December Straw Poll: Warren Back on Top as Biden & Klobuchar Grow

December 24, 2019

Most of Kamala Harris’ Supporters Now Favor Those Three

Klobuchar’s Momentum Poses a Threat to Buttigieg & Biden in Iowa

By Al Giordano

More evidence that Kamala Harris’ candidacy was coalitional can now be seen in how her supporters have not monolithically moved to any single second choice option. Harris won our November straw poll of subscribers with 44 percent of the vote prior to dropping out of the contest in early December.

Most of her support from our subscriber base has moved fairly evenly toward three remaining candidates. In Harris’ absence Elizabeth Warren has moved into the lead from 32 percent last month to 42 percent today, an increase of 10 percent. Joe Biden has inched up from 11 percent last month to 23 percent in this survey. And Amy Klobuchar, riding the momentum of a good debate last week, has caught fire. Last month she counted with just one percent support. In our latest poll, begun after the December 19 debate, she experienced the largest growth, now at 18 percent. She got the largest piece of Harris’ straw poll voters: 40 percent of them.

Julian Castro received a small bump in support – from two percent last month to five percent this round. Turnout was also 5 percent lower in the December straw poll than in November’s vote: perhaps a sign that around 15 percent of Harris supporters from this group of grassroots volunteers, small donors, organizers and opinion leaders are still processing her exit and not ready to support anyone else at this point.

Two percent of our respondents favor “someone else,” Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders each received one percent, and 8 percent indicated they have no preference yet – up from five percent last month.

Klobuchar Enjoys the Beginnings of Potential Iowa Momentum

Minnesota US Senator Amy Klobuchar’s geographic and cultural proximity to next-door Iowa, where the first-in-the-nation caucus will be held on February 3, and her ability to poach moderate (who might also be called “pragmatic” or “electability voters,” not all are at all ideologically centrist) Democratic supporters from Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg there, have set her up in good position to pull off an early surprise. There is some question about timing, however, in today’s fast-moving news cycles: Might Klobuchar be peaking too early?

Klobuchar will need another strong debate in January, and she may find a sweet spot on national TV as a member of the Judiciary Committee if Senate impeachment hearings begin prior to the Iowa vote. What Klobuchar does not have, post-Iowa, though is the level of funding and corresponding campaign apparatus that Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg have achieved, or a Super PAC like Joe Biden’s (or the deep pockets of Michael Bloomberg or Tom Steyer) to blanket the airwaves in more populous and expensive states going forward, or the ground level organization that Warren in particular has built in the Super Tuesday states – if Warren does well enough in the four early contests to still be a contender by March 3 when 14 states and territories will vote including delegate rich California and Texas, among others, when 1,357 of the Democratic National Convention’s 3,979 pledged delegates will be selected on a single day.

Might Pete Buttigieg Tank Before Iowa?

Klobuchar may also benefit from indications in the data that Pete Buttigieg, in the December 19 event, was the sole candidate to see his net favorability go down as a result of the debate. The data on that can be found in the 538/Ipsos pre-and-post-debate polling numbers.

It is atypical – and ought to be of major concern for the Buttigieg campaign – for a first-time presidential candidate to see his or her favorability go down after the national exposure of a televised debate. Indeed, each of the other six candidates on that stage saw their net favorability go up by between 1.9 percent (Biden) to 6.1 percent (Klobuchar) to 6.3 percent (Andrew Yang). Even Tom Steyer, who did not have a particularly strong or memorable debate performance, saw his favorability rise by 3.1 percent. The exposure to first-time viewers normally accomplishes that for all involved. That Buttigieg nonetheless lost net favorability by 1.9 percent while he is becoming known to the Democratic primary electorate (15 percent still have no idea who he is) is a troubling indication for his prospects going forward.

Buttigieg has recently led in the aggregate of Iowa polls with an average of 22 percent support. In the most recent Des Moines Register/Selzer poll – considered the gold standard – the South Bend, Indiana mayor enjoyed 25 percent, nine points ahead of the next strongest contender, Warren. If Buttigieg does tank as a result of events set in motion by last week’s debate – something that has happened throughout the modern history of primaries after a fresh new candidate developed early momentum only to disappoint – let’s look at where his voters might go.

According to Morning Consult, which has polled 7,000+ voters nationwide over the past week, the current second choices of Buttigieg supporters are Biden (22 percent), Warren 19 percent and Klobuchar (10 percent) in that order.

If Klobuchar “gets hot at the end” (something Iowa voters are finely tuned to rally behind, as that dynamic also makes them and their caucus more nationally relevant) she’ll be well positioned to pick up that part of his vote which is ideologically moderate (that which currently lists Biden as second choice), while Warren’s demographics suggest she’ll be better able to attract that part of Buttigieg’s vote which is college-educated. As with Kamala Harris’ voters, Buttigieg’s support would not likely go monolithically to any one candidate, but will favor some more than others if support for him weakens.

Or Buttigieg – who counts with an ample campaign war chest and large staff – could also stabilize and remain on top in Iowa. The caucuses are six weeks away but that is a relative eternity in current-day news cycles, one that is also now interrupted for many voters by Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations and travel.

Bernie Sanders, although grouped in Iowa’s top tier along with Buttigieg, Biden and Warren, is not threatened by a potential Klobuchar rise and might become helped by it if Klobuchar begins to cut into Warren’s support there. Any perception that Warren’s support could weaken could cause some of it to go to Sanders (31 percent of Warren’s voters list Sanders as second choice, compared to 23 percent for Biden and 13 percent for Buttigieg, according to Morning Consult). To have any shot at winning Iowa, Sanders would need Warren to fall below the 15 percent threshold in a critical mass of precinct caucuses. If that were to happen, though, it is not out of the question that Sanders could surprise in Iowa, especially if the rest of the field has evenly divided the moderate and “electability” voters who mostly aren’t considering the Vermont senator at all.

On that note, don’t put too much stock in any polls taken between now and the New Year: The holidays are a notoriously bad time to get a representative polling sample. Only once January begins as people return to their regular routines will public opinion on the primary contest begin to concretize. Until then, enjoy your holidays. I wish you and yours a relaxing and pleasant year’s end. I’ll still be working, though: Subscribers will soon receive my 2020 preview looking ahead at what to expect as the voting begins for real.

You must be logged in to view this content. If you are not a member, register here!