Sen. Kamala Harris of California dropped out of the Democratic race, and as by far the most popular candidate to exit the race to date, this may have enormous consequences for the remaining candidates.
Though Harris' topline numbers have been modest — the junior senator from the most populous state in the union is currently polling at about 5% according to Morning Consult— she still has amassed a sizeable following.
Insider has been polling the 2020 primary since last December, focusing not on which single candidate a person would vote for if the election were held today but rather which of the candidates are seen as satisfactory to portions of the electorate. This lets us observe the overlaps and the trends in people vying for the same voters. You can download all polls down to the respondent-level data here.
Harris' exit will have larger fallout than merely where the 5% of people who'd vote for her today will go. Here's who stands to gain.
Harris' supporters love Elizabeth Warren
We look specifically at the seven polls we've conducted since the final week of September.
Of 2,981 respondents who said they were registered to vote and would likely participate in the Democratic primary, 67% were familiar with Harris and of those, 41% would have been satisfied in the event she became the nominee. That's 829 respondents, and their preferences stand out compared to a typical Democrat.
Fully 77% of Democratic voters who'd be happy with a Harris win were also happy with an Elizabeth Warren win. That's 13 percentage points higher than Warren's performance overall. Warren has arguably been eating into Harris' base all autumn.
Among the other two candidates at the head of the pack, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, 64% of Harris fans are satisfied with a Biden nomination (10 percentage points higher than the former Veep's performance overall) and 58% are happy with Sanders (just 3 percentage points higher than his performance overall).
Looking at the other contenders, just one other candidate is worth remarking on: 46% of Harris fans like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, 12 percentage points higher than his performance overall. The two senators have a substantial overlap, and both have struggled to break into the top tier. For a candidate that's been struggling to capitalize on broad popularity, this could be Booker's best opportunity to seize a portion of the voter pool.
California is ridiculously important in the Democratic primary
California moved their primary up to Super Tuesday, making an important day in the election into a free-for-all where 35% of delegates to the Democratic National Convention are doled out in a single day.
California accounts for 10.8% of all the delegates that will decide the presidential nominee. It couldn't be any more important, and excellent performers in that state will not only reap a heaping pile of delegates to take to Wisconsin, but will also get slingshotted through the remainder of the primary.
Super Tuesday, and California in particular, will be the last stand of many campaigns. And Kamala Harris is now a free agent.
Kamala Harris reaches constituencies that others may need desperately
We can also drill down on demographic crosstabs in Insider's polling to find out groups that Harris outperformed among. For other candidates courting endorsements, Kamala Harris is now arguably one of the top targets on the market based on a couple of key factors.
- The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary is very consequential, and Harris polled particularly well among Democrats from New England (up 8.8 percentage points compared to her national performance).
- She also did well among Democrats from the Pacific census region (up five percentage points), which naturally contains California.
- Harris did disproportionately well among women, polling eight percentage points better among women than among men. Women make up the majority of the Democratic electorate, and a number of candidates would love to shore up their numbers among women.
All this is to say that Harris' work in the 2020 presidential election is likely far from over. Though she struggled to lock supporters down — only about 4 percent of her supporters like her and her alone — she nevertheless was satisfactory to 41 percent of the Democratic electorate who were familiar with her.
In exiting, Harris went from the fifth or sixth-most wanted contender to the No. 1-desired campaign surrogate and endorsement.