I’m so old, I remember when Elizabeth Warren was surging in the polls, breaking out of the lower-tier single-digit pack.

In late April, a Quinnipiac poll showed Warren surging to 12 points, a point ahead of Bernie, two points ahead of Mayor Pete, and four points ahead of Kamala Harris.

The Q poll didn’t make any sense. Why a sudden break-out from Warren’s languishing poll numbers, which had been horrible even in Massachusetts?

Dave Weigel at The Washington Post, who has followed Warren’s various campaigns closely for many years and seems to have good connections there, noted that Warren’s campaign team was waiting for her to break out of the pack as the ideas candidate:

Every presidential campaign that is not topping the polls — i.e., every one but Biden’s or Sanders’s — has the same theory of how it will break out. For every primary won by the early front-runner (Republicans in 2012, Democrats in 2016), there is one where a candidate who’s been counted out grinds away and watches front-runners or flavor-of-the-month candidates fizzle (Democrats in 2004, Republicans in 2008).

Warrenworld sees a race that has not changed much since January, except for the surprise popularity of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and two setbacks that they pulled past quickly….

But the Warren plan was always to launch early and then roll out policies to focus each leg of the campaign. “I have a plan” has become one of her handiest applause lines….

At each of the past week’s cattle calls, Warren got one big political moment — a riff on why women should not be worried about her losing the general election, because everyone counted her out in her 2012 Senate bid — and spent the rest of her time talking through her policies….

When she’s on the stump, each of her plans rolls together in an argument about “structural change” that could actually be achieved by an ambitious president.

Plenty of candidates have put out white papers, waited for the praise to come and walked away defeated. The difference with Warren is best visible on the trail, where she jokes about and personalizes the threats and solutions.

Weigel was not alone in noting the Warren plan to breakthrough the noise as the plans candidate. The Boston Globe touted the surge as a sign that Warren’s campaign finally was gaining momentum:

The senator from Massachusetts had a slow start in the Democratic presidential race, struggling with lackluster fund-raising and middling polls in the first few months of her campaign while watching rivals such as Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg each take a moment in the sun with bursts of support and surging contributions.

But now, there are early signs Warren’s relentless focus on policy detail and diligent face time with voters may be leading to a boost of her own, one that could help her break into the top tier of candidates that has been dominated by white men in early polls….

In a field of 21 candidates, with 10 months to go before the Iowa caucuses, the race seems likely to shape-shift numerous times before Democrats decide on their nominee. But Warren’s gains in the polls — even if they are slight — signal an uptick in her momentum from a couple of months ago, when she was battling questions about whether her widely criticized decision to release a DNA test to address her claims of Native American heritage made her too controversial to get elected….

Warren’s focus on policy, far from being seen as too wonky or remote, is becoming her calling card in a crowded field — and the words “I’ve got a plan” have become an applause line on the stump.

Warren as the “ideas” or “plan” candidate was a transparent campaign strategy to keep herself in the news cycles.  I wrote about this on April 5, 2019, before her Q Poll surge, Elizabeth Warren’s increasingly dramatic proposals reflect a campaign struggling to stay relevant:

As Warren’s campaign has stalled, she shifted from trying to be the cool kid to being a policy wonk as a campaign theme. Hardly a day passes that she doesn’t roll out some huge proposal to reshape the economy in her image, or to take vengeance on the enemy….

These proposals have kept Warren in the short-term news cycles without any obvious positive impact on her popularity or fundraising. Warren is approaching the point where even the sympathetic liberal and mainstream media will grow weary.

What is left for Warren to propose? Public flogging of executives?

If her fundraising numbers come in weak, she may have to go there to keep in the news cycle.

Now that there is more polling data, it appears that Warren’s surge was more of a blip. The Q Poll was an outlier. Morning Consult just released a poll showing Biden soaring, Bernie firmly in second place, and Warren with the rest of the pack back in single digits. Warren is the leader of the single digits crowd, but not by any statistically significant amount:

Among early state voters, however, Warren drops into the middle of the pack

The Real Clear Politics polling compilation and average tell the story of Warren’s momentary blip:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2020/president/us/2020_democratic_presidential_nomination-6730.html

There is someone surging according to the Morning Consult poll, and it’s “Sleepy” (and “Creepy”) Uncle Joe Biden:

https://morningconsult.com/2019/05/06/biden-continues-post-launch-surge-grows-lead-among-likely-democratic-voters/

I’m not counting Elizabeth Warren out. She has an unnatural ability to keep plugging away, driven by a need to demonize anyone who opposes her. It may be that she’ll hang on long enough for Biden to fade and Bernie to burn, and will be the last candidate standing. But so far, there’s no evidence to suggest that will be the result.

Warren’s a candidate who has perfected the politics of envy, which should sell well among Democrats. But so far, Democrats aren’t buying what Warren is selling.

 
 
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