Iowa Poll: Not even in the race, Joe Biden leads herd of Democrats; Bernie Sanders close behind

Joe Biden has yet to enter the 2020 presidential race — he’s been weighing the decision in a closely watched will-he-or-won’t-he saga — but the former vice president still leads the pack in Iowa.

According to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers, 27 percent say Biden is their first choice for president. That’s down slightly from the 32 percent who said the same in December, but it tops the 19 other declared and potential candidates tested.

Biden has a 2-percentage-point advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though that’s within the poll’s 4.9 percentage point margin of error, other numbers bode well for the former vice president and suggest a stronger advantage over Sanders. The poll of 401 likely Democratic caucusgoers was conducted March 3 through 6.

“If I’m Joe Biden sitting on the fence and I see this poll, this might make me want to jump in,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “I just can’t find much in this poll that would be a red flag for Joe Biden.”

Seventy percent of respondents say they believe Biden’s political views are neither too liberal nor too conservative, but instead, are “about right” — the highest percentage of any candidate tested.

And 64 percent — including a majority in every demographic group — say they think Biden’s experience is an asset and he should enter the race. About a third of respondents say his time has passed and he should not run.

“He’s got a lot of years of political experience — being a senator for over 35 years, being the vice president,” said Travis Underwood, a 30-year-old Ottumwa resident and poll respondent who said Biden is his first choice for president. “And he’s very charismatic. It seems like today we’re in an era where it’s all partisan politics. There are not too many out there who are middle-of-the-road. Biden is moderate, and that means he actually talks about issues.”

Biden has spent months mulling whether to make a third run at the White House after failed bids in 1988 and 2008 — setting deadlines for himself and then blowing past them. But a decision now appears imminent. According to a report from The New York Times, one Biden strategist has been telling Democrats that Biden is 95 percent committed to running.

Sanders formally announced his candidacy last month and visited Iowa for the first time as a declared 2020 candidate this month. According to the poll, 25 percent now say Sanders is their first choice for president — up 6 percentage points since December.

Right now, the contest in Iowa could be characterized as a two-person race. The next-closest challenger, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, trails Sanders by 16 percentage points.

Support has ticked up slightly for Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris is in fourth place. Warren is now at 9 percent, up from 8 percent, and Harris is at 7 percent, up from 5 percent.

Next is former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who has seen his support fall by about half since December as he continues weighing a possible run. Five percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers now say he is their first choice for president — down from 11 percent in December.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tie with 3 percent. No other candidate gets more than 1 percent, and some — including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Congressman Eric Swalwell — were not named as a first choice by a single poll respondent.


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