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There Are Many Democratic Candidates. Party Insiders View a Bunch as the Same.

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The second night of the Democratic debate in Miami, Florida, last month. 

The idea that there are “lanes” for presidential candidates—that is, consistent groupings for Democratic primary voters’ second choices—has followed the cycle of many fads: It was hot, then it was not, and now there may be some re-assessment of it. Last week at FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich examined some recent polling data on the Democratic presidential contenders and found evidence for different candidate lanes: Supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden tended to list Senator Bernie Sanders as their second choice, and vice versa. There seemed to be a similar relationship between supporters of Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

The exact nature of these lanes, Rakich noted, wasn’t clear. (And indeed, the patterns were somewhat unexpected, given that Sanders and Biden don’t exactly emanate from the same places in the party.) There could be an “educated white liberal” lane, or an “experience” lane, or an “electability” lane, or a “fresh face” lane, or something else. Also, as Rakich explained, it’s easy to overstate these lanes, which are far from rigid or durable, and also are defined by voters who do not yet have well-informed opinions about the candidates.

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