South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Register and CNN on Saturday evening released their poll of likely Iowa Democrat caucus goers and it shows that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the clear front runner in Iowa with a nine point over U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who polled in second place.

This poll backs up the latest Monmouth University poll that showed Buttigieg leading Iowa for the first time.

The Des Moines Register and CNN polled 500 likely Democratic caucus goers between November 8-13 and their poll has a margin of error of +/-4.4 percent. They found the top five to be:

  • Pete Buttigieg – 25 percent (+16 since September)
  • Elizabeth Warren – 16 percent (-6)
  • Vice President Joe Biden – 15 percent (-5)
  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont – 15 percent (+4)
  • U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – 6 percent (+3)

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, Tech entrepenuer Andrew Yang, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey followed with three percent. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who just joined the race polled at 2 percent. Every other candidate did not register any support in the poll.

Buttigieg gained 16 points since the Des Moines Register and CNN last poll in September while both Warren and Biden lost support.

Only 30 percent of those polled said that their mind has been made up and 63 percent said that finding a candidate that can beat President Donald Trump was their top priority.

Interestingly, those surveyed were asked whether they were almost certain or fairly confident the four top-tier candidates could beat Trump. Only 52 percent of Democrats polled were almost certain or fairly confident that Biden could beat Trump. Warren and Buttigieg followed at 46 percent, while only 40 percent of Democrats polled are almost certain or fairly confident that Sanders could beat the incumbent President.

68 percent of those surveyed listed Buttigieg as their first or second choice or said they were actively considering him. Warren followed with 66 percent of respondents who said she was their first or second choice or were actively considering her.

The Des Moines Register reported that Buttigieg does well with most demographic groups:

“He does nearly as well with self-identified Democrats as independents; with previous caucusgoers and first-timers; in cities, suburbs, towns and rural areas,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll.

He draws his highest levels of support from likely caucusgoers with incomes of $100,000 or more and with moderates, at 32% each. His lowest levels of support come from those who describe themselves as very liberal (12%) or come from union households (17%). 

Buttigieg’s momentum in Iowa is clear. Does it go beyond Iowa?

That does not appear to be the case.

The last poll conducted in New Hampshire by CBS News and YouGov show Buttigieg trailing Warren, who leads in New Hampshire, by 15 points in fourth place. His Real Clear Politics average of the last three polls is 13.7 percent in 4th place.

(Update: A couple days after this story was published, St. Anslem released a poll showing Buttigieg with a 10 point lead.)

Nevada looks even worse for Buttigieg, as he polls in fourth place with an average 7.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of the last five polls conducted in that state since October 31. The last poll conducted by Fox News shows Buttigieg trailing Biden, the front runner, by 16 points in 4th place at 8 percent.

South Carolina is even worse than Nevada. Buttigieg trails Biden, the overwhelming front runner in that state, by 37 points in the only poll conducted in November in that state by CBS News and YouGov. He is in 4th place at 8 percent.

The South Carolina numbers point to a problem Buttigieg has heading into South Carolina and then on to Super Tuesday. His support among black voters is lackluster showing no black support in national polls. In the latest South Carolina poll he had less than one percent support among black voters in the state.

There are several reasons for this. He fired South Bend’s first black police chief when he took office. In June, there was a controversial shooting of a black man in South Bend that led to a tense conversation with a black constituent when he traveled back home. Then his homosexual lifestyle and same-sex marriage is a barrier for black voters, many of whom are church goers.

Trying to bolster support among black voters, the Buttigieg campaign is embroiled in a controversy by an endorsement list that appears to embellish his black support in the state.

On Friday, Ryan Grim reported at The Intercept his “Douglass Plan for Black America” may not have the support among the black community in South Carolina that the campaign boasted in October.

A senior campaign advisor, Jess O’Connell, tweeted:

Grim reports:

The supporters were rolled out in a press release and open letter published in the HBCU Times — which focuses on “positive news related to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Listed at the top of the press release were three prominent supporters, Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Devine; Rehoboth Baptist pastor and state Rep. Ivory Thigpen; and Johnnie Cordero, chair of the state party’s Black Caucus.

“There is one presidential candidate who has proven to have intentional policies designed to make a difference in the Black experience, and that’s Pete Buttigieg,” read the open letter released along with the plan. “We are over 400 South Carolinians, including business owners, pastors, community leaders, and students. Together, we endorse his Douglass Plan for Black America, the most comprehensive roadmap for tackling systemic racism offered by a 2020 presidential candidate.”

Devine told Grim that she did not intend her support of the plan to be seen as an endorsement of Buttigieg. Thigpen has endorsed Sanders, and Cordero said he never endorsed the plan.

In fact, it appears that almost half of the supporters of the plan are actually white, even though the campaign’s email said they were black supporters.

Also, one has to wonder how many of these people knew they were going to be listed. The Buttigieg campaign gave a deadline for those on the list to opt-out instead of opting in.

This incident is an unforced error that will further erode his credibility among black voters in the state.

Yes, there is an excellent chance that Buttigieg will win Iowa. A victory here could give him a boost in New Hampshire, but will it lead to a victory in the Granite State? Unlikely. Iowa and New Hampshire have not agreed on the Democratic nominee the last two cycles Democrats had a contested primary. Unless something miraculous happens to increase his support among black voters any momentum he has will come to a screeching halt in South Carolina.

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