When candidates run for president, they want to make a good first impression. Campaigns can spend weeks planning a candidate’s kickoff — the announcement, the flashy video, the bunting-adorned events — and strategizing ways to build on that early attention. And so far, some candidates have had more successful kickoffs than others.
We can see how 2020 contenders are faring on this front thanks to Morning Consult’s weekly national poll of likely voters in the Democratic presidential primary.1 Here’s a look at how the support for various candidates changed over time relative to the week of their announcement.2 Of course, not every candidate about whom Morning Consult asked is included in this chart — we’ve excluded potential candidates who haven’t yet officially announced their runs (including top overall vote-getter Joe Biden), as well as people who declared too early or too recently for us to have polling data both before and after their announcements. As you can see, candidates typically get at least a small bump in the poll from the week before their declaration to the week after. Out of the six candidates for whom we have both before and after data,3 Sen. Kamala Harris appears to have had the best campaign launch so far.
Harris gained 8 percentage points between the poll the week before her Jan. 21 announcement and the poll the week after. And horse-race polling wasn’t the only indicator that Harris had an effective kickoff. Harris’s announcement also succeeded at getting more voters to see her in a positive light. According to a different set of polls done by Morning Consult (sponsored by Politico and conducted among registered voters), the share of Democrats with an opinion of Harris (favorable rating plus unfavorable rating) rose from 49 percent before her announcement to 57 percent after it, and her net favorability rating (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) improved from +35 to +41. Finally, there was a bigger spike in Google searches of Harris’s name after her announcement than there were after any of the other candidates’ announcements — although Google searches are hardly a tried-and-true political metric.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the 2016 Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton, had nearly as big of a bump as Harris. Sanders gained 6 points between the Feb. 11-17 poll and last week’s poll (he announced on Feb. 19). That’s especially impressive considering that he was already a well-known commodity. And he has already had the best kickoff going by another metric: fundraising (although it might not be as predictive as early polling). He raised $5.9 million in just 24 hours after his announcement; the next-highest total in the field was Harris’s $1.5 million.
Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar had more modest bumps, ticking up by 2 percentage points from the week before their announcement to the week after. However, at least Booker’s announcement was effective at boosting his favorable rating. In a Morning Consult/Politico poll of registered voters conducted a few days before his Feb. 1 announcement, his net favorability rating was +26. In a follow-up poll conducted Feb. 1-2,4 his net favorability rating was up to +38. The share of Democrats with an opinion of Booker increased by the same amount as his net favorability rating — suggesting that those who formed an opinion of him during that span formed a positive one.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, appear to have had the most disappointing launches. Gillibrand’s polling numbers increased from 1 percent the week before she announced the formation of an exploratory committee to 2 percent the week after. And Buttigieg stayed at 0 percent in the poll both before and after announcing his exploratory committee, although his support has since climbed to 1 percent. Their campaigns may want to pull out all the stops for their second, official announcements, whenever those may be.
As for the other candidates who’ve announced, we don’t really know how their announcements changed their standing among likely voters. Morning Consult didn’t ask about U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard before she announced her campaign, probably because of her low national profile. It’s too soon after the announcements by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to have post-kickoff polling numbers for those two. And former U.S. Rep. John Delaney announced all the way back in July 2017, well before Morning Consult — or any pollster — was surveying the race regularly.
Likewise, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro announced their campaigns5 before Morning Consult kicked off its likely-voter poll in early January. But we can still calculate their announcement bumps from a different series of polls — the Morning Consult/Politico polls of registered voters. (Just remember that these aren’t directly comparable to the announcement bumps in the chart above because of the different universes, which is why we didn’t include these polls in the chart even though they were also by Morning Consult.) Neither of their kickoffs appears to have budged the polls much. Warren announced her presidential exploratory committee on Dec. 31, and her support among Democrats went from 3 percent in a mid-December poll to 4 percent in early January. And Castro held steady at 1 percent of respondents in both a November poll and that mid-December poll, which was conducted just days after his Dec. 12 announcement.
Everyone who runs for president no doubt wants a big announcement bump, but it might not be the end of the world if they don’t get them. The other thing the chart above shows is that the bump seems to fade over time: Support for Harris, Booker, Klobuchar and Gillibrand has already begun to dip (although that could be the effect of new candidates joining the race — the lines, of course, are not independent of one another). In presidential primaries, as in so much else, it’s not how people start — it’s how they finish.
From ABC News: