From the moment he first launched his campaign earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden has consistently polled nationwide as the clear and obvious frontrunner among the many Democratic 2020 candidates — that is, until now.
A major poll in Iowa just showed a new candidate in the lead for the first time this primary cycle, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who surpassed Biden and now has a two-point advantage — not to mention a broader and firmer base of support among the state’s likely Democratic caucus-goers.
Warren takes the lead
The Des Moines Register, in conjunction with CNN and Mediacom, conducted the poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers between Sept. 14-18 and found that 22% of respondents favored Warren as opposed to 20% who preferred Biden. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ranked third with 11% support to round out the top tier of candidates.
The second tier of candidates included South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9%, California Sen. Kamala Harris at 6%, as well as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 3%, respectively. Another 12 candidates filled out the remainder of the field with the support of 2% or less among Iowa voters.
“This is the first major shakeup” in an otherwise stagnated race, explained J. Ann Selzer, president of polling firm Selzer & Co. “It’s the first time we’ve had someone other than Joe Biden at the top of the leader board.”
However, Selzer noted that the poll showed that only about 20% of respondents were firmly committed to their choice of candidate, while 63% said they could still be persuaded to support someone else. She said, “The data in this poll seem to suggest the field is narrowing, but my sense is there’s still opportunity aplenty. The leaders aren’t all that strong. The universe is not locked in.”
Expanding support base
To wit, 71% of likely caucus-goers said Warren was a candidate they were actively considering — the most of any candidate — a number which included 22% who ranked her as their first choice, 20% who said she was their second choice, and 29% who said they would at least consider her.
In comparison, only 60% of respondents said they were considering Biden. Likewise, while Warren received a “favorable” rating from 75% of respondents, Biden was viewed favorably by 66%, down significantly from the 82% who viewed him favorably back in December. Meanwhile, Biden’s unfavorable rating over that same time frame has nearly doubled from 15% to 29%.
Another area of concern for Biden is the fact that he was once the clear-cut leader in this particular poll in December with 32%, a number that has steadily declined over the months while Warren — who initially polled at 8% in December — has seen her level of support steadily increase to the point of overtaking Biden.
On top of that, while Biden does best with older voters, he has failed miserably at gaining traction with younger demographics, a key segment of the electorate with which Warren has demonstrated real strength. Even more troubling for Biden is the fact that former supporters of Sanders — who has also been sliding downward in the polls — seem to be coalescing around Warren more than Biden or any of the other candidates.
Potentially ominous signs for Biden
To be sure, there are still several months to go until Iowa caucus-goers officially cast their votes for the Democratic candidates, and a lot can change between now and then.
That said, momentum is clearly something Warren currently has on her side and that Biden is sorely lacking. If she continues to surge while the former VP continues to falter, the day may soon come when Biden throws in the towel and ends what increasingly appears to be another futile campaign for the presidency.