Jan 11, 2020

The deeply divided Democrats

Photos: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe, Ron Adar/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media, Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency and Alex Wroblewski via Getty Images

Democratic voters remain stubbornly divided on the top candidates in the four critical early states — and basically split in half between liberal and more centrist candidates.

Why it matters: A slew of new polls illuminates why many top Democrats think the 2020 race will be a long slog — and culminate with a fierce ideological battle between Sanders-style socialism and Biden-style tempered liberalism.

The data: New polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina show the tempered-liberalism trifecta of Joe Biden + Pete Buttigieg + Amy Klobuchar is getting, in total, roughly the same share as the unabashedly liberal wing of Bernie Sanders + Elizabeth Warren + Tom Steyer.

  • This dynamic has not changed much in recent months.

The latest: With three weeks until Caucus Day, Sanders leads the gold-standard Iowa Poll for the first time:

  • Sanders drew 20% of likely caucus-goers, with three rivals bunched right behind him: Warren (17%), Buttigieg (16%) and Biden (15%).
  • The Des Moines Register, which sponsors the poll with CNN and Mediacom, notes that each of the top four has led the poll at some point this cycle.

Other early states: In New Hampshire, a Monmouth University poll out Thursday had a statistical tie among Buttigieg, Biden, Sanders and Warren.

  • Fox News polls at the end of the week had Biden ahead by double digits in South Carolina, and vying with Sanders for the lead in Nevada.

Our thought bubble: Biden and Sanders are the nominal frontrunners for the first states — and nationally among black voters, according to new Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

  • Warren is stagnating; Buttigieg has a serious problem with black voters. 

Go deeper: Top 4 Democrats statistically neck and neck in Iowa presidential poll

Go deeper

Top 4 Democrats statistically neck and neck in Iowa presidential poll

Biden and Warren participate at the sixth Democratic primary debate. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders has gained momentum to become the first choice among likely Iowa caucus-goers three weeks before the nation's first presidential contest, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg have slowed in the latest poll from The Des Moines Register, Mediacom and CNN.

Why it matters: But taking the margin of error into account, the poll shows the Vermont senator in a statistical dead heat with Warren, Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Go deeperArrowJan 10, 2020

What to watch for at tonight's Democratic debate

Candidates at the last Democratic debate in Iowa. Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

The biggest story heading into New Hampshire is Pete Buttigieg's meteoric rise, which has the potential to shift the dynamics of the primary field and is rattling his rivals to his left and right.

The state of play: Following his strong showing in Iowa, Buttigieg jumped 12 percentage points in a New Hampshire poll between Monday (the day of the Iowa caucus) and Thursday, and his opponents are saying his name more regularly in their stump speeches throughout the state.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

What to watch in tonight’s Democratic debate

The spin room at the debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Kerem Yucel/Getty Images

Tensions over gender and racial politics, foreign policy and electability set the stage for Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, the last before the Feb. 3 caucuses.

Why it matters: Three weeks out, polling gives Bernie Sanders momentum, but shows Joe Biden, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg within striking distance of each other in the first contest. Biden still leads nationally.

Go deeperArrowJan 14, 2020