The movement to draft Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren into the Democratic race for the presidency has always faced two big challenges:
1. Warren says she is not running.
2. Warren trails far behind Hillary Clinton in the polls of voters in the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire. Nationally, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls puts Clinton at 60 percent. Vice President Joe Biden in in second with 11.4 percent. Then comes Warren with 11.1 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with 3.4 percent.
The point of the draft movement is to get Warren to address challenge No. 1 by changing her “no” to “yes” and entering the contest. But that change is unlikely to occur if challenge No. 2 is not addressed by polling that suggests a Warren run would be welcome and viable.
So the “Run Warren Run” draft campaigners hired the YouGov polling organization to survey likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers and New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. What the polling reveals is that
1. Likely Democratic voters in both states want to see a contest for the Democratic nomination. According to the memorandum analyzing the data, “Virtually all respondents agree with the case for a contested race, with 98% agreeing that a competitive primary is good for the party, candidates and voters.”
2. When likely Democratic voters are presented with information about Warren and her populist positions on the issues ranging from trade policy to banking regulation to student loan debt, they become more enthusiastic about her running—and about backing her in a race that also includes Clinton. Indeed, while a plurality of likely voters remains undecided in each state, Warren moves into a credible lead over Clinton in Iowa (31-24, with 6 percent for Sanders) and a narrower lead in New Hampshire (30-27, with 6 percent for Sanders).
This sort of polling can be instructive, but it is far from definitional.
First off, there’s a need for a big note of caution with regard to those horse-race numbers. By presenting positive information about Warren, the survey creates some balance for the advantage Clinton enjoys because of high name recognition and high approval ratings among Democrats. It gets voters thinking. That’s reasonable, since it is fair to assume that a Warren campaign would seek to do just that. But there are no guarantees that campaigns go according to plan, or that other candidates will not counter those campaigns with their own positive and negative messages. In other words, these numbers point to possibilities as opposed to providing anything akin to assurances.