3 Democrats should drop White House campaigns — and run for Senate

National polling is beginning to show the profound impact of the recent Democratic presidential debates — and highlight why some candidates need to reconsider their campaigns.

The most dramatic change in the national polls was the rise of California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE and the decline of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE. Based on national polls of potential primary voters by CNN, Harris's support jumped 9 points, while Biden’s slipped by 10 percent. That leaves four of the Democratic presidential candidates within spitting distance of one another. Biden has 22 percent of the vote, Harris is at 17 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE has 15 percent and Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE is at 14 percent.

The debate exchange on race that led to this reversal of fortune was high drama. It was Harris at her best and Biden at his worst.

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Harris was a prosecutor before she became a senator, first as the San Francisco district attorney and then as attorney general of California. Her prosecutorial skills were on full display when she challenged Biden on busing. Many Democrats watching the debate must have imagined Harris challenging President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE in the same aggressive fashion in which she went after Biden.

She pressed Biden on his opposition to busing and then landed the haymaker when she said, "There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me."

Biden’s response to Harris started out well enough but went downhill fast. He pointed to his strong civil rights record as a senator and as Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump on his 'chosen one' remark: 'It was sarcasm' Kentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' Biden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated MORE’s vice president.

If he had stopped there, he might have been safe, but he didn’t. Instead, he tried to deny his opposition to busing by explaining the nuances of his position. His explanation was so convoluted that he sounded just like the politician voters love to hate. Biden, a seasoned pro, made a rookie mistake and forgot the political axiom that when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

It is also noteworthy that Warren’s vote increased by 8 percent, while the vote for Sanders decreased by 6 percent. Why did support for Harris and Warren jump after the debate? The answer is that the advantage Biden and Sanders had before the debate was that they were both better known than Warren and Harris.

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The debates showed the two female senators could handle themselves well against the two male front-runners. The exposure that Warren and Harris received from the debates and coverage put them on an equal level with their opponents, and their support increased as a result.

The rise of Harris at the expense of Biden and the rise of Warren at the expense of Sanders suggests we may be on the way to two sub-Democratic presidential primaries: one a contest between the two liberal candidates, Sanders and Warren, and the other between the two moderate candidates, Biden and Harris. The winners will get to compete for the opportunity to run against Trump next fall.

The four candidates are the only candidates whose support is in double digits. The debates did not move the needle for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates MORE. But he did raise $24 million in the second quarter of the year, which makes him a player.

It’s time to cull the herd to give the survivors more time to respond to questions to complex issues such as health care, immigration, gun violence and climate change.

The Democratic National Committee created a tougher qualification requirement for the next round of debates. That should help thin the Democratic ranks.

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All the candidates at the back of the pack will have trouble raising money and securing endorsement. Former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel will be the first candidate to see the handwriting on the wall. Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperIf the Democratic debates were pro wrestling, de Blasio is comic relief Hickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China MORE also may be on his way out. His top campaign aides left the campaign after urging him to exit the presidential race and enter the U.S. Senate race against vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit MORE.

During the debates, the candidates had to explain how they would move their agenda if Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE is still majority leader of the Senate. The right answer is they won’t. The Senate leader will frustrate their plans. 

Life will be hell for a Democratic president if the GOP defends its Senate majority and McConnell is still majority leader. Continued GOP control of the Senate will frustrate the efforts of a Democratic president to deal with the urgent problems facing the United States.

There are two Democratic presidential candidates besides Hickenlooper who could help ditch Mitch. They have much better chances of winning U.S. Senate races than they do of reaching the White House.

In Texas, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke could mount a serious challenge to Republican Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE. O’Rourke came close to upsetting Republican Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE in 2018, and he might have a better chance of winning in a presidential election year when turnout among Latino voters would be higher. Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race MORE is the only Democrat in Montana who has a prayer of beating freshman GOP Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal 5 takeaways from combative Democratic debate GOP senator introduces resolution to formally condemn socialism MORE.

It’s time for all good Democrats to come to the aid of their party and clear the way for the next president to end gridlock in Washington. Hickenlooper, O’Rourke and Bullock could all do the next Democratic president and their country a great service by swallowing their pride and changing their plans.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

This piece updated to reflect Harris was district attorney of the city and county of San Francisco.