In any event, one would think that the Iowa results — to the extent we know what they are — should have no effect on New Hampshire voters or the rest of the race. If Iowa is a wash, everyone starts again, this time in the Granite State, right? Somewhat surprisingly, however, there has been considerable movement in the New Hampshire polls since Iowa.
The WBZ-Suffolk University-Boston Globe tracking poll reported Thursday that Buttigieg has surged to 23 percent, only a point behind Sanders. On Feb. 3, Buttigieg was at 11 percent, while Sanders stood at 24 percent.
In Emerson College’s tracking poll, Buttigieg has increased 11 points since Monday and now garners 23 percent, while Sanders has held steady at 32 percent during the same period. Among voters 50 and older, Buttigieg now leads with 31 percent, 11 points ahead of Sanders and 14 percent ahead of former vice president Joe Biden.
Yet another poll finds it a four-point race with Sanders at 24 percent and Buttigieg at 20 percent. The Monmouth University poll reports: “Sanders has experienced steady growth (from 12% in September and 18% in January). Buttigieg is holding steady from last month (20%) but up from the fall (10%). Two former polling leaders have seen their support slip — Biden from 25% in September and 19% in January, and [Elizabeth] Warren from 27% in September and 15% in January.” Amy Klobuchar is up to 9 percent, compared with 6 percent in January. Still, 51 percent say they could change their mind.
What does all this mean? Regardless of whether we know the precise outcome in Iowa, the general perception that Sanders and Buttigieg did well while Warren and Biden did not has taken hold. Part of the shift in poll numbers is attributable to the bandwagon effect that draws voters to the “winner,” but it might also reflect the media coverage prompted by the Iowa caucus results, however inexact. Moreover, Buttigieg might now been seen as the viable, non-Sanders choice, supplanting Biden. If so, he will continue to rise as Biden and others deflate.
The data raise three questions: Can Buttigieg continue his surge and pick off other candidates’ supporters (as he did between the first and second alignments in Iowa)? Can Sanders attract anyone outside his base, or does the high-floor/low-ceiling description of his support hold true? Can Biden and/or Warren regain their footing? Friday’s debate might help determine the answers to all three.