As we noted a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stalled her own momentum in early October when she rolled out her Medicare-for-all proposals and promptly came under fire from a sizable number of Democrats who — rightly in my view — see this as a formula for disaster in the general election. The extent of her problem was vividly highlighted by the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released Saturday night:

Since September, [Mayor Pete] Buttigieg has risen 16 percentage points among Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers, with 25% now saying he is their first choice for president. For the first time in the Register’s Iowa Poll, he bests rivals Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are now clustered in competition for second place and about 10 percentage points behind the South Bend, Indiana, mayor …
More respondents — 30% now, compared with 20% in September — say they have a first choice and their minds are made up. That still leaves ample opportunity for more surges and slides in the two-and-a-half months before the caucuses: 62% say they have a first choice but could still be persuaded.

Warren has fallen six points to 16 percent since the September poll, while Biden has slipped five. By contrast, Sanders is up 4 points to 15 percent, tied with Biden. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is up three points to 6 percent. Sixty-three percent say it is more important to nominate someone who can beat President Trump than someone they agree with; Biden does best in electability, with 25 percent who say he is “almost certain” to beat Trump. Warren does worst, with just 15 percent saying the same.

While a smaller percentage of Buttigieg supporters say they are certain to stick with him, both he and Biden have an advantage on ideology. When it comes to candidates whose views are considered “about right,” he leads with 63 percent while Biden gets 55 percent. “Biden and Buttigieg may also be benefiting from the 52% of likely Democratic caucusgoers who say they would rather see their nominee advocate for proposals that have a good chance of becoming law even if they do not represent big change,” the Des Moines Register reports.

Buttigieg benefits from very broad-based support. “When looking at the entire footprint of his support in Iowa,” the Register continued, “he now leads the field, with 68% saying they are actively considering him in some capacity. That includes the 25% who say he is their first choice, the 14% who name him as their second choice and the 29% who say they are actively considering him.”

In a CBS/YouGov poll released Sunday, Buttigieg (21 percent) is in a statistical tie with Sanders and Biden (both at 22 percent), with Warren a few points back at 18 percent. That amounts to a seven-point jump for Buttigieg since that poll’s October survey, a four-point drop for Warren and no statistical change for Biden or Sanders.

It is not hard to figure out why Buttigieg has soared in Iowa, where his bus trips have been a big hit, he has a solid ground game, and his appearance at the Liberty and Justice dinner was well-received — and provided material for a major radio buy. His debate performances, especially his October outing, have been error-free. As he has taken on Warren and fully embraced his center-left image, he can provide voters with a younger, sharper version of Biden.

And let’s face it, few candidates embody “Iowa nice” as well as Buttigieg does. He’s even-tempered, optimistic and cordial, the sort of “nice young man” parents coo over. His recent emphasis on his military service gives him yet another boost, providing evidence of personal courage, patriotism and compassion. “I don’t have to throw myself a military parade to see what a convoy looks like ’cause I was driving one around Afghanistan right about the time this president was taping Season 7 of ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’,” he told the Liberty and Justice dinner audience. “But I didn’t just come here to end the era of Donald Trump, I am here to launch the era that must come next.”

There are more than 75 days until the Iowa caucuses, with three debates, innumerable interviews and dozens of speeches in between. As a front-runner in a crowded contest, Buttigieg will soon be the object of attacks from his rivals and heightened scrutiny from the media. They will question his experience, his age and his low appeal (as of now) with African American voters. However, if what a sizable chunk of the Democratic electorate is looking for is an articulate, energetic moderate whose temperament, intellect and military service will provide a favorable contrast to President Trump, Buttigieg may be their man.

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