Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are locked in a dead heat in the final Iowa caucus polls, released early Sunday, leaving the outcome of Monday’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest up for grabs.
Although the Des Moines Register abruptly pulled their poll Saturday night, after discovering that former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg may have been left off some questionnaires because of user error, both Monmouth and CBS News reported results in battleground tracker polls that put Sanders just one point ahead of Biden going into the final stretch.
According to CBS News/YouGov, Sanders has the support of 26% of likely caucus-goers, with Biden one point back at 25%. Buttigieg is also in the running for the lead at 22%, inside the poll’s 4% margin of error. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who once hoped for a win in Iowa to kick off an upstart campaign in early primary states, now trails well behind at 15%.
If Warren gets 15% or less in the caucus Monday evening, she will not move on to the second round of voting and her caucus-goers will have to redistribute themselves to more prominent campaigns. Warren, likely still hoping for a sudden surge, has yet to suggest where her voters should go if she does not make the cut.
The Des Moines Register poll was also expected to show Sanders in the lead but still within the margin of error, and that tracks with the Monmouth poll released late last week, which showed Sanders and Biden within two points with Biden in the lead, and the Iowa State University/Civiqs poll released Friday, which had Sanders up two points on Biden.
IOWA DEM CAUCUS POLL: #2020Dem preference:
1st choice (1st+2nd combined)
23% (39) @JoeBiden
21% (32) @BernieSanders
16% (29) @PeteButtigieg
15% (34) @EWarren
10% (22) @AmyKlobuchar
4% (10) @TomSteyer
3% (7) @AndrewYang#IowaCaucus https://t.co/cFn1ZAo3gj pic.twitter.com/KLDdFGtVEQ
— MonmouthPoll (@MonmouthPoll) January 29, 2020
The Real Clear Politics polling average for Iowa shows Sanders with a three point lead on Biden, 23% to 20%.
RCP Iowa Poll Average
Sanders 23.8 (+3.6)
Buttigieg 22.3 (+3)
Warren 22.5 (+5)
Biden 24 (+8)
— Political Polls (@PpollingNumbers) January 31, 2020
Voters in Iowa, though, are waiting until the very last minute to make the crucial decision of whom to support.
“[J]ust over a third of those expressing a candidate choice say they’ve “definitely” made up their minds,” CBS News said. “Sanders has the most solidly committed supporters, and this has been true in recent weeks: 48% say they’ve definitely made up their minds. That’s higher than Biden’s 27% “definite” supporters, which is a potential vulnerability for Biden in the final stretch. Another is that his supporters are relatively less enthusiastic than those of other top candidates; fewer than half are.”
The polls clearly show an upward trend for Sanders, but there’s one problem: any candidate who does not hit 15% in the first round of the caucus will have to release their caucus-goers, who will then move to candidates who did clear the 15% threshold. Biden is likely to get a boost from supporters of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Sanders may get a boost from Warren’s supporters. Tech mogul Andrew Yang has authorized his caucus-goers to move to Sanders if he doesn’t clear the first round.
Buttigieg may benefit from his comprehensive Iowa campaign operation targeting new Democratic voters. Since the 15% threshold is determined at each individual caucus location, candidates who can push caucus-goers to the polls in developing constituencies will stay in the game longer. Joe Biden had a significant win on this front on Saturday, when one of Iowa’s major labor unions, the 200,000-member-strong Amalgamated Transit Union, switched its allegiance from Sanders to Biden, handing many, if not most, of the union’s quarter million caucus-goers to the former VP.