What is striking is the movement in the standings: “Compared to Monmouth’s last New Hampshire poll in September, Buttigieg’s support has grown by 10 points (from 10%) and Sanders’ support has increased by 6 points (from 12%). Warren’s support has dropped by 12 points (from 27%) and Biden’s has decreased by 6 points (from 25%).” In essence, it is a three-way tie with Buttigieg replacing Warren in the top tier.
Several aspects of the poll deserve notice.
First, Warren’s polling collapse still leaves her on Sanders’s heels. It would be a mistake to write her off, particularly with Biden and Sanders throwing potshots at each other. Instead of joining in the brawl as she did in the last debate with Buttigieg, she might choose to rise above the fray. So long as Biden is calling Sanders an unelectable socialist, she does not need to join the fight. However, if it does not otherwise come up at one of the debates, she might point out that Sanders never made good on his promise to release all his medical records. Interestingly, she seems to be struggling with non-college-educated voters. (Only 9 percent choose her.)
Second, though Sanders has rebounded recently, he is only back to where he started in May (18 percent), leaving open the question of whether he has a high floor and low ceiling of support. If you want to go way back, remember that in 2016, Sanders won New Hampshire with 60 percent of the vote.
Third, a significant number of voters still don’t know enough to register an opinion about Klobuchar (28 percent) or Buttigieg (17 percent), meaning they have room to grow. One can imagine that a strong showing in Iowa could add to their New Hampshire support.
Fourth, when pundits talk about the “tickets out of Iowa,” one might get the impression that there will be a limited number of candidates who will break out of the first vote. But in this case, that depends who is in the third and fourth slots. Whoever comes in fourth among the top four contenders may be on thin ice, but that may not be the case if the gap between candidates is negligible or if it is Klobuchar, who would score a moral victory and jump into the top tier by beating one of the current top four leaders.
Fifth, given all the pummeling Biden has received and the media chin-stroking proclaiming him a weak front-runner, this poll has to be encouraging. He is essentially tied in a state with a tiny number of African American voters, who break overwhelmingly for Biden. (The poll does not even break out the African American vote.)
Finally, it is true that five weeks is a lifetime in politics, particularly if there is an intervening contest. That said, if a candidate is still in the low single digits (and doesn’t qualify for the debate), it might be time to consider packing it in.