Sen. Kamala Harris had a few memorable moments during Thursday’s Democratic primary debate, from ending a shouting match with a quip to challenging Joe Biden on his record on busing. According to a new poll from Morning Consult, those moments seem to have had a highly positive impact on her candidacy — following the debate, she now places third among likely voters.
Harris now polls at 12 percent, up 6 points from the previous week. This puts her in third place alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also polled at 12 percent, a one percent dip compared the previous week (a change within Morning Consult’s margin of error). Warren and Harris now stand behind Sen. Bernie Sanders — his support stands at 19 percent.
Joe Biden remains in the lead with 33 percent; however, his support saw a decline nearly as steep as Harris’s rise — he lost 5 points following the debates. Some of this erosion of support may have been Harris’s gain, and a segment of Biden’s base does view the California senator in a positive light: 15 percent of Biden backers said they would pick Harris as their second choice choice of candidate.
Warren and Harris both were both found to be favored as second choice candidates; each was the preferred second choice of their respective supporters. Backers of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg also ranked the two women high among their second choices — 29 percent said they would back Harris if the mayor left the race, and 22 percent said they would back Warren.
No other candidate saw the kind of surge Harris did following the debates. Buttigieg and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke dropped slightly (Buttigieg fell from 7 percent to 6 percent; O’Rouke fell from 4 to 2 percent) but, again, these drops were within the poll’s margin of error.
Biden maintains the highest favorability rating among likely voters at 71 percent, with Sanders trailing him at 67 percent. Warren came in third at 63 percent, and was followed by Harris with 55 percent.
The new polling suggests the race is changing. While Biden remains a dominant frontrunner, Sanders’s support has slipped in recent weeks, while Elizabeth Warren has risen in the polls. Harris will look to capitalize on her gains in the weeks to come, particularly when it comes to siphoning off Biden supporters. As Vox’s Ezra Klein has written, Harris is well positioned to make a pitch to voters that she represents a candidate of balance: progressive, but not a democratic socialist; experienced, but lacking in decades and decades of controversial decisions:
Sen. Kamala Harris is the closest Democrats have to a potential consensus candidate. She doesn’t suffer from the enmity that Hillary Clinton voters have for Sen. Bernie Sanders, or that leftists hold for former Vice President Joe Biden, or that the Obama administration has for Elizabeth Warren. She’s not another white guy running to represent a diverse party. She’s got enough political experience to be a credible candidate, but not so much that she’s been on the wrong side of dozens of controversial issues.
The California senator has also recently shown she can command the debate stage. Her boost in the Morning Consult poll is likely tied to a moment from her debate that was much discussed: when she challenged Biden on his work with segregationist senators.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said to Biden. “But I also believe, and it’s personal, and it was actually very hurtful, to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their careers and reputations on the segregation of race in this country.”
Harris then spoke about integrating Berkeley Public Schools 20 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, telling Biden: “You also worked with [segregationists] to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Biden struggled to respond, answering defensively before saying to the moderators, “My time’s up.”
The exchange not only likely helped Harris’s polling, it also has helped her fundraising: In the 24 hours following her strong showing at the debate, Harris raised more than $2 million from small donors, her campaign said.