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Labor Day has long been an unofficial start to election season. So far, two rounds of Democratic debates, and two fundraising deadlines have revealed a lot about where the Democratic primary stands.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead, as questions linger about his candidacy. Meanwhile, after a good summer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is clearly on the rise, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders maintains his significant and loyal base of followers. California Sen. Kamala Harris saw a quick rise and then a receding after the second debate. And time is ticking for the rest of the candidates to stand out in the still crowded field.
Here are some takeaways and lingering questions, candidate by candidate, the 10 who made the Sept. 12 debate stage stand today: (in order of their poll average):
The former vice president continues to lead in national and state polls, but Biden's missteps and lack of precision leaves questions about the long-term strength of his candidacy. But will his voters care? So far, Biden has maintained a lead by retaining support with older black voters, older voters in general, and he even leads among women. He has struggled mightily with voters under age 35; he's facing an enthusiasm gap; and he's got far from the majority of support within the party. He still has a long way to go before he could be seen as the likely nominee.
Average poll standing: 29% (Rank: 1st)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 73% favorable/21% negative (+52) (Rank: 2nd)
Total raised: $22 million (6th)
Total spent: $11.1 million (5th)
Cash on hand: $10.9 million (5th)
The Vermont senator has maintained the support of his devoted base, is drawing big crowds and raising lots of money. But to expand, he's going to need big wins in some of the early nominating states, where he's trailing Biden, and, in Iowa, Warren, too. He's struggling with black and Latino voters, and Warren's rise is a potential threat to his support. Sanders could still accumulate delegates on the way to next summer's convention, however, which could make him a key player if no one gets a majority of delegates by then.
Average poll standing: 17% (2nd)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 72%/20% (+52) (3rd)
Total raised: $46.5 million (1st) ($10.1 million committee transfer)
Total spent: $24.6 million (1st)
Cash on hand: $27.4 million (1st)
No one's had a better summer than the Massachusetts senator. She's seen a steady rise in the polls, fundraising and crowd sizes, and she's set up campaign infrastructures in early states. Warren benefited from two solid debate performances and will have another chance during the fall to present herself to a national audience looking for someone to take on Trump. The big question for her, though, is how she deals with the inevitable scrutiny that comes with a rise in the polls. So far, she's gotten mostly favorable media coverage and hasn't been the focus of her rivals' attacks.
Average poll standing: 17% (3rd)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 68%/15% (+54) (1st)
Total raised: $35.7 million (2nd) ($10.4 million committee transfer)
Total spent: $15.9 million (3rd)
Cash on hand: $19.8 million (3rd)
The California senator had a standout first debate, saw a bump in the polls but then regressed after the second debate. She still has high favorable ratings among the base and Democrats seem to want a reason to vote for her. But her message has been muddled. She tried to rebrand her candidacy, pledging to solve what keeps people up at night. But health care and climate change are topics Democrats say are most important to them, and on those subjects, Harris hasn't been as bold or as clear as other candidates in the race.
Average poll standing: 7% (4th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 60%/20% (+40) (4th)
Total raised: $25.1 million (5th) ($1.2 million committee transfer)
Total spent: $11.8 million (4th)
Cash on hand: $13.3 million (4th)
The South Bend, Ind., mayor had a charmed rise and won over donors with his clarity and vision for the future. But a controversy back home centering on race and police set his candidacy back, especially among black voters who are still getting to know him. He's going to need the debates to stand out in and grab the spotlight in ways he hasn't so far.
Average poll standing: 5% (5th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 49%/14% (+34) (5th)
Total raised: $32.3 million (3rd)
Total spent: $9.7 million (6th)
Cash on hand: $22.7 million (2nd)
The tech entrepreneur, promising $1,000 a month to stave off the potentially drastic effects of automation, has caught fire with a niche group of loyal followers. Yang, who calls himself the opposite of Donald Trump because he's an "Asian man who likes math," has presented himself well on the debate stage and in interviews. He hopes to get more time and media attention to help spread his message, because he badly needs to get better known. But his campaign infrastructure and fundraising is still shoe string, which doesn't bode well for his candidacy long term in the primary.
Average poll standing: 3% (6th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 37%/15% (+22) (9th)
Total raised: $5.3 million (14th)
Total spent: $4.4 million (11th)
Cash on hand: $848,000 (15th)
His optimistic campaign hasn't been able to help him vault past the top contenders in this crowded field yet, but he gained attention in the debates most notably for mixing it up with Biden on civil rights. Expect more of it, as he needs to pierce Biden's dominance with older black voters to have a shot.
Average poll standing: 2% (7th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 50%/18% (+32) (6th)
Total raised: $12.5 million (10th) ($2.7 million committee transfer)
Total spent: $7.1 million (8th)
Cash on hand: $5.4 million (8th)
The former Texas congressman faced pressure to drop out of the presidential primary race and run for the Senate again. But he's refusing to do that. Instead, after a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, O'Rourke rebooted his campaign to refocus on Donald Trump. Biden had been the sole candidate to make Trump his principal focus. The calculation, according to Democratic strategists, is if the Biden implosion happens, then O'Rourke would be there to pick up the pieces. But O'Rourke's not a former vice president, making this strategy something of a triple-bank shot.
Average poll standing: 2% (8th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 50%/19% (+31) (7th)
Total raised: $13.6 million (8th)
Total spent: $8.7 million (7th)
Cash on hand: $5.2 million (9th)
The former Obama housing secretary and mayor of San Antonio made his mark in the first debate as someone who would speak up for marginalized communities. He pushed the field to the left on decriminalizing border crossings, but he hasn't quite yet moved up the state or national polls. He needs a viral moment in the debates, but one thing is for sure: whoever the nominee is will likely have Castro on their vice-presidential list.
Average poll standing: 1% (9th)
August favorable/unfavorable average: 41%/16% (+25)
Total raised: $4.1 million (15th)
Total spent: $3 million (14th)
Cash on hand: $1.1 million (14th)
The Minnesota senator is the only candidate, other than Biden, on this list who has tried to make the case for a moderate approach to governing. She's engaging and uses humor well, but so far, that hasn't come across in the crowded campaign field. Being from a state neighboring Iowa, it may be Iowa or bust for Klobuchar.
Average poll standing: 1%
August favorable/unfavorable average: 35%/18% (+17) (11th)
Total raised: $12.7 million (9th) ($3.6 million in committee transfer)
Total spent: $6 million (10th)
Cash on hand: $6.7 million (7th)
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