Back to Episodes

Episode 4: A Woman Who Travels On A Bicycle

We crunge together the latest polling results after the recent Democratic debate and consider just why Pete Buttigieg might have found himself in the headscratchers that he found himself in.

Original Script

DETROW: Danielle, you have a new poll out this week that shows that Joe Biden is still the favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination - the Bloomberg poll and the Harris poll and a CBS News/YouGov poll. I am sure you will put them together and crunge them together for us. Let's get into it.

DAVIS: I had two helpings of that conversation, which is that Bloomberg poll, which was conducted only for NPR, CNN and Marist College.

DETROW: It was actually a "Who Won The Democratic Debate?"

DAVIS: Oh, my gosh.

DETROW: It was a "Who Won The Democratic Debate?" I feel like it was just so much a part of the summer of 2016, and it really is not new.


DAVIS: Every debate, every poll gets a little bit better and better. But until this debate, it had never been the same, and I felt like there were a lot of things that had changed since then. I think one thing that you probably noticed is that Pete Buttigieg got a big surge in the polls and really kind of defined himself on who won the Democratic race. Now virtually every poll that has put him on the debate stage since then has had some other weird results.

KURTZLEBEN: So he had been polling at about 3%, and he has since jumped past 4%. There was one poll that had him tied with Biden. There was another one that had him, like, tied with...

DAVIS: Oh, I remember that.

KURTZLEBEN: ...Sanders. And then there was another one that had him down - yeah - tied with Warren.

DAVIS: I, too - I had forgotten about that.


DAVIS: But it was, like, a headline for it because he did better than anyone else - under 3% in that one. But since he has now overtaken her in every poll that's been out this week, it makes him the winner.

DETROW: And I'll say that I am very intrigued by the fact that he has overtaken her in every poll, but is struggling to make an impact in some of the ones that exist - like the CBS News/YouGov poll that's been a little bit more of a mixed bag. And we saw that he had a - a - a strong debate performance in Kentucky. But it also seemed like he didn't really get a chance to make much of an impact. So he's sort of limping along, but I guess it's still a little bit surprising to see him in this position.

DAVIS: One question I had about Buttigieg was, is - how does he differentiate himself from Warren? Because he took this stance at the debate that I expected - which is, you know, not much about Pete Buttigieg. He was, like, the mayor of Milwaukee. This is a guy who once was the mayor of Milwaukee.


DAVIS: (Laughter).

DETROW: He was the one who said, oh, you know, a woman who travels on a bicycle actually can win.


KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, so that is a really important point.

DAVIS: Yeah.

DETROW: So maybe he's the guy with the shiny object in his backyard.

DAVIS: Yeah.

DETROW: Yeah, so that's...

DAVIS: That was a really important point.

DETROW: That's an important point.


DETROW: That's an important point.

KURTZLEBEN: That is an important point.

DAVIS: Well, he did talk about it. It's very reminiscent of Pete Buttigieg's big applause at last summer's Democratic debates. And he was like, you know, nice to see the ladies out there with me. But it was even more of a head-scratcher of, like, what should we be talking about? And he was trying to find a head-scratcher. But that's kind of his thing. His thing every debate is, what should we be talking about?

DETROW: Yeah. So let's take a listen to the candidates debate with a bit more detail.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: My plan would bring back the tax rate for the top one-tenth of 1%.


DAVIS: That's it. That's our last chance to make sense of his - his response. He's - what's happening? Is this what he wants to talk about?


BUTTIGIEG: If the tax cut disappeared tomorrow, that would be a major catastrophe for the middle class, for businesses, for entrepreneurs - especially large companies.

KURTZLEBEN: What he's trying to say is that his plan would not happen if the tax bill didn't pass. He's bringing it up. He's trying to say that it's good news for business, good news for the middle class. And it's not. It's not as good news for the struggling middle class when the top marginal tax rate is like 70% compared to what it is at today.

DAVIS: One of the bookends of this debate was Pete Buttigieg was, again, very earnest but also seemed to be really uncomfortable in terms of the policy positions he was trying to make and the moment he was trying to jump on that moment. He was very clearly listening to other candidates and trying to understand what their positions were going forward. And I felt like he was getting more uncomfortable every single time. I mean, go back to last night, for example, and he was saying, oh, I love that line there. I heard it a few times.


BUTTIGIEG: If you like your Medicare-for-all bill, my proposal would be to make a tax credit available on every new baby that was born. That's a tax credit.

KURTZLEBEN: That wasn't very good health care policy. That's like, oh, my God.

DETROW: That was very good health care policy.


KURTZLEBEN: Something we'll talk about on the podcast soon.

DETROW: That was a very good answer.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. So...

DETROW: But that's what would happen if he becomes president.


DAVIS: But I haven't heard anyone else say, like, oh, my God, President Trump is proposing to end Medicare-for-all. Is that the best answer you could give on this topic?

DETROW: I don't know. But that's what people are asking about. That is the best answer. I don't know what you would say.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, that's a good question. That is a good question.

RASCOE: That's a good question.

KURTZLEBEN: It's a good question. That is a good question.

RASCOE: I don't know. And I don't know the answer. But I think that he's going to have a hard time saying it.

DETROW: All right.


DAVIS: That was an excellent moment to end on.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: Thank you, guys.