The Slatest

New Poll Shows Pete Buttigieg Surging to First Place in Iowa

Democratic presidential hopeful, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg speaks at the California Democratic Party 2019 Fall Endorsing Convention in Long Beach, California on November 16, 2019.
Democratic presidential hopeful, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg speaks at the California Democratic Party 2019 Fall Endorsing Convention in Long Beach, California on November 16, 2019.
CHRIS CARLSON/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg is the new Democratic front-runner in Iowa. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana has a commanding lead in the state as 25 percent of would-be Democratic caucusgoers picked him as their first choice for president. That marks a huge, 16-point jump in support since September. The other top three candidates are all virtually tied for second place, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders each at 15 percent. Of the three candidates, Sanders is the only who gained support since September, rising four points from the earlier poll. Warren, on the other hand, dropped six percentage points and Biden lost five points of support.

After the top four, no other candidate has support in the double digits. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is next in line with 6 percent while Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang all clock in at 3 percent.

Buttigieg’s numbers show a big payoff to the way the mayor has increased his investment in Iowa, betting that his views would resonate with voters in the state. In the last few months, Buttigieg has doubled his staff in Iowa and opened more than 20 field offices. But all that time and money still hasn’t helped Buttigieg convince voters he is the candidate to most likely beat Trump. Biden still holds the top spot there with 52 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers saying they’re almost certain or fairly confident Biden could beat Trump. Among Biden’s supporters the confidence rate increases to 57 percent, far higher than the 27 percent of Buttigieg supporters who say that about their candidate.

The rise of Buttigieg also suggests that Democratic voters in Iowa are leaning favorably toward the centrist agenda espoused by the mayor. When it comes to the mayor, 63 percent of likely caucusgoers say his views are about right, with only 7 percent saying he is too liberal and 13 percent too conservative. Biden comes in second place with 55 percent describing his views as “about right,” with 28 percent saying his views are too conservative. Another example of how Democrats in Iowa seem to be coming on the moderate side of the divide in the party is that 52 percent say they would prefer policies that have a good chance of becoming law. That is compared to 36 percent who want the nominee to push for big changes that have a lower chance of becoming a reality.

Despite the good numbers for Buttigieg, things could certainly change before the caucus. Only 28 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers say their mind is definitely made up about who they will support. In contrast, 61 percent said they are open to changing their mind and 8 percent don’t even have a first choice candidate yet.