Nominations are secured in one of two ways: by courting the passionate base within a party and by getting the support of the Establishment power brokers. Passionate support drove Donald Trump to a victory in the 2016 GOP primary while the Democratic Establishment handed the nomination to Hillary Clinton. Mitt Romney and John McCain rode their GOP Establishment influence to their nominations while Barack Obama took passion and parlayed it into Establishment support early on.
The 2020 Democratic nomination race is shaping up to have two passion candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – versus two Establishment candidates – Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. But Buttigeig is simply a fill-in, He doesn’t have much Establishment support yet, but he’s the alternative in case Biden can’t hold his place. Then, there’s Michael Bloomberg who could upend the whole Establishment battle plan. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the “moderate” lane.
As for the radical lane, the challengers are set. It’s Sanders or Warren, period. Between the two, Warren seems to have a polling advantage, but if we dig deeper into the polls we’ll see Bernie is actually much better positioned to carry the radicals’ mantle and possibly the nomination itself.
Recent Iowa and New Hampshire polls show Warren with the advantage. However, there’s an important result from the polls, particularly New Hampshire, that should get Warren’s camp worried. She is ahead of Sanders in New Hampshire by two points and trails frontrunner Biden by four points. But when we look at the passion behind this support, we see 57% of Sanders’s supporters say their mind is made up about it. Meanwhile, Warren’s “dead set” crowd comes in at a measly 29%, 15 points below even no-passion Biden.
As for pure excitement, 44% of Sanders’s supporters say they’re “extremely excited to turn out for him on Election Day.” Compare that to Warren’s excitement level and it’s no contest. His percentage more than double’s Warren’s 21% excited supporter numbers.
Elizabeth Warren may have more raw support now, but passion is contagious and the polls show passion is clearly in Bernie Sanders’s corner. This bodes ill for a candidate whose own party is distancing itself from her healthcare plan.