A new poll shows that despite a flock of Democrats entering the race for the White House, none of them are as popular as two people who are not even candidates — including one who has vowed never to do so.
The Hill-HarrisX poll released Tuesday found that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to be a top-ranked potential candidate.
In multiple polls conducted in late 2018, Biden was at or near the top when Democrats ranked possible candidates. When Yahoo ranked contenders, Biden topped that list.
The Hill-HarrsX poll showed that Biden, at 25 percent support, was tied with another major figure from the Obama administration — former first lady Michelle Obama.
Michelle Obama has long enjoyed sky-high popularity among Democrats, but has said multiple times since the Obama left the White House that she has no plans to run for office herself.
— The Hill (@thehill) February 20, 2019
Molly Murphy, a partner at the Democratic consulting firm ALG Research, told The Hill that Michelle Obama’s popularity is boosted by her never have endured a direct political contest.
“Because she’s never been a candidate, she’s never been on the ballot, she’s avoided a certain degree of scrutiny that candidates face. And so she’s all icing for people, it’s all good,” Murphy said.
The highest-scoring presidential newcomer was California Sen. Kamala Harris, who finished third at 12 percent. Harris has had an aggressive rollout to her campaign over the past month.
When The Hill ranked candidates based on its assessment of the declared campaigns to date, Harris came out on top.
Fourth place in the poll went to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who officially announced his candidacy on Tuesday, a day after the polling period for the Hill-HarrisX survey ended. Sanders polled 11 percent support.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke polled 6 percent support.
Trailing him at 5 percent were former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Warren, Booker and Klobuchar are all declared candidates. Bloomberg and Brown have not yet announced whether they will run.
When the poll factored independent voters into the totals, Biden led with 23 percent followed by Obama with 22 percent, Sanders with 12 percent and Harris with 8 percent.
The challenge for the crowded field will be for candidates to differentiate themselves from others with similar messages.
“The debates are going to be very critical this time, and unlike last time, there are going to be a lot of them,” said former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Phil Johnston, according to the Boston Herald.
Johnston noted that campaigns reveal weaknesses and strengths that are not yet apparent.
“Trump started to win and they all fell by the wayside,” he said, speaking of the 17-candidate GOP field of 2016.
“Who would have thought that Jeb Bush — who had $100 million in the bank when he started and was a member of this family that had elected two presidents — would just evaporate when Trump said he had low energy,” Johnston said.
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