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

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Trump, McConnell to move fast to replace Ginsburg

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump will move within days to nominate his third Supreme Court justice in just three-plus short years — and shape the court for literally decades to come, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are ready to move to confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, just 46 days away, setting up one of the most consequential periods of our lifetimes, the sources say.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 30,393,591 — Total deaths: 950,344— Total recoveries: 20,679,272Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 6,722,699 — Total deaths: 198,484 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.