538 declared Biden the winner of the last debate, and Morning Consult’s poll of 5000 shows Biden ahead.
The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, interviewed the same group of voters twice, once on either side of the debate, to capture both the “before” and “after” picture.
(16 December) Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lead the crowded Democratic field, pulling in together about half of the support of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll.
Biden leads with 24%, followed closely by Sanders at 22%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is third with 17%, followed by South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 13%, all together making up a clear top tier of four candidates.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is fifth with 5%; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker all pull in 4%.
Biden is the embodiment of a personal grief that could point to national renewal, but one can imagine how Trump will seize on those themes as he did with Debbie Dingell. Trump already has tried this tactic with the attempt to smear Hunter Biden in the Ukraine shakedown.
This is not to deny the power or the sincerity of Biden’s empathy. It is real and rooted and fundamentally decent. It has at its core the baffled humility of the human helplessness in the face of death that makes life “so difficult to discern.” As an antidote to Donald Trump’s grotesquely inflated “greatness,” it has authentic force. It is a different, and much better, way of talking about distress, of making pain a shared thing rather than a motor of resentment. But can a politics of grief be adequate to a politics of grievance? Can it deal either with the real grievances of structural inequality or with the toxic self-pity that Trump has both fostered and embodied? Biden’s essential appeal as a candidate for 2020 is that he (not least being older, male, and white) is the only one who can heal a heartbroken and divided America. But he cannot embrace voters one by one. The US cannot be made whole again because it has never been whole. Biden’s core belief is that injustice is a failure of benevolence and effort: “There is nothing inherently wrong with the system; it’s up to each of us to do our part to make it work.” But division is real and profound and structural—it is not just a matter of feeling. The need is not to reconcile everyone to the balance of power but to alter that balance. Consolation is not social change. Solace is not enough.