Poll: Warren surges to tie Biden for top spot in N.H. primary, Sanders sinks to distant third

  • In this Sept. 7, 2019, photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., acknowledges the applause as she arrives on stage to speak at the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

For the Monitor
Published: 9/25/2019 4:21:27 PM

Joe Biden’s been the front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination since even before the former vice president declared his candidacy in April.

But a slew of new polls in recent days – in New Hampshire and other early voting states as well as nationally – indicate that the battle for the top spot in the Democratic nomination race is now a two-candidate face-off between Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And the surveys suggest that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has slipped to a distant third.

Warren – the populist senator who’s pushed out one progressive policy proposal after another – is supported by 27% of likely Democratic presidential primary voters in New Hampshire in a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, with Biden at 25%. Warren’s two-point edge is well within the survey’s sampling error.

Warren’s support has soared by 19 points from the previous Monmouth poll in the Granite State, which was conducted in May. Biden’s dropped 11 points from that survey.

Sanders, meanwhile, is in third in the new poll, at 12%, dropping six points from Monmouth’s May survey.

New Hampshire, which votes second in the presidential nominating calendar following the Iowa caucuses, is considered by many political analysts and pundits as a must-win for Sanders and Warren.

The independent senator from Vermont crushed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, launching the one-time longshot for the nomination into a marathon battle against the eventual nominee. He’s retained a strong organization and devoted supporters in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary as he bids a second time for the White House.

But Warren, who like Sanders hails from a neighboring state, has also built up a powerful campaign organization in the Granite State, and has made numerous visits. Warren will return to the state to hold a town hall Friday.

“Warren continues to look stronger with every new poll. She seems to be picking up support across the spectrum with gains coming at the expense of both Biden and Sanders,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray.

According to the poll, Warren’s surge comes from self-described liberals, among whom she’s up 28 points since the May poll to stand at 39% support from that group. Meanwhile, Sanders dropped 13 points down to 16% among self-described liberals. Warren also jumped 11 points among self-described moderate and conservative voters to stand at 18%, with Biden dropping 15 points to stand at 30%.

The only other candidate in the Monmouth poll to register in double digits is South Bend Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’s at 10%, slightly behind Sanders.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California stands at 3% in the survey, with Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, billionaire philanthropist and environmental and progressive advocate Tom Steyer, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii each at 2%. The remaining 10 candidates tested in the record-setting field of Democratic White House hopefuls earned 1% or less in the poll.

Polls conducted earlier this month in New Hampshire have been all over the board, with one suggesting Sanders holding a lead; another indicating a three-way tie among Biden, Warren and Sanders; and a third pointing to Sanders trailing Biden and Warren.

The Monmouth University survey’s findings are similar to those of the latest poll in Iowa this past weekend. A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom survey indicated Warren at 22%, Biden at 20% and Sanders a distant third at 11%. The Des Moines Register surveys have long been considered the gold standard in Iowa polling.

A new poll released Tuesday in Nevada, which holds its caucus following the New Hampshire primary, also indicates a close contest between Biden and Warren. The USA Today/Suffolk University survey puts Biden at 23%, Warren at 19% and Sanders at 14%.

And Wednesday, a national poll from Quinnipiac University showed the same results as the Monmouth poll, indicating Warren at 27% among Democratic voters and independents who lean Democratic, with the former vice president at 25%. Warren’s two-point edge is well within the survey’s margin of error.

Warren’s surged eight percentage points since Quinnipiac’s previous national poll, which was conducted late last month, with Biden dropping seven points. Sanders stands at 16% in the new survey, basically unchanged from last month.

“After trailing Biden by double digits since March in the race for the Democratic nomination, Warren catches Biden,”Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy highlighted. “We now have a race with two candidates at the top of the field, and they’re leaving the rest of the pack behind.”

Going beyond the poll’s topline numbers, Malloy noted that if you “dig a little deeper ... the reasons behind Warren’s rise become more clear. She generates a lot of excitement as a potential nominee. On top of that, half of Democrats want a presidential candidate that supports big changes – even if it means things are harder along the way.”

The release of these new live telephone operator polls comes with just over four months to go until the first votes in Iowa and then New Hampshire. But that can be an eternity in campaign politics.

Warren continues to downplay her surge in the surveys.

“I don’t do polls,” she told reporters. “We are still months away from the Iowa caucuses and the first primary elections.”

The pollsters agree. Monmouth University’s Murray noted that “it is important to keep in mind that the race is still very much in flux.”

Polling – of course – is a key indicator of a candidate’s standing in a race until the actual voting begins. Other barometers include campaign fundraising, staff sizes, endorsements, numbers of campaign visits, and crowd sizes and enthusiasm.

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