Miami Democratic debate primer – He or she who leads first rarely leads last
Bottom Line: First thing’s first. If it feels like this cycle is starting earlier for Democrats. It’s because it is. The first Democratic Presidential debate of the 2016 cycle didn’t happen until October 13th of 2015. It’s easy to forget that there were five candidates at that stage but that’s the case. Hillary Clinton held a wide first debate lead, with 43% in the polls to Bernie Sanders at 25% heading into the first debate. That’s unusual. Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, the initial leaders in primary polling often fall short of the nomination. In the case of Jeb Bush in 2016 or Joe Lieberman in 2004, the initials leaders fell like rocks into the dust bin of presidential primary history.
Here are the leaders for the prior two Democratic primary cycles at the time of the first debate:
2007– Clinton: 35% - Obama 26%
2003– Lieberman: 23% - Kerry 17%
The moral of the story is this. History isn’t on the side of Joe Biden as he’s consistently led in polling up to this point. Often the earliest primary polling is simply reflective of who has the best name recognition nationally. That’s the case with Joe Biden in this race, it was the case with Jeb Bush in 2015, Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Joe Lieberman in 2003. In fact, having a vulnerable lead with high name recognition is historically an ominous position to be in. Biden polling at 32% is in that position. That’s lower than Hillary Clinton’s polling at this same stage in 2007. As I mentioned yesterday, only 22% of Democrats say they know a lot about the candidates right now. That will begin to slowly change starting with the two-day debate in Miami. As of now history suggests that anyone on that stage has a chance. The perception of a front-runner has been historically inaccurate.