A new Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday, its first from Iowa, gave Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) her fourth and final qualifying poll for the Nov. 20 debate (winning 3 percent). More important, it gave Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) her fourth and final qualifying poll for the December debate, registering 5 percent, her best showing in an early-state poll.

According to the poll, “Senator Elizabeth Warren receives 20 percent support among Iowa likely Democratic caucus-goers, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 19 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 17 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15 percent. Sen. Amy Klobuchar gets 5 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris is at 4 percent, and businessman Tom Steyer, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and businessman Andrew Yang are each at 3 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent.” There is no statistical difference among the top four candidates, and more than half of respondents say they might change their top choice before the caucuses on Feb. 3.

The familiar pattern shows up with “very liberal” voters (about 25 percent of caucus-goers) “are divided in their top choice with Sanders getting 32 percent and Warren at 30 percent.” In the next quarter, “somewhat liberal” voters are divided “between Buttigieg and Warren, with Warren at 29 percent and Buttigieg at 24 percent.”

It is noteworthy that half of the likely caucus-goers consider themselves “moderates and conservatives,” and give Buttigieg 19 percent and Biden 18 percent. Warren gets only 10 percent of this segment. (Her just-released Medicare-for-all plan won’t make that situation any better.)

More from the poll: “Among white likely caucus-goers with a college education, Buttigieg and Warren top the field with 24 percent and 21 percent respectively. Among white likely caucus-goers without a college education, Sanders gets 23 percent, Biden and Warren receive 19 percent each, and Buttigieg has 15 percent.”

In essence, what we see is Biden and Buttigieg duking it out for the largest share — moderates and conservatives — while Sanders and Warren fight for the very liberal group. If you are looking for someone who draws well from all three, that would be Buttigieg (14 percent very liberal, 24 percent somewhat liberal and 19 percent moderate/conservative — third, second and first, respectively).

If your interest runs to national polls, Monmouth’s latest poll, “The top contenders remain Biden (23%), Warren (23%), and Sanders (20%). In late September, these three stood at 25%, 28%, and 15%, respectively. Buttigieg garners 9% (up from 5%) and Harris gets 5% (same as 5% in late September).” Warren has dropped the most, Buttigieg and Sanders have risen the most.

More important than the snapshot picture of the race, we now have new debate lineups. November’s debate with 10 candidates is likely to be the last one to feature improbable, unserious candidates.

By contrast, so far, only six candidates have qualified for the December debate (which requires four polls at 4 percent, or two early-state polls at 6 percent): Biden, Harris, Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar and Buttigieg. That does, at this stage in the race, seem to include the universe of viable candidates. It also gives a lift to those back in the pack (Klobuchar, Harris) who can still say they’re in the “serious” group from which caucus-goers can choose. It also affords them another shot at a viral moment.

In narrowing the field, at least by December, about six weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Democratic voters will finally get a manageable, slimmed down field of credible contenders. With fewer contenders, the Democratic National Committee should finally dump the podium format and seat candidates for a conversational event that forces them to speak at length and in depth. The bottom line: Two candidates have a shot at the nomination, four have a stronger shot.

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