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The Debate Effect

Rich Galen

Monday July 29, 2019

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    Arithmetic Alert!

  • The next round of debates which will include 20 - count 'em - 20 Democrats scrambling for the right to face Donald Trump in the Presidential election of 2020 will begin tomorrow night with the first ten facing one another, and Wednesday night with the remainder.

  • The first round made news when California Senator Kamala Harris pounced on former VP Joe Biden for Biden's reluctance well, opposition, to forced busing.

  • Biden seemed to have been taken by surprise at the ferocity of Harris' attack even though a high school debate coach would have drilled Biden so he would have been prepared for that.

  • The breathless reporting claimed Biden was a goner and Harris was the new golden girl of American politics.

  • Let's look at the numbers.

  • On June 24, just before the first round of debates (June 26 and 27) the field looked like this in the RealClearPolitics.com polling averages:
    Joe Biden - 31.9
    Bernie Sanders - 15.0
    Elizabeth Warren - 12.1
    Pete Buttigieg - 7.1
    Kamala Harris - 7.0
    Beto O'Rourke - 3.6
    Rest of the field under 3 percent

  • A week later, on July 4, here were the changes in polling numbers:
    Biden - 27.2 (- 4.7)
    Sanders - 14.8 (- .2)
    Harris - 14.7 (+ 7.7)
    Warren - 13.5 (+1.4)
    Buttigieg - 5.3 (- 1.8)
    O'Rouke - 2.3 (- 1.3)

  • Obviously Sen. Harris got a great debate bump, doubling her support, but it didn't all come out of Biden's previous backers.

  • Let's look at the polling as of last week, July 25 (change since July 4):
    Biden - 29.3 (+ 2.1)
    Sanders - 15.0 (+ .2)
    Warren - 14.5 (+ 1.0)
    Harris - 11.5 (- 3.5)
    Buttigieg - 5.0 (- .3)
    O'Rouke - 2.7 (+ .4)

  • Biden and Sanders have remained more-or-less stable. Elizabeth Warren has gained one percentage point. Buttigieg is about the same, as is O'Rourke.

  • The big change? The "winner" of the first debate, Kamala Harris. She has sagged from 14.7 percent about tied with Bernie Sanders, to 11.5 percent, three percentage points behind Warren and only four points ahead of where she was before the first debate.

  • We have seen this effect before. In the 2016 cycle Republican debates also had to be split into two groups. In the second debate, which was in September 2015, Carly Fiorina the former head of Hewlett-Packard surprised people, as the U.K. Guardian reported:
    "there was widespread agreement that Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, shone as an articulate, forceful outsider."

  • Not many people outside the tech industry had heard of Fiorina, fewer could have picked her out of a line-up, so she had the surprise factor. Fiorina surged from about 3.3 percent a week before that debate to 11.8 percent immediately after.

  • Fiorina, however, didn't have any internal combustion and, as she lost that positive shock value, her numbers went into steady decline and by November 2015 she was back to about three percent support. She dropped out of the race in February 2016.

  • Speaking of the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump led pretty much from the moment he came down the escalator at Trump Tower except November of 2015 when - are you ready for this? - Ben Carson crept ahead of Trump for two days, November 5 and 6. The polling average had Carson at 24.8 to Trump's 24.6.

  • It didn't last long, as Carson, like Fiorina went into a long slump and, after not winning any states on Super Tuesday, he dropped out of the race.

  • I am not suggesting that Kamala Harris will drop out of the race any time soon, but beware of the post-debate cable news panelists projecting the long term benefits to any candidate not named Biden, or pronouncing the death of the Biden campaign based upon this second debate sequence

  • Nevertheless, just as I watched all 127 hours of the Mueller testimony on your behalf last week, I'll watch both nights of the CNN-sponsored debates from Detroit this week and report on them for Thursday's MULLINGS.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Links to the Carly Fiorina campaign via Wikipedia, and to the RealClearPolitics polling trackers for both 2016 and this year.

    The Mullfoto is a sign that represent words to live by for all of us.

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