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 HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Julián Castro jabs ICE: 'Delete your account' Pelosi endorses Christy Smith in bid to replace Katie Hill MORE and the decline of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats seek leverage for trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left MORE has 15 percent and Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 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's intervention on military justice system was lawful and proper The mullahs seek to control uncontrolled chaos Poll: Majority of Democrats thinks Obama was better president than Washington 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 ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 Krystal Ball warns about lagging youth support for Buttigieg 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 HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment enters new crucial phase Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate 2020 hopes rise for gun control groups after Virginia elections 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 GardnerDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' MORE.

During the debates, the candidates had to explain how they would move their agenda if Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seek leverage for trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play House Democrats to vote on flavored e-cigarettes ban next year 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 CornynLive coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill Hillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling MORE. O’Rourke came close to upsetting Republican Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Lies, damned lies and impeachable lies Conservatives rip FBI over IG report: 'scathing indictment' 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 Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Steve Bullock exits: Will conservative Democrats follow? MORE is the only Democrat in Montana who has a prayer of beating freshman GOP Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesBullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Perry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine 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.