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Debate Analysis – North Carolina Senate – California, North Carolina, Nevada

Your Daily Polling Update for Wednesday, January 15


Up 1 from yesterday

RON’S COMMENT: Today’s average is based on five polls, ranging from 42% (NPR/PBS) to 49% (Rasmussen). Without these extremes, it would be 44%…. President Trump’s disapproval rating averages 52% today (same as yesterday), which is 7 points higher than his approval rating.


By Ron Faucheux

Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show multiple Democratic candidates bunched together with daily fluctuations. Because of that, you would have expected a more aggressive debate. But it didn’t happen. There was plenty of pent-up frustration on display, but the candidates seemed a bit tired and were reluctant to land any knock-out punches. Overall, there was nothing remarkable about this debate. Each candidate (except Steyer) has done better. The debate did not change the dynamics of the race––which may be good for Biden and Sanders since they’ve been leading in the polls.

  • While Biden remains the national frontrunner and would normally have been an attack target, no one threw a hard punch at him. That was a lucky break. The two candidates who went after Biden the hardest over the course of the nomination battle, Harris and Castro, are no longer in the game. In this election, Democratic voters are not enthused about Democratic candidates personally attacking one another.
  • Warren put more chips on gender than usual. How that works out for her is yet to be seen. So far in this race, candidates who have played to identity constituencies have not succeeded.
  • Sanders was energetic and thematic. He did well during most of the debate, perhaps better than anybody. However, the tiff with Warren on whether he said privately that a woman couldn’t be elected president (something he denies) gave Warren an opening. The exchange is still being litigated and causing increasingly hard feeling between the two camps. That could impact second-choice vote shifts in some of Iowa’s caucuses.
  • Klobuchar needed a clear win last night to charge up her nascent Iowa momentum. While she handled herself very well, and sold the message that she’s the pragmatist of the field, she didn’t get the leap forward she needed. Starting next week, she will be doing jury duty, stuck in DC. While Sanders and Warren are in the same boat, the loss of campaign time hampers Klobuchar––who has less money and organization––the most.
  • Last night, Buttigieg delivered a typically smart, concise and sensible performance. But, his artful sound bites are beginning to sound canned. Are all these older candidates (59 to 78) making him seem even younger?
  • Steyer did well, stayed on message (as usual) and had a bigger presence than in the past.


Among Democratic primary voters nationwide

% = The Hill/The Economist = Average
Joe Biden: 29%/27% = 28
Bernie Sanders: 19%/20% = 19.5
Elizabeth Warren: 11%/19% = 15
Michael Bloomberg: 7%/5% = 6
Pete Buttigieg: 4%/7% = 5.5
Amy Klobuchar: 3%/3% = 3
Andrew Yang: 2%/3% = 2.5
Tom Steyer: 3%/1% = 2
Michael Bennet: 2%/- = 1
Tulsi Gabbard: -/2% = 1
Candidates with 1% or less not listed

RON’S COMMENT: Biden leads both polls with a margin of 10 points over Sanders in The Hill poll and 7 points in The Economist poll…. The Hill poll shows Bloomberg knocking out Buttigieg for fourth place and the average of the two surveys puts the former New York mayor slightly ahead of the South Bend mayor…. There is a big 8-point difference in the two polls on Warren’s strength…. These polls were taken before last night’s debate.


Among Democratic voters in each state

North Carolina Primary
Joe Biden: 31%
Bernie Sanders: 18%
Elizabeth Warren: 15%
Michael Bloomberg: 8%
Pete Buttigieg: 6%
Amy Klobuchar: 3%
Tom Steyer: 3%
Andrew Yang: 5%
Candidates with 1% or less not listed

RON’S COMMENT: Biden posts a solid lead in North Carolina, which is part of his southern firewall. He receives 22% of whites and 47% of blacks. Sanders gets 16% of blacks, compared to 14% for Warren and 9% for Bloomberg. The primary is March 3.

Nevada Caucus
Joe Biden: 19%
Bernie Sanders: 18%
Elizabeth Warren: 11%
Pete Buttigieg: 8%
Tom Steyer: 8%
Amy Klobuchar: 4%
Andrew Yang: 4%
Candidates with 1% or less not listed

RON’S COMMENT: Biden and Sanders top the Nevada field with a large undecided vote. 44% of Democrats say they still might change their mind…. Though Bloomberg has not filed for the state’s caucus, 55% of Democrats say they’ve seen his ads––43% say his ads are convincing and 50% say they are “not very” or “not at all” convincing…. 79% of Democrats in Nevada would favor Barack Obama’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court and 14% would oppose…. The caucus is Feb. 22.

California Primary
Bernie Sanders: 27%
Joe Biden: 24%
Elizabeth Warren: 23%
Pete Buttigieg: 6%
Amy Klobuchar: 4%
Candidates not included in last night’s debate were not listed

RON’S COMMENT: Sanders leads this California poll. The primary is March 3 and will distribute 416 delegates. Biden and Warren are close behind. Because this poll oddly excluded candidates not listed above, it did not get a reading on Bloomberg’s strength in the state. Bloomberg has already spent heavily on ads in California and has targeted the state for an all-out effort.


Among Democratic voters statewide

Democratic primary
Cal Cunningham: 22%
Erica Smith: 12%
Atul Goel: 3%
Trevor Fuller: 2%
Steve Swenson: 1%
Undecided: 60%

RON’S COMMENT: This is an important Senate primary. If Democrats nominate a strong general election candidate, they have a real chance to defeat Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in November…. Cunningham, 46, is a former state senator and a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, but lost the Democratic nomination to Elaine Marshall that year…. Smith, 50, is a state senator…. None of the Democratic primary contenders are well known statewide, which explains the large undecided.

Presidential job rating average based on recent nationwide polls.
NATIONAL: DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION: The Hill/HarrisX, Jan. 13-14; The Economist/YouGov, Jan. 11-14
NEVADA: USA Today/Suffolk, Jan. 8-11

Lunchtime Politics is owned and published by Ron Faucheux, Chief Analyst at Certus Insights. For interviews or speeches about polling and political trends, contact Dr. Faucheux at

The publisher of this report cannot attest to the reliability or methodology of surveys that it does not conduct.

Copyright 2019 Ronald A. Faucheux

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Ron Faucheux

Dr. Faucheux is a nationally respected public opinion analyst with a unique background in public policy and legislative research, public communications and message strategies. He combines professional competence with pragmatic problem solving skills.