poll shows voters like the idea of Medicare for All. But the second you tell them about costs and tradeoffs, they turn on it.
  • Why it matters: A harsh spotlight on Warren's specifics collided with Mike Bloomberg's massive spending on a moderate message, as well as rising angst among donors and investors about risks of Warren-Sanders socialism.

Warren collapsed in the latest national Quinnipiac University poll just as she's been diving into the details of how she'd pass Medicare for All — and fending off a barrage of attacks from her more moderate rivals.

  • She's not the only Democrat who's run into trouble. Kamala Harris realized she could be checkmating herself by dismissing private health insurance — which is why she changed her Medicare for All plan to allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans.
  • And in an interview for "Axios on HBO," she told Axios' Margaret Talev she knew there could be a political price to pay for changing her plan — but says she told her team that "we need to do a better plan. This is not good enough."

There's a reason Medicare for All has dominated every health care discussion at every debate, as Axios' David Nather points out: it's a real problem for the liberal candidates. Not just because of the cost, but because not all Americans actually want to dump private health insurance.

  • Even Warren's phase-in plan isn't quieting the critics. As Axios' Caitlin Owens has pointed out, progressives are criticizing her for not being a Medicare for All purist — and experts are skeptical that she could really pass two major reforms within a few years of each other.
  • Now Biden and Buttigieg are firing away at her over whether Americans would really have a choice if they wanted to keep their private health insurance — while Bernie Sanders subtly competes with her by staying a purist.

Sanders, who introduced the Medicare for All Act, has always been candid about his intent to wipe out private health insurance as part of his plan.

  • He hasn't faced as many attacks or struggled with the issue as much as Warren.
  • As a result, he isn't plummeting in the polls. But he hasn't enjoyed Warren's earlier gains, either; Sanders' support has held in the high teens throughout 2019, according to RealClearPolitics, which tracks polling averages.

By the numbers: Medicare for All is a favorite among Democrats who are fed up with private insurance — but it's not a winner with swing voters.

  • Per the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman, recent polling by Kaiser and the Cook Political Report found that 62% of Democrats in four battleground states — Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin — said a Medicare for All plan that eliminates private insurance is a good idea.
  • But 62% of swing voters in those states said it’s a bad idea.

Between the lines: Caitlin notes that since Warren has been on defense on this, the potential appeal of Medicare for All hasn't been discussed as much as its cost and the merits of taking away a private insurance option.

  • So we spend more time debating that rather than what life would be like for Americans if they didn't have any health care costs.
  • In other words, Warren has had to spend a lot of time defending the downsides of Medicare for All (its cost) instead of its upsides (free health care for everyone).

Our thought bubble: 2020 Dems could also be miscalculating the broad appeal of other liberal stands, including free college and decriminalizing border crossings.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Gaza as fighting enters 7th day

Smoke billows from a fire following Israeli airstrikes on multiple targets in Gaza on May 16. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council was preparing to meet Sunday, as the aerial bombardment between Israel and Hamas between entered a seventh day.

The latest: Four Palestinians died in airstrikes early Sunday, as Israeli forces bombed the home of Gaza's Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, per Reuters.

7 hours ago - World

In photos: Protests in U.S., across the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

A protest march in support of Palestinians near the Washington monument in Washington, D.C. on May 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

Updated 15 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

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