Michigan Poll: Biden Dominates Democrats Ahead of Second Debate

Vice President Joe Biden throws his coat down before speaking in Detroit, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Biden spoke on how federal investments are helping Detroit’s economic revitalization efforts. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Former Vice President Joe Biden dominates his fellow 2020 Democrats in Michigan as the state gets ready to host the second primary debate.

A new poll out of the state, released by Climate Nexus on Monday, shows the Democrat frontrunner leading by double digits. The survey found Biden taking first place with 35 percent support when polled against the rest of the field. Biden’s nearest challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) was far behind in second place with only 16 percent.

Sanders’ grip on that slot, though, is tenuous as the lead separating him and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who garnered third place with 14 percent, was within the margin of error. Trailing in fourth place at eight percent was Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in fifth with four percent. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) — in sixth place at two percent support — was the only other candidate to rise above one percent in the 25-person field.

Climate Nexus conducted the poll between July 14 through July 17 by surveying 820 registered voters from Michigan. The poll margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

The poll also comes as the candidates get ready to appear in Detroit, Michigan for the second Democrat presidential debate sponsored by CNN on Tuesday and Wednesday. Biden’s strong showing, accompanied by the recent endorsement of the mayor of Detroit, means that Biden will face a friendly audience in Michigan, even if his competitors have no such inclinations.

More importantly, however, Biden’s support among Michigan voters is good news for his campaign. Since jumping into the presidential race, Biden has attempted to paint himself as the only candidate capable of brining states in the industrial Midwest, like Michigan, back into the Democrats’ column. The region was once considered solidly in the Democrat camp until 2016, when then-candidate Donald Trump broke the status quo of presidential politics by becoming the first Republican to carry Michigan since 1988.

The victory was made possible by the large scale defection of white working-class voters, who generally supported Democrats but were drawn to Trump’s movement by his strong stance on illegal immigration, the opioid epidemic, and free trade. Working-class whites also helped power Trump’s victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa — states that put him over the top in the electoral college, despite a three million popular vote deficit.

Biden, who often refers to himself “Middle Class Joe,” on the campaign trail, appears to have learned the lesson. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the frontrunner admitted that under the Obama administration many from the working-class “were left behind” as he and president did not pay enough “enough attention to their plight.”

The former vice president has also triangulated his political positions to appeal to both progressives and more moderate, white working-class voters. To that end, Biden has balked at endorsing Medicare for All, which a recent poll found a majority of Michigan voters oppose, in favor of expanding ObamaCare with a government-run public option.

The triangulation looks to be working, at the moment, as evidenced not only by Biden’s double digit lead in Michigan, but also the fact that his advantage is more than total the support Sanders and Warren — the two most progressive Democrats running — received combined.

It remains to be seen if Biden’s support when up against his primary competitors can translate into Democrats winning Michigan in the general election.

Although Climate Nexus did conduct a head-to-head matchup with Trump in which Biden lead the incumbent 49 percent to 36 percent, it is way too early to denote how the general election will shape up For instance, a poll conducted in Michigan between late-July and August of 2015, found Clinton leading Trump by 12 percentage points. Trump ended up winning the state the following November by more than 10,000 votes on his way to the presidency.

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