Of the most-discussed vice presidential picks for Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is the one most likely to unify the Democratic Party and win over supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), according to a new poll.
The former vice president has already announced that he will choose a woman as his running mate, and he plans to form a committee to start vetting candidates by May 1.
In a new poll, the left-wing Data for Progress tested the strength of five potential vice presidential picks on their ability to generate excitement among different types of Democratic voters: former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Warren and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“In order for the Democratic Party to defeat Trump this fall it needs to be united. A vice presidential pick provides one avenue of doing this,” the progressive think tank Data for Progress said in a new memo provided to HuffPost.
The survey found that Democrats as a whole ― and, notably, supporters of Sanders ― rated Warren the highest in terms of their likelihood to vote for the Democratic presidential ticket.
Sanders supporters said they were more likely to support Biden for president against Republican Donald Trump if he chose the progressive senator as his running mate, beating out Harris in second, followed by Klobuchar, Abrams and Whitmer. Sixty-one percent of Sanders voters said they would be more likely to support Biden if Warren is the nominee, while just 9% say it would make them less likely to back the former vice president.
Warren’s 52-point advantage is far larger than those for the other candidates. Harris, who holds the second-largest appeal to Sanders supporters, has just a 34-point advantage.
Warren, of course, holds an advantage in part because she is better known than the other candidates who were tested. Like Harris and Klobuchar, she ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, but she ended up with the most delegates after Biden and Sanders. Whitmer’s and Abrams’ relatively low profiles mean a majority of Sanders supporters say Biden picking them would have no effect on their vote.
Previous work by Data for Progress has shown that Abrams’ favorability goes up quickly once voters learn more about her.
The Biden campaign has demonstrated its concern about winning over Sanders’ most dedicated supporters. It has adopted a number of progressive policies in recent weeks, including promising to push for the forgiveness of significant amounts of student debt. Primary exit polls showed Sanders consistently performed best with younger voters and the most ideologically liberal voters.
Tensions between the Sanders and Warren campaigns were high by the end of the primary. Sanders had attacked Warren’s plan to transition to “Medicare for All” as insufficient, while Warren had suggested that Sanders was an ineffective legislator. And grievances between the two sides lingered after a dispute over a private 2018 conversation between the two senators and whether Sanders told Warren he didn’t believe a woman could defeat Trump.
Several prominent Sanders supporters have suggested a Warren selection wouldn’t be enough to win them over to Biden’s side, but this polling indicates those sentiments aren’t widespread.
“The overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters would be thrilled by a Warren Vice Presidential pick, the rest have Twitter accounts,” said Sean McElwee, the co-founder of Data for Progress. “It’s imperative that this decision is made with a mind to the polling, not the posting.”
The Data for Progress survey similarly shows Warren performing best with Sanders’ strongest voters: progressives and voters younger than 45. (Primary voters skew older, so voters under the age of 45 qualify as younger.)
Though some operatives have argued Biden should select either Harris or Abrams to solidify his hold on Black voters and increase turnout in key cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the survey indicates Black voters are actually more excited about a Biden-Warren ticket, though a Biden-Harris ticket also performs well.
Polls of this type don’t mean that if one candidate is chosen, supporters of other candidates would either go to Trump or stay home, but they do reflect enthusiasm for, interest in and awareness of the various candidates.
“There is a strong case for Warren to be the Democratic nominee for vice president,” the group concludes. “From that position that comes with an office in the White House, she’ll have the ability to forcefully advance a progressive agenda. Nominating her also represents a deft strategic choice, a signal that Biden truly is willing to unite the Democratic party and work with progressives as governing partners in the fullest sense.”
Before she dropped her presidential bid in early March, Warren was going around the country making the case that she was the candidate best positioned to unify the Democratic Party. While the pitch was unsuccessful ― she ultimately dropped it not long after aggressively attacking former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg at a debate in Las Vegas ― polling at the time often backed up her contention that she could bridge the gap between Sanders’ left-wing supporters and Biden’s more moderate backers.
But Warren also has several factors working against her: Biden, who has suggested he sees himself as a bridge to a younger generation of Democratic leaders, may not want to pick a fellow septuagenarian. He’s also under pressure to choose a Black woman as his running mate, especially since Black voters gave him landslide win in the South Carolina primary after poor performances in the much whiter states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Biden, at times, has also suggested he would want a vice president who agrees with him on policy ― and whether Biden sees Warren as an ideological match is unclear. Warren may not be seen as a team player, and Biden may not want to alienate much of the financial industry or the wealthy donors who have come under attack from Warren.