Kamala Harris overtakes Joe Biden in new poll of California voters

Following her performance in the first Democratic presidential debate, California Sen. Kamala Harris has overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a Quinnipiac University survey of California Democratic voters.

The poll released Wednesday shows Harris with a lead of 2 percentage points — her first lead in a major public opinion poll of California voters. Harris got support from 23 percent of respondents, while Biden got 21 percent.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ matched the 18 percent he received in an April poll from Quinnipiac, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren jumped dramatically from 7 percent to 16 percent over that same period. Biden previously polled at 26 percent, while Harris ranked third at 17 percent.

Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, said Harris’s debate performance is what has placed her at the top of the crowded field of 25 candidates.

“Rewind it and take a hard look at the debate: Kamala Harris went from a well-known candidate in California to a national figure,” Malloy said. “Elizabeth Warren has been moving along incrementally, but Kamala Harris hit it out of the park in that debate and Joe Biden hit a single. When a local figure does that well in front of the big spotlight on a national stage, it may fortify people’s positive feelings about her.”

While the poll released Wednesday morning comes as welcome news for Harris, California Democrats presented some conflicting and confusing views.

They overwhelmingly said Biden has the best chance of beating President Donald Trump. A sizable 45 percent of them thought Biden had the best odds, compared to just 12 percent for Sanders, 11 percent for Harris and 8 percent for Warren. Nearly one in five respondents said they were unsure who could best beat Trump.

Voters, meanwhile, strongly preferred Warren’s policies. Twenty-nine percent said Warren had the best policy ideas, while Sanders lagged behind at 16 percent. Harris and Biden tied for third at 11 percent.

The mixed findings surprised Malloy, but he said the results indicate Californians have essentially narrowed their preferred list of candidates to four people.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, ranked fifth with 3 percent support — a decline from the 7 percent he had in April. The drop comes despite his aggressive work to win over California voters. He has campaigned in the state more than any other person and recently out-raised all of his 2020 opponents in the state.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker all dropped to 1 percent. Quinnipiac previously had O’Rourke at 4 percent and Castro and Booker at 2 percent. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard didn’t register, falling from 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Venture capitalist Andrew Yang got a small boost from 1 percent to 2 percent, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee maintained his position at 1 percent.

The second presidential debate in Detroit is the next important moment of the 2020 election cycle, with 20 candidates scheduled to make their case to voters on July 30 and July 31. CNN and the Democratic National Committee will announce the list of participants Wednesday evening. On Thursday, they’ll unveil which candidates will speak on which night.

Malloy said all eyes will be on Biden and Harris during the debate.

“I think the second debate could make or break Biden,” he said. “Kamala Harris has truly arrived.”

Biden’s campaign declined to comment. Harris’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Warren’s campaign does not weigh in on individual polls.

The survey of 519 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters had a margin of error of 5.7 percentage points.

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.