Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and businessman Andrew Yang are outpolling some better-known Washington insiders, highlighting the ongoing desire for outsider and insurgent candidates in national politics.

The past two surveys of New Hampshire show Gabbard and Yang catching, and in some cases surpassing, bigger names such as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Democrats are taking notice and beginning to whisper about how Gabbard and Yang — who are combining to pull 10 percent support in New Hampshire — could play spoiler for one or more of the top-tier candidates in the Granite State.

{mosads}Polls show former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg firmly in the top tier and fighting for position in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Democrats are doubtful that Gabbard or Yang can rise high enough to challenge them, although both candidates continue to surprise.

But the New Hampshire primary will feature big turnout from independents, and the state allows undeclared voters and Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary.

New Hampshire is known for its fierce independent streak, potentially presenting a new challenge for Sanders in his quest to lock down support from the independents and young voters who are giving Yang a look.

It could also cut into votes for Biden, who will need to perform well among moderate and conservative Democrats, some of whom are at least considering Gabbard.

“It just adds to the unpredictable nature of the primary here,” said one unaffiliated New Hampshire Democratic strategist.

Yang is at 5 percent support in the latest CNN-University of New Hampshire survey, tied with Klobuchar, and outpolling Harris and Booker. He is at 4 percent in the new Quinnipiac University survey of New Hampshire, topping Klobuchar, Harris and Booker.

The tech entrepreneur has ties to New Hampshire, having attended the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy, and Democrats in the state say there’s a high level of enthusiasm for him, particularly among young people.

The Quinnipiac survey finds Yang polling at 12 percent support among voters aged 18 to 34 in New Hampshire, a key demographic for the Sanders campaign.

Yang has been riding a wave of viral online enthusiasm and intrigue about his policy proposals — such as a universal basic income — to become one of the biggest surprises of the cycle.

Yang has already surpassed the fundraising threshold to qualify for the December debate; the $10 million he raised in the third quarter placed him sixth overall and only slightly behind Harris, who raised $11.6 million.

He has so far reached the polling threshold in two of the four surveys needed to make the cut for the December debate.

“Andrew Yang is going to be on that stage come December,” said campaign manager Zach Graumann. “As more voters hear Andrew’s message of humanity first economy, our support is only going to grow in the polls.”

Gabbard, meanwhile, has left her mark in New Hampshire on the side of the highways, reserving billboards across the state that have caught the attention of political watchers.

“I was in New Hampshire in early September and it seemed like there was a Gabbard billboard on every road I was driving on,” said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member from California.

The Hawaii Democrat has become a pariah in some mainstream Democratic circles, with the party’s 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton calling her the “favorite of the Russians” and accusing Gabbard of plotting a third party bid that will throw the election to President Trump.

Gabbard, who is not running for reelection to her House seat, insists that she will not launch an independent or third-party bid.

But the attention from the Clinton spat has raised Gabbard’s profile, propelling her to 6 percent support in the latest Quinnipiac survey of New Hampshire, her best showing in any poll to date.

“She’ll do what she believes is right no matter the consequences inside of her own party, and voters in New Hampshire respond to that,” said Mark Bergman, a senior adviser to Gabbard’s campaign. “There’s an independent streak in New Hampshire and they reward candidates who speak truth to power.”

The Quinnipiac poll also found Gabbard pulling 10 percent support among registered independents, another potential problem spot for Sanders, who won New Hampshire easily in 2016 but faces an uphill battle this time around in the crowded field of candidates.

“Those with Yang and to some extent Gabbard have the most messaging overlap with Bernie,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. “If I were him, I’d be looking over my shoulder at both of those two in New Hampshire.”

Gabbard, a military veteran, also pulls 9 percent support from self-described conservative or moderate Democrats, potentially cutting into support for Biden and Buttigieg, who are fighting for votes in the centrist lane of the primary.

Of course, Democrats admit they have no idea whether Yang and Gabbard supporters will still be with them when ballots are cast in New Hampshire on Feb. 11, or how big of an impact they’ll ultimately have on the outcome in the Granite State.

{mossecondads}It’s possible that support will flow away from Gabbard and Yang toward one of the top finishers in Iowa after the Feb. 3 caucuses.

But regardless, the outsiders have left their mark on the primary in distinct ways that reflect the insurgent energy that has been rippling through the party since Sanders’s surprising challenge to Clinton in 2016.

At last month’s debate in Ohio, Yang commanded attention, sparring one-on-one with Warren over the impacts of automation in the workforce. Several Democratic White House hopefuls at that debate also pointed to Yang’s “Freedom Dividend” as an innovative proposal.

And some believe that Gabbard’s direct challenge to Harris at the second debate in Detroit may have contributed to the California senator’s decline. Harris had been having a moment, but her campaign deflated after Gabbard accused her of abusing the office of attorney general in California.

At the time, Harris said that as a “top tier candidate” she was not worried about attacks from someone polling at “zero or 1 percent.” Now Gabbard has caught or surpassed Harris in some polls.

“There’s definitely an appetite for anti-establishment or outsider candidates,” said Reinish. “New Hampshire is very unique in that regard and the anti-establishment sentiment runs strong there. Sanders and Warren are still very much able to tap into that, while others, like Harris, Klobuchar and Booker, are going to have a harder time.”

Tags 2020 Democratic primary Amy Klobuchar Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Gabbard campaign Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg Tulsi Gabbard Yang campaign
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