On the Democratic side, former vice president Joe Biden gets 26 percent, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 21 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 17 percent. That represents a significant shake-up in the relative standing of the top three. In November, Biden and Warren were tied at 23 percent (with Sanders at 20 percent) while in September, Warren led at 28 percent, followed by Biden at 25 percent and Sanders at 15 percent. As for the rest of the pack, Pete Buttigieg gets 8 percent, and Mike Bloomberg “enters the race at 5% support nationally. He had 2% support in March and 4% in January when he was included as one of the potential contenders for the Democratic nomination. Other candidates registering support in the current poll are Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (4%), [Andrew] Yang (3%), New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (2%) and seven other candidates who earn 1% or less.”
Right now Democrats are in a practical mood. “Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters continue to prefer a candidate who would be stronger against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues (56%) than say they want a nominee who aligns with them on the issues but would have a hard time beating Trump (30%).” Among voters prioritizing electability, “31% support Biden in the ‘horse race,’ followed by Warren (18%), Sanders (17%), Buttigieg (8%), Klobuchar (6%), and Bloomberg (4%).”
The most significant development has been Warren’s slide, down 6 points from November and 11 points from September. It’s hard to tell if Sanders has risen because Warren has stumbled or if his bounce after his heart attack robbed her of precious support from the left wing of the party. It is noteworthy that in this poll, she lags Sanders by 10 points among nonwhites, by 11 points among men, by 25 points among voters 18 to 49 years old, and by 13 points among those without college degrees. In short, Warren has not resonated much beyond people just like her — older, progressive, white women. If this keeps up, her problems will get worse as the primary moves to states with higher percentages of nonwhite voters.
The second noteworthy trend is the flip side of Warren. Sanders is doing very well. Not only is he back in second place in this and most other national polls (17.4 vs. Warren’s 14.8 in the RealClearPolitics averages), but he is in a strong second place in most New Hampshire and Iowa polls. The bad news for him is that if it boils down to a one-on-one match-up against Biden, who has overwhelming support among African Americans, the race very likely will be a repeat of 2016 when these voters lifted Hillary Clinton to the nomination. Alternatively, a one-on-one match-up against Buttigieg or Klobuchar might cause a rally-around-the-electable-candidate phenomenon, including from progressives who fear Sanders would hand the election to Trump.
A third phenomenon is the lack of success for Booker, Julián Castro, Yang and Tom Steyer. None of them hit the 4 percent threshold for this poll to count in qualifying for the December debate. So there is a very good chance none will appear. (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard does not look as though she will make it either, but she preemptively decided she wasn’t going to show up.) Steyer can self-fund indefinitely, but you have to wonder how much longer the others are going to remain in the race and whether, especially in the case of Booker, it might hurt his future prospects for higher office.
Fourth, the latecomers, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, have had mixed results. Patrick has 1 percent, and no one has yet to identify a “Deval Patrick voter.” Bloomberg, spending millions and millions of dollars on ads, has managed to get his number up to 5 percent. The question remains whether he can do any better than that number, roughly the same threshold Steyer was able to achieve by massive ad buys. Bloomberg’s big problem is that he is hugely unpopular. “Bloomberg has a 26% favorable and 54% unfavorable rating among all registered voters. Bloomberg earns a split decision (40% favorable and 39% unfavorable) from Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, but has a decidedly negative rating among Republicans and Republican-leaners (12%-72%) as well as among independents who do not lean toward either party (26%-51%)." His future in the primary depends on all viable moderates collapsing, which is possible but unlikely. It is interesting to consider what would have happened had he entered the race months ago and perhaps accepted donations so as to qualify for the debates.
Finally, Klobuchar is only at 4 percent, but that is double her November result. Her results in the first two states are significantly better than her national poll numbers. Her chances rest with Biden and Buttigieg collapsing and the party turning to her as the electable nominee over Sanders. Months ago, that seemed like a remote possibility. Now? Not so much.
UPDATE: Thanks to a national Quinnipiac poll, Yang has qualified for the December debate, making him the seventh participant.