NASHUA, N.H. — Former vice president Joe Biden has consistently led the Democratic primary field in national polls dating back to December 2018, thanks in large part to his popularity among voters who recognize him as the guy standing next to Barack Obama.
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For the first time ever, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has taken the lead in the RealClearPolitics national polling average. Polling reveals Sanders's newfound status as the Democratic frontrunner following a (somewhat) victorious performance in the Iowa caucuses. A win in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday—an all but certain outcome—would further strengthen his position as the favorite to win the nomination.
The most recent national poll, published by Monmouth on Tuesday, shows Sanders leading the Democratic field at 26 percent, with Biden a distant second at 16 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg are tied at 13 percent.
Sanders now leads the national polling average at 23.8 percent. Biden sits in second at 19.8 percent, down from a high of 41 percent in May 2019. Warren is in third place at 14 percent, but former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lurks close behind at 13 percent.
Buttigieg, who also (sort of) won Iowa and is expected to perform well in New Hampshire, has never topped 13 percent in the national polling average, largely due to a lack of support among minority voters. He currently sits in fifth place at 10.8 percent.
Biden, fresh off a humiliating fourth-place caucus finish, sought to reassure supporters on Monday that he would do "just fine" in New Hampshire. However, recent polling suggests he might fare even worse in the Granite State than he did in Iowa. Another underwhelming performance could scare away supporters from upcoming primaries in Nevada (Feb. 22) and South Carolina (Feb. 29), where Biden currently leads in the polls.
Perhaps anticipating another poor showing, Biden announced Tuesday he will skip his New Hampshire election night party, fleeing on a private jet to South Carolina, where he will address his abandoned supporters via live stream. "Look, the rest of the nation is out there," said Biden, unconvincingly. "There's an awful lot of electoral votes to be had. We'll see."
Buttigieg, meanwhile, is hoping a strong showing in New Hampshire will boost his support in upcoming primary states, where his core demographic of white grad students makes up a smaller percentage of the voting population. If he can't maintain his momentum, and Biden can recover, the race could become quite messy, especially when Bloomberg officially enters the field in March.
A scenario in which multiple candidates position themselves as the "not Bernie" alternative would only seem to help Sanders. At the very least, it would instill further panic in quarters of the Democratic establishment fearing, perhaps rightly, that a Sanders nomination would burn the party to the ground.