Debate reminder: Women of color, not pundits, will determine Democratic front-runner
When 20 candidates take the stage for the first Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday and Thursday, no one among them will arrive in Miami as the actual front-runner. Pundits have been telling us otherwise by pointing to polls that show Joe Biden is in the lead. It is simply too early to make such claims.
Biden is relying on name recognition and his time as vice president under Barack Obama. He has convinced the pundits that he is the candidate most likely to beat Trump in 2020. But his political record—which includes longtime support of a crime bill that has inflicted decades of harm to communities of color and his long support of the Hyde amendment (despite a recent reversal)—represent a career that is not likely to win the support of many women of color, or the voters who comprise the multiracial coalitions that are pivotal to the Democrats taking back the White House next year. Declaring Biden the front-runner at this point is both premature and irresponsible.
The candidate that speaks directly to women of color and the new American majority will be the party’s front-runner. Early polls have shown strong support from black women for Biden, leading some to assume he has lasting appeal, but what I’m hearing on the ground doesn’t align. Rather, these polls have measured name ID, and as his record gets examined by black women and other women of color, his support will dissipate.
On this score, Biden is his own worst enemy. The more voters learn of his record and hear him speak, the less electable he appears. Recent numbers out of Iowa back this up: Biden’s numbers are dropping, from 32% in December to 27% in March to 24% last week. The poll also shows an important enthusiasm gap: Only 29% of Biden supporters are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting for him, compared to 39% of supporters who are enthusiastic about other candidates. Enthusiasm matters for organizers, small-dollar donors, and voter turnout.