The 2020 presidential race is still definitely up in the air. Still, following the first round of debates in the Democratic presidential primary, Emerson College has found that two of the leading Democratic candidates maintain commanding leads over incumbent President Donald Trump in hypothetical general election match-ups. Former Vice President Joe Biden managed 53 percent of the vote to Trump’s 47 percent, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders finished with 51 percent of the support to Trump’s 49 percent. These leads are significantly smaller than those which Emerson found in their June polling.
Placed against each one of the other top five leading Democratic candidates in a hypothetical match-up, Trump came out on top. He beat Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Against every one of them, Trump managed 51 percent of the support while they managed only 49 percent. While within the poll’s established margin of error, those numbers — roughly in line with some but not all similar measurements from the past — do not bode well for a potential general election bid from one of those three candidates.
The Democratic presidential primary field itself has shaken up significantly following those first debates. Harris had the perhaps most pointed shift in her measured base of support, which spiked from seven percent of the whole to a full 15 percent. She directly confronted Biden about his seemingly shaky record when it came to race relations, noting issues like his past opposition to federally directed student busing as a means to integrate schools. Harris herself was one of the students who were a part of one of the very first integrations in her district, which she participated in via busing.
Support drained from both Biden and Sanders to boost Harris. Going from June into July, Biden’s support share as measured by Emerson went from 34 percent to 30 percent, while Bernie’s went from 27 percent to just 15 percent. That means that the field now has a three-way tie for second place in Emerson’s estimation, with Sanders, Harris, and Warren all managing 15 percent — which is a significant way behind Biden’s lead. Still, there is another round of debates coming up at the end of this month and still months on end to go until the first votes are actually cast in this race.
Besides opinions on the various candidates themselves, Emerson also had voters choose from among a list of issues which one was their primary concern heading into 2020. 29 percent of Democrats chose healthcare as their most important issue, while 22 percent pointed to “social issues” in its place, which is where a candidate like Harris can come in. On the other hand, a full 42 percent of Republicans chose the economy as their primary focus, and 25 percent of Republican voters pointed to immigration.
While there are some points of crossover — Harris, for instance, has promised to repeal Trump’s corporation-favoring tax plan on her first day in office — the stark divide suggests that the 2020 presidential race is only going to run on more and more polarization. It’s going to be intense.
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