Democrats aren’t sure they have the right candidate to beat President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE in next year’s general election.
The party has been obsessed with finding the most electable candidate throughout the year, but less than 100 days before the Iowa caucuses, donors and grassroots voters still aren’t sure their field includes the right person.
The anxiety has given a reason for new candidates to throw their names into the race. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDemocrats' combative approach to politics is doing more harm than good Battling over Biden's agenda: A tale of two Democratic parties Budget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency MORE is considering a run and on Tuesday filed the paperwork to get his name on the ballot for Arkansas’s primary.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is also reconsidering his plans, and the uncertainty is spurring new questions about whether 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonI voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary Meghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' MORE could make a comeback.
“There are still a lot of people out there who believe there isn’t one standout candidate,” said one Democratic strategist who remains undecided because of the lack of appeal among the candidates. “It’s a diverse field but that doesn’t mean it’s a strong field.”
Two candidates are generally seen as the front-runners in the race, but both face questions from Democrats.
Progressive Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSinema's office outlines opposition to tax rate hikes The CFPB's data overreach hurts the businesses it claims to help Runaway higher ed spending gains little except endless student debt MORE (D-Mass.) has impressed with her policy plans, and she’s drawn huge crowds on the campaign trail. But her upward trajectory in the race has scared moderate Democrats who think she can’t beat Trump in a general election.
Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE leads in a number of national polls and came in first in a Quinnipiac poll of New Hampshire that was released on Monday. He’s been boosted by strong support from African American Democrats. But his shaky performances at several debates have raised questions about whether he’s ready to take on Trump, or if he’s past his prime. Biden will turn 77 later this month.
The anxiety is creating fluidity in the race.
A new Monmouth poll released Tuesday found the centrist South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden's Big Labor policies will create next round of inflation Airlines should give flight attendants 10 hours of rest between flights: FAA GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays MORE in first place in Iowa with 22 percent support from likely Democratic caucusgoers. Biden was in second with 19 percent and Warren just a tick behind with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (I-Vt.) was fourth with 13 percent.
The fact that the top three candidates were within 4 points of one another underscores the sense that it’s anyone’s race, and that some voters are still shopping for a candidate.
Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said the tensions are high because of the desire to defeat Trump, and the nervousness that none of the candidates can do it.
Some Democrats “see this lurch to the left among some of the front-runners and they think, ‘This is a recipe to lose,’ ” Kofinis said.
“There’s a shared desire to beat Trump but a distinct difference as to what kind of candidate can beat him,” he added.
The fears for Democrats reached a crescendo after The New York Times published a poll it conducted with Siena College that found Democratic candidates in tight races with Trump in the key battleground states that will decide the election: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.
The polling also showed Biden doing better in head-to-head match-ups with Trump than Warren did in those states.
The poll served as a “wake-up call” to Democrats that they can’t take Trump for granted, said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.
“There’s been a mood swing since the survey came out,” Bannon explained. “The drop in Democratic morale accounts for the recent buzz about Clinton, Bloomberg and Patrick.”
“Many Democrats were surprised that Trump was running even with the Democratic candidates in the battleground states after countless scandals and revelations from the impeachment inquiry,” he said. “Many of these Democrats had bought into the idea that Trump would be easy pickings for Biden and were dismayed that he wasn’t doing much better against Trump than the other Democratic hopefuls.”
The NYT-Siena poll showed Biden running even in Michigan with Trump, and Warren running 6 points behind the president. Sanders had a 2-point lead over Trump in Michigan.
In Pennsylvania, Biden had a 3-point edge over Trump and Sanders a 1-point edge, while Warren was even with the president. In Wisconsin, Warren was even, Biden was up 3 points on Trump and Sanders was up by 2 points.
In Florida, Biden was up by 2 points, Sanders was behind Trump by 1 point and Warren trailed Trump by 4 points.
Biden allies are quick to point out those polling figures. They have also touted his appearance on a CNN town hall on Monday where he generally received good reviews.
“Joe Biden just needs to keep being Joe like at [Monday night’s] town hall,” said Robert Wolf, the Democratic mega-donor who has contributed to Biden’s campaign but remains uncommitted.
Biden is “the guy red, blue and purple voters respect,” Wolf said. “He doesn’t need to look at who is in front of him nor behind him nor not yet on the field.”
There are plenty of Democrats who disagree with that sentiment, however.
“Clearly a lot of people aren’t convinced that he’s the right guy,” the Democratic strategist said.
“But no one else really is either.”