A new Washington Post–ABC News poll out Wednesday shows Sen. Bernie Sanders extending his lead nationally after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders’ support grew 9 points to 32 percent, double the backing of Democrats’ second choice, Joe Biden, who registered 16 percent. Biden’s polling was halved since January after two pretty dismal returns, seriously denting his message of inevitability and electability. Sanders has built a double-digit lead in the next state to go to the polls this week, Nevada, but Biden’s still leading in South Carolina, though by a narrowing margin, and a win there could offer a potential course correction for the former vice president going into Super Tuesday March 3.
These new national numbers largely reflect the mood following the first two rounds of voting: Biden slumping, Sanders picking up steam, and Bloomberg, now polling at 14 percent, starting to poke his head into the national conversation. Two interesting numbers in the poll that run counter to the horse race momentum narrative is the holding support of Elizabeth Warren at 12 percent. If you read a newspaper or watched TV over the past several weeks, you would have thought her campaign was on life support. Her national support, however, has maintained and put her in the mix for second choice at the moment among Democratic voters, even though she has yet to get all that many actual Democratic votes. She’ll need to change that in Nevada, where a second-place finish is conceivable, otherwise she’s on a trajectory to be a perpetual fourth-place finisher, and her campaign, along with her 10-plus percent support, will slowly fade into the sunset.
The other interesting non-narrative development is Pete Buttigieg, who only managed 8 percent in the WaPo-ABC poll. Buttigieg seems to have willed himself into the race with his essentially dead heat *win* in Iowa, which he parlayed into a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire. But his national numbers remain in Amy Klobuchar range (7 percent). That makes Nevada particularly important for the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor because despite all the recent heat from his campaign, a distant finish in Nevada could land Buttigieg back at square one going into South Carolina, where he has struggled to gain traction. Then the race goes to Super Tuesday, a more national contest, where national polling numbers might prove more directly relevant.