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Elizabeth Warren Leads Biden Veepstakes, But Poll Also Shows Absolute Importance of a Black Running Mate

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came up the clear leader in the most recent poll of potential running mates for former Vice President Joe Biden, but the same poll illustrates that selecting a black woman to the ticket is absolutely critical to his chances of victory.

The topline results that grabbed CBS News’ headline for their poll — which read “Elizabeth Warren tops Democrats’ wish list for Biden’s vice president” — are that Democratic voters were most likely to say that Warren should be considered for Biden’s ticket, ansd was the first choice for VP of more Democratic voters than any of the others polled.

And the results were not all that close. On the consideration question, for which respondents could choose more than one candidate, 71 percent named Warren, while 59 percent named California Senator Kamala Harris. Former Georgia state legislator Stacey Abrams was the only other potential veep to get 50 percent or more on the question.

Warren was the preferred candidate of 36 percent of Democrats, followed by Harris at 19 percent and Abrams at 14 percent.

Warren also led among black voters in the poll with 28 percent preferring her as the pick, followed by Abrams at 25 and Harris at 23. But with a sample size of 160 black voters, those differences are not as significant.

On the consideration question, Warren did exactly as well with black voters as white voters at 72 percent, while Haris did slightly better with white voters (62%) than black voters (60%) and Abrams performed markedly better with black voters (61%) than white voters (49%).

Another data point being bandied about is the importance of race in Biden’s selection. As CBS put it, “But it doesn’t matter to most Democratic voters whether the selection is someone white or someone of color: 74% say they’ve no preference on that.”

White voters (73%) and black voters (71%) were about evenly split on that response.

Based on all of this, you might wonder what does Joe Biden have to lose by picking Warren, aside from potentially a Senate seat?

There’s a lot of very interesting data in the crosstabs of the poll, but one result that is consistent with other more fulsome polls of black voters is that Biden’s VP pick matters a lot to them.

Voters were asked “When you decide whether or not to vote for Joe Biden, how important will the Vice Presidential candidate be to your decision?”, and among white voters, 52 percent said it was “very” (25%) or “somewhat” (27%) important. Among black voters, 71 percent said the pick would be “very” (35%) or “somewhat” (36%) important. Black voters care a lot more about this than white voters.

If you read the preference results with the race of the candidate in mind, 57 percent of black voters prefer a black candidate, and in a separate question, 70 percent of black voters said Biden should pick Michelle Obama if she were interested in the job. Among white voters, 57 percent prefer a white candidate and 59 percent support Michelle Obama as a pick. Black voters would overwhelmingly prefer a black candidate. The data suggests that while white voters prefer the opposite, they’re much more ambivalent about it.

And finally, the CBS poll identified the same red flag as another recent poll did.

When asked “How likely is it that you will vote in the 2020 Presidential election in November?”, 87 percent of white voters said they “definitely will vote,” while only 75 percent of black voters said the same. That’s a huge gap for a loyal Democratic constituency, and especially a constituency that provided Biden with his sweeping victory in the Democratic primary.

Vice President Biden’s selection of a running mate is his next, biggest chance to grab some visibility in this campaign, and the data shows that he would be wise to maximize turnout among the Democratic Party’s most loyal voting bloc. And history shows that he’s never been successful on an all-white ticket.

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