As for the current state of the race, “Biden receives support from 20 percent of New Hampshire likely Democratic primary voters, with Senator Elizabeth Warren getting 16 percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 15 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at 14 percent. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard gets 6 percent, businessman Andrew Yang gets 4 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer are each at 3 percent.” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) has dropped all the way to one point.
Looking at the New Hampshire polls over time, Biden has certainly declined from his July highs (around 34.5 percent), but Warren is dropping as well from about 28 percent a few weeks ago in the RealClearPolitics averages to just under 20 percent (now tied with Biden at 19.7 percent). After watching his numbers plunge just after his heart attack, Sanders has regained his footing, while Buttigieg has been rising over that time frame.
Sanders not down and out?! Warren faltering?! Yes, conventional wisdom had Warren sailing along to the nomination, but as we have pointed out, she has had a poor month or so in polling in New Hampshire and nationally. Could her shaky rollout of her Medicare-for-all plan, coming under fire from many Democrats, have slowed her momentum? It is possible, but it is also possible that Sanders is riding on a wave of good feelings in his post-heart attack campaign period. It is possible that his health crisis reminded progressives why they liked him.
The poll is also instructive in figuring out the candidates’ base of support. Biden, we know, has been leading in electability and among older voters. That is still the case, where he draws 31 percent in both categories. However, he has expanded his support from moderate/conservative voters and now is in a four-way tie among self-described “somewhat liberal” voters. Interestingly, Buttigieg is in a statistical tie with Warren on electability and is in first place when it comes to being a good leader. In other words, voters are not simply changing “favorites”; they are reevaluating what they think about the candidates’ strengths.
On top of all that, let’s keep in mind the Iowa caucuses will come eight days before New Hampshire. It would be foolish to think that a particularly strong finish by one candidate (even one outside of the top four) or a super-disappointing showing by another would not affect New Hampshire voters (although they might balk at the notion Iowans are going to influence them). Performance and ground game in these early states very likely will determine the initial winners.