Last week, following the October Democratic debate, we tried to explore the question of whether Mayor Pete Buttigieg revived his campaign with a solid debate performance where he donned a more moderate, “Midwestern” line against some of his progressive competitors on stage. The post-debate analysis and reaction seemed to indicate that he helped himself, and his fundraising numbers jumped, but now we have some more concrete data that says Buttigieg is still keeping himself in the running, at least for the Iowa Democratic Caucus.

With some fresh post-debate polling of Iowa caucusgoers, the findings show a very wide open and fluid race among Hawkeye state Democrats. Sen. Elizabeth Waren was already meeting or surpassing former vice president Joe Biden in some polls, but now there is a new contender to deal with:

It’s a new three-way race in Iowa.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was initially seen as a long-shot presidential contender, has surged within striking distance of former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, a Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll finds.

Biden, long viewed as the Democratic frontrunner, is faltering in the wake of a debate performance last week that those surveyed saw as disappointing.

The poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, put Biden at 18%, Warren at 17% and Buttigieg at 13% among 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers.

The important thing to note is that this poll was taken after the debate which means we’re getting some feedback now as to where the race is headed over the next couple of months.

Warren’s still sitting within a statistical tie with Biden in Iowa, but Buttigieg moving just 4 points behind her shows he could easily be capable of a groundswell that pushes him higher.

The loser here, perhaps, is Sen. Bernie Sanders who seems to be struggling hard at this point.


Source: Suffolk University/USA TODAY telephone poll of 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers, taken Oct. 16-18. Margin of error ±4.4 percentage points.

What on earth is Tom Steyer doing at this level? Perhaps his advertising is truly paying big dividends since it was enough to get him on the debate stage again in November.

Sanders is not in a terrible spot, but he’s fallen dramatically from holding a strong second-place position behind Biden. It appears that Warren and Sanders have swapped places in Iowa, with Buttigieg now vacuuming up some of the peripheral support.

The LA Times is jumping on the “Midwestern” bandwagon with a story out today about how Sen. Amy Klobuchar, along with Buttigieg, are bent on playing the anti-Biden and anti-Warren card:

Just when it looked like the Democratic presidential contest was becoming a two-person race, a pair of Midwestern pragmatists are betting they can still rise by speaking to an unsatisfied slice of the electorate: voters who believe Sen. Elizabeth Warren is too far to the left, but think former Vice President Joe Biden is yesterday’s news.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has been building a robust campaign infrastructure and raking in piles of campaign cash, and during last week’s debate he grabbed the spotlight with an aggressive challenge to Warren.

“My lane has never been clearer,” he told reporters after speaking Friday at the University of Chicago. “If you want the left-most possible candidate, you’ve got a clear choice. If you want the candidate with the most years in Washington, you’ve got a clear choice. For everybody else, I just might be your person.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar also got a boost from the debate, where she gave her most effective pitch yet for being a pragmatic Midwestern alternative to the liberalism of Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been coming in third in most polls of late but moved to rekindle his campaign in the wake of his heart attack with a big rally in New York on Saturday.

Klobuchar took her post-debate campaign push to Iowa for an 11-city, three-day bus tour of the state.

“I don’t see this as flyover country. I see this as home,” the Minnesota senator told voters gathered in an Iowa home decor store on Friday. “A lot of people make a lot of promises, especially to Iowa. What really matters is their track record.”

We don’t know if the dynamic has truly changed until we see more polls confirming the trend. We’ve already seen post-debate bumps for certain candidates that fizzle out in days after voters calm down and return back to their original preferred candidate.

It’s possible, however, that Buttigieg and Klobuchar tapped into the uncertainty some Democratic voters feel about pushing such a fervent progressive message into the general election next year. Is it worth pushing as ideologically left as possible in the primary if the eventual nominee loses to Donald Trump? The flipside is whether Democratic voters want to compromise on some things in order to appeal more broadly, perhaps in the Midwest and rust belt states where Trump won in 2016. The answer surely lies somewhere in between those two extreme outcomes.

Whatever the outcome may be, Iowa remains an open race at this point, with Buttigieg in the mix and within striking distance of the top spot if he can capitalize on his newfound attention.