by Aaron Blake, Washington Post
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows President Trump trailing former vice president Joe Biden by his biggest margin in any national poll since March: 17 points.
It shows him trailing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) by his biggest margin to date in any poll (by far): 15 points.
And it also shows his deficit to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is tied for the largest to date, 14 points.
The biggest takeaway, though, may be that there doesn’t seem to be much difference in whom the Democrats nominate. As Democrats anxious to “just win, baby” confront some tough choices in the months ahead, there are indications that the differences among the candidates matter less and less to the final result.
That doesn’t mean that will always be the case, it bears emphasizing. Swing voters may not be terribly in tune with the very liberal policies of Warren, for example, and could eventually be turned against her. Likewise, Biden’s uneven campaign could make him less electable if he makes the general election. There is so much we don’t know about what lies ahead.
But for now, the differences among the candidates appear to be narrowing.
Early in the race, Biden was leading by as much as double digits, while the other candidates were in closer races with Trump — or even virtually tied. A Post-ABC poll earlier this summer, for instance, showed Biden ahead of Trump by 10 points, but Sanders virtually tied (+1) and Warren deadlocked. Trump even showed small, statistically insignificant leads on Warren in some polls, including a CNN poll and a Fox News poll.
But that Fox poll, from July, is the last high-quality national poll to show anything but a Warren lead. And most recent polls have shown a narrowing of how the three leading Democratic candidates run against Trump. A CNN poll had Biden +10, Sanders +9 and Warren +8. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll that tested just Biden and Warren showed Biden +9 and Warren +8.
And there’s another finding from the new Post-ABC poll that suggests little difference in who the Democratic nominee is. The poll asked voters whether they would be less likely to vote if any of the three candidates mentioned above was the Democratic nominee. Among Democratic-leaning voters, about the same percentage said they would “definitely vote” if the nominee were Biden (83 percent), Sanders (83 percent) and Warren (82 percent). (There was also little difference in Republican-leaning voters, despite theories that Warren or Sanders might spur higher conservative turnout.)
There were some interesting differences when it comes to age groups. The youngest voters — ages 18 to 29 — were more likely to turn out if the nominee was Sanders (74 percent would “definitely vote”) vs. Biden (65 percent) and Warren (61 percent). But on balance, the numbers even out. And as we see in the head-to-heads, the end result is becoming more indistinguishable. That’s in large part because the three top candidates all lead by about the same margin among political independents — Biden +15, Sanders +18 and Warren +17.
It might be time to confront the idea that early assertions about Biden’s superior electability were largely based on name ID and the fact that he had been vice president. As Warren has become better known, she has steadily approached the kind of numbers Biden shows in the general election.
That doesn’t mean it will always be this way, and the electoral college structure might make things more competitive in a general election. There’s new polling this week from the New York Times and Sienna that shows Biden is favored over Trump in most battleground states, where Sanders or Warren were more likely to trail Trump.
And the actual campaign will matter a great deal, as it always does — but at least for now, it’s looking like whoever the Democrats nominate would start out as about the same type of favorite.
From there, it’s up to Democrats to deduce who might wear better in the general election.
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The WaPo’s The Fix.