2020年1月24日 星期五

On Politics Poll Watch: Sanders on the Move

Joe Biden still leads our polling average, but Bernie Sanders is gaining strength at a good time.

Welcome to Poll Watch from On Politics. Every Friday, we’ll bring you the latest data and analysis to track the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Current state of the race

Arrows show recent changes in value or rank. See more detailed data here.

Who’s up? Who’s down? Here’s the latest.

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By Alexander Burns

National Political Correspondent

Bernie Sanders is on the move.

After stalling or slipping in the polls for most of 2019, Mr. Sanders is now closing hard just before Democrats cast their first votes. He is moving up in our national polling average, and the last few rounds of early-state surveys have confirmed that he is strongly positioned in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Combined with his formidable fund-raising, his movement in the polls suggests Mr. Sanders has a good chance of seizing an early advantage in the leadoff primary and caucus states.

Mr. Sanders continues to trail Joe Biden in our national polling average, and the former vice president could prove difficult to dislodge even if Mr. Sanders bests him in the opening phase of the campaign. Mr. Biden’s national numbers have been stubbornly flat and no other candidate has come close to matching his support with black voters, in crucial South Carolina and beyond. And Mr. Sanders’s national gains also come from a small number of recent polls, so it is possible they are overstated in our average.

But as Mr. Sanders rises, Mr. Biden could face new pressure to show that he can unite the moderate wing of his party before his far-left rival gains a meaningful advantage. Right now, voters on the center-left are still fractured between several options — not only Mr. Biden but also Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg and even Elizabeth Warren, whose following includes not just populist progressives but also more moderate women.

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If Mr. Biden cannot consolidate support on the center-left against Mr. Sanders, it is not currently clear who else is best positioned to do so. Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar have yet to demonstrate any appeal to minority voters, while Ms. Warren continues to struggle to regain the momentum that nearly made her a front-runner last fall. Tom Steyer, a wealthy wild-card candidate, has shown some signs of strength in Nevada and South Carolina but barely registers in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Should the early states produce a muddy outcome, Mr. Bloomberg’s extraordinary campaign spending in the Super Tuesday primaries in March could take on new significance. Besides Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg is the only candidate to gain meaningful support in our national polling average since Thanksgiving, and his gains may be more pronounced in the subset of states where he is spending the most money.

Coming Monday: A new morning newsletter

Beginning Monday, we’re revamping the On Politics A.M. newsletter as the 2020 primary season gets underway to bring you the latest campaign analysis, insights and news from our political reporters and Times correspondents around the country.

Our goals are to take you inside the state of the race each morning and to illuminate the candidates, ideas, places and voters who will help shape and determine the elections in November. The writing, design and photography will give the newsletter a new feel, and it will keep evolving. As always, we will bring you links to the day’s top news stories in politics and Washington.

We hope you’ll enjoy it, and we’d love to hear your feedback. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Four reasons anything could happen in Iowa

An event for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Ames, Iowa, this week.Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

The Iowa presidential caucuses are usually a nail-biter.

But with a sardine-packed field of Democratic candidates and the Senate’s impeachment trial cluttering some of their schedules, clarity this year is especially scarce.

Two recent Iowa polls — one last week from Monmouth University and the CNN/Des Moines Register survey released a few days earlier — gave two differing pictures of the race. But both found that most of the state’s likely Democratic caucusgoers had not yet decided firmly on a candidate.

In each poll, only about two in five Democratic voters said they had reached a final decision. That’s an unusually low number, said J. Ann Selzer, who runs the CNN/Register poll — even though the state’s voters are known for their late decision-making.

The outcome in Iowa is likely to reshape the race — somehow. Here are four reasons it’s so hard to tell what will happen.

The caucuses’ design drives indecision

Ms. Selzer said the way the caucuses are set up can encourage voters to avoid settling on a hard choice.

In Iowa, caucusgoers whose candidate fails to meet a 15 percent threshold of support at their caucus site must choose to back another candidate or forfeit their vote. “You’re going to go into the room and you know you might have to change your mind,” Ms. Selzer said. “It encourages Democrats to keep an open mind, and have more than one candidate that they might support.”

This election cycle, in which the four leading candidates have frequently traded places atop Iowa polls — and a few more have mounted spirited long-shot bids — settling on a top choice is an even more complicated proposition than usual.

The impeachment trial has slanted the playing field

Another complicating factor: Three candidates with chances for a strong showing are senators, meaning they will be spending most of the remaining days before the caucuses in Washington at President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“The race hasn’t really taken shape,” Doug Sosnik, a longtime Democratic strategist, said in an interview. “Impeachment contributes to the backdrop of uncertainty.”

Typically, about a week before the caucuses, candidates will shift from town hall events and more intimate voter forums to larger rallies. But for Senators Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the opportunity to hold major events will be limited.

Mr. Sosnik said the trial’s effects might go beyond simply keeping certain candidates off the campaign trail. “It’s been a blockage of focus on the race,” he said. “I think when the national press has largely been focused on Washington, not Iowa, it has already hurt the second-tier candidates and candidates at the bottom of the first tier trying to break through.”

The polling picture remains in flux

No nonpartisan polls of Iowa have come out in the past week, and the most recent ones tell conflicting stories. The CNN/Register poll showed Mr. Sanders at 20 percent support, giving him an edge over his rivals (though his lead over Ms. Warren, with 17 percent, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., with 16 percent, fell within the survey’s margin of error). The Monmouth poll, by contrast, found former Vice President Joe Biden at 24 percent and Mr. Sanders at 18 percent.

To the degree that the situation in Iowa reflects national trends, there have been some good signs of late for Mr. Sanders. A nationwide CNN poll released on Tuesday showed Mr. Sanders at 27 percent, three points above Mr. Biden (again, this spread falls within the poll’s margin of error).

Mr. Biden’s strength, meanwhile, has proved remarkably durable, despite a relatively low-key campaign. The Real Clear Politics polling average in Iowa still gives him a clear advantage, putting him nearly four points up on Mr. Sanders and slightly further ahead of Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg.

This year’s caucus may result in a split decision

The caucuses on Feb. 3 will help to set the tone for the first stage of the primary race, providing those who finish strongly with a jolt of momentum — even if they don’t land in first place. And this year, changes to the caucuses’ reporting process could mean that more candidates stand to benefit.

For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party will report the raw, statewide vote count for all the candidates, as well as the total number of delegates awarded to them.

“You might have one candidate who gets more delegates and another who attracted more people to actually show up for them,” Ms. Selzer said. “So you might have more than one kind of victory.”

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