A new poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers has Joe Biden back in the front of the pack of Democratic candidates, with now a group of five contenders tightly competing for a win, place or show.
Biden comes in at 24% in the latest quarterly survey commissioned by Focus on Rural America and conducted by David Bender Research. Elizabeth Warren is not too far behind at 18%, while Pete Buttigieg sits at 16% and Bernie Sanders is at 14%.
Amy Klobuchar, who has seen encouraging momentum in Iowa the past two months, has climbed to 11%. That’s a very important mark for her to hit, as the 15% viability threshold makes it difficult for anyone polling below about 10% statewide to reach 15% in places where they may be stronger. Klobuchar has focused in on rural Iowa, completely a full 99-county tour lately, and should run above her statewide numbers in more rural precincts.
The poll also asked, regardless of candidate choice, who voters felt would best for rural America. Klobuchar won that measure with 29%. The next closest was Sanders at 15%.
The survey’s results are a departure from other recent polling in Iowa, most notably the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll from just before the debate that had Sanders in the lead and Biden in fourth place. This Binder Research poll, which has often shown Biden in a stronger position than others, essentially flips those two candidates’ standings.
Conducted between Jan. 15 and 18, with a sample size of 500 and margin of error of +/- 4.4%, this is one of the first Iowa polls to be conducted following last week’s debate in Des Moines.
It’s possible the conflict between Warren and Sanders over the past week and during the debate hurt both candidates. The poll had 51% of respondents saying they watched last week’s debate, though 73% said they saw at least some news coverage of it.
When asked if the debate performances made them want to not support someone, 12% said Warren and 11% said Sanders. The rest of the candidates were at 4% or less.
Focus on Rural America has been running quarterly polls throughout the last year on the Iowa Caucus. Here is the full horse race numbers and how things have changed for the candidates since their September poll:
Biden: 24 (-1)
Warren: 18 (-5)
Buttigieg: 16 (+4)
Sanders: 14 (+5)
Klobuchar: 11 (+3)
Steyer: 4 (+1)
Yang: 3 (+1)
All other candidates were at 1% or lower.
Sanders’ Iowa operation has been focusing their time on turning out less-likely, working-class voters to the caucus, which may be harder to poll. Most indications over the past few weeks is that he’s been moving up in Iowa at a time when several of his competitors are stalling.
Here, however, he still has ground to make up. Sanders’ campaign has been taking aim at Biden much more aggressively recently, either to slow him down in the early states or to prepare for what they eventually see as a likely one-on-one matchup between Sanders and Biden. If Biden wins Iowa, or at least just doesn’t come in an embarrassingly low place, it may be hard to dent his strong polling among African Americans and nationwide as the race heads into South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states.
This poll, as in past ones, asked about Democrats’ views on candidates competing for rural voters. Eight-six percent said that the Democratic nominee should still contest rural America, while only 9% thought those voters were a lost cause.
Focus on Rural America has also often looked at Donald Trump’s trade war and ethanol decisions and how that could impact the vote. Among likely Democratic caucus-goers, sixty-five percent thought that Trump’s decision to issue waivers to oil companies that hurt ethanol production would damage him politically in Iowa.
Interestingly, the poll also found the potential for a weird result on caucus night — that some voters may choose to form an Undecided group in their precinct. If their first choice did not reach viability, seventeen percent said they would remain uncommitted.
by Pat Rynard