A new poll shows that voter expectations that Kamala Harris will deliver the best performance have surged ahead of the second Democratic debate.
Sixteen percent of Democratic voters expect Harris to perform best over the two nights of debates – up 10 points compared to a survey taken before the first round of debates – ranking her second, behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden still faces the highest expectations, with 27 percent of Democratic voters expecting him to shine during the debates. But that figure dropped 6 points compared to the survey conducted before the first set of debates.
In the weeks since the first round of debates, little has changed in the horse race between the Democratic candidates, even after California Rep. Eric Swalwell dropped his bid and the activist billionaire Tom Steyer entered the race. According to Morning Consult’s latest tracking, Biden is still leading the pack, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is in second place, and Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have remained close to each other for third place.
The problem for the Democratic candidates who are chasing Biden is that the race has remained very static.
The problem for the Harris campaign is that she had a breakout moment at the first debate, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Biden or even Bernie Sanders. Both Biden and Sanders are facing lower voter expectations for this debate, and any candidate would rather have to beat low voter expectations that try to set a new high bar. Sen. Harris is in a tough spot. The debates appear to be the only place where she can gain momentum right now.
Is she has another strong performance, it could close the gap with Biden and launch her into second place. A bad debate could see her stuck with Elizabeth Warren fighting for third.
The Democratic field won’t really take shape until votes start being cast early in 2020, but voters are expecting more from Kamala Harris than any other candidate on Wednesday night.
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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association