We’ve been mostly looking at national polls of Democratic primary voters following the first debate but what about state polls in the early caucus and primary hot spots? The latest out of Iowa is showing a dramatic shift in the race and some early warning signs for the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The best news comes for Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both candidates seeing big gains in Iowa. Meanwhile, Sanders has continued on a downward trend and hasn’t been able to recapture his early momentum which seemed insurmountably strong.

Biden still leads Iowa

The latest numbers from a Suffolk University poll with their polling partner USAToday:

In a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll, Biden continues to lead the field, backed by 24% of those who say they are likely to attend the Democratic caucuses in Iowa that will open the presidential contests next year. Harris jumped to second place, at 16%, leapfrogging over Sanders, whose support sagged to single digits. At 9%, he finished fourth, behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 13%.

The new standings are hardly set in stone. Twenty-one percent are undecided. Six of 10 who have decided say they might change their mind before the caucuses. One in four say their minds are firmly made up. The second set of debates, scheduled for the end of the month in Detroit, could upend the horse race again.

Here’s an easier to read graphic of how the numbers shake out:

Iowa Caucus Poll June 2019
Source: Suffolk University poll of 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, taken Friday (6/28) through Monday (7/1), has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points

Will Biden’s lead hold?

Perhaps the better question is whether the upward trajectory of Harris and Warren will continue to increase? Biden isn’t going to be able to do much right now to improve his standing until the next debate rolls around and he gets another shot to convince voters and donors that he actually does have what it takes to compete in this high-stakes primary.

The survey has some sobering findings for Biden, a familiar figure in the state. His level of support didn’t change from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll taken last month, but among those who watched him debate, more than four in 10 say he did worse than they expected. Among all of those surveyed, he is the second choice of 11%.

Harris saw her support more than double compared with the poll in June, to 16% from 7%. She is the second choice of 17% – a telling measure of the potential breadth of a candidate’s support. When first and second choices are combined, Biden only narrowly edges Harris, 35% to 33%.

For anyone who believes the debates are a sideshow, just look at the data buried in the poll. Biden’s skating on thinner ice with voters due to his shaky debate performance. They’re not dumping him overboard just yet, but they’re on notice wondering whether he will be able to challenge Donald Trump next year as a formidable foe rather than a weak debater.

What’s happening to Bernie?

Back in March and June, we reported on polling from Iowa where Bernie sat comfortably in second-place behind Biden. However, his latest numbers from Suffolk are not a good sign for his prospects in the Hawkeye State.

Some analysts, since the debate last week, have pointed out that in Bernie’s first answer to the very first question of the debate, he conceded that he would have to raise taxes on some middle-class families in order to pay for his social programs, including the heavily-touted Medicare For All plan.

That comment alone, which is basically a campaign platform to run on which blatantly includes tax increases in exchange for expanded government programs could be a hard sell in many parts of the country. In general, Medicare For All sounds good on paper, and most of the other candidates support the plan or something similar, but there is a price tag with every new program. Elizabeth Warren is grappling with the same issue.

Bernie argued that tax increases would be offset by the fact that families would no longer be paying high health insurance premiums for their healthcare or have any out-of-pocket costs, a point that shouldn’t be overlooked when factoring in how these plans would affect the economy or average take-home wages. However, convincing voters to take that plunge requires a skilled salesman, a trait which sometimes eludes Bernie given his much more abrupt and straightforward style of spitting out his well-rehearsed anti-corporate rhetoric.

In 2015, on stage standing solely next to Hillary Clinton in the early primary debates, Bernie stood out as the most progressive option. In 2019, however, the buffet is literally filled with candidates for progressive Democratic primary voters to pick from.


  1. The idea of this story is that it doesn’t matter what the national polls say, just as your vote only counts in your state, but is meaningless in the national tally. So we need to find polls of the early primary states, to see how candidates will fare in each primary.

    The “latest poll” (Suffolk/USA Today) continued to show Biden with an 8 point lead over everybody.

    But there’s a”later than latest” poll (Focus on rural America):


    It now shows Biden in third place in Iowa:

    “Warren had 20 percent,
    Harris at 18 percent and
    Biden 17 percent.
    Bernie Sanders came in fourth at 12 percent.

    “In September, in the same poll,
    Biden was walloping the field; with 37 percent support,
    he led Sanders, his next closest competitor, by 25 points.”

  2. This is delicious to watch. I can’t wait for the Democratic debates in Detroit late this month. The Miami debates were pretty mild but I anticipate that there will be a lot of blood letting in the second debates. Democratic candidates will have their dirty laundry aired by their opponents. The eventual winner will be so battered, tarnished and bloodied by the end that he, she, it will be destroyed by President Trump.?

    • I could see Trump narrowly winning in 2020, especially if he refrains from a belligerent unnecessary war against Iran. That could be less bad for the country than any Democrat with a chance of being the nominee, to be sure……. But military spending and domestic spending alike are out of control, fed gov debt keeps growing rapidly, and the dollar’s reserve status is being actively and increasingly effectively challenged. Workforce participation rate nationwide is the lowest in decades, not just attributable to aging of the population, while long-term disability claims and long-term part-time or benefit-less work are more common than ever….. I’ll see a dark horse like Andrew Yang beating Mike Pence during a deepening recession in 2024. Five more years of accelerating automation and advancing artificial intelligence, perhaps another five or six million jobs replaced by machines/robots/software in transportation, fast-food, retail, assembly, warehouse, and clerical jobs gone.

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