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Iowa political insiders bullish on Warren’s caucus prospects

Her gains come at Biden's loss

Iowa Political Power  |  October 11, 2019 10:00am  |  By James Q. Lynch

Iowa political insiders bullish on Warren’s caucus prospects article image

It remains to be seen if caucusgoers agree, but Iowa political insiders are growing more bullish on Elizabeth Warren’s prospects in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest.

Powered by the strength of her campaign’s ground game, the Massachusetts senator has surged past former Vice President Joe Biden as the candidate the insiders see as most likely to win the Feb. 3, 2020 caucuses.

More than half—54 percent—of the political observers surveyed by the Iowa Power Poll this week said they expect—but not necessarily prefer—that Warren win the Democratic caucuses. That’s up from 34 percent who saw Warren as the likely winner a month ago.

The Iowa Power Poll is not a scientific poll. Instead, it is a fascinating glimpse into what Iowa’s political leadership class thinks about the 2020 Democratic caucus. The Iowa Political Power Poll member list is composed of 1,610 party activists, media figures, political consultants, and elected officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels. It includes both Republicans and Democrats. Plans are to survey once a month until the caucuses.

Warren’s gain appears to have come at the expense of former front-runner Biden. The percentage of observers who predicted a Biden victory fell by more than a third from 49 percent in mid-September to 31 percent.

Despite coming within less than a percentage point of defeating eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 caucuses, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was seen by just 2 percent as the likely winner while 4 percent predicted a second-place finish. Sanders’ best prospects, according to 21 percent of those surveyed by the Iowa Power Poll, would be third place.

Warren and Biden are the only two of the 12 included in the Iowa Power Poll survey in double digits. Two percent said they see either Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, or Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar finishing atop the field. Another 1 percent saw either Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, California businessman Tom Steyer, or New York businessman Andrew Yang winning. Three percent answered, “Don’t Know.”

Asked who will finish in second place, 34 percent of the insiders gave the nod to Biden. Thirty-one percent said Warren will be the runner-up and another 12 percent said Buttigieg would get silver.

A quarter—25 percent—of the 173 respondents said Buttigieg would win the proverbial third ticket out of the caucuses.

The Iowa caucuses are considered a test of a candidate’s organizational strength. If that’s true, Warren’s surge should come as no surprise. Her campaign was judged to have the best ground game by 22 percent of the Iowa Power Poll insiders in June. In the latest survey, 57 percent rated her organization as best. Biden’s campaign was judged best by 8 percent; Buttigieg’s by 6 percent.

Here are the specific results of the poll:

Number Surveyed: 1610

Number Responded: 173

Response Rate: 10.75%


Question #1: The Iowa caucuses will be held Feb. 3. Looking into your crystal ball, who do you think will place first among the Democrats?


Elizabeth Warren: 54%

Joe Biden: 31%

Pete Buttigieg: 2%

Tulsi Gabbard: 2%

Amy Klobuchar: 2%

Bernie Sanders: 2%

Michael Bennet: 1%

Cory Booker: 1%

Kamala Harris: 1%

Tom Steyer: 1%

Marianne Williamson: 1%

Andrew Yang: 1%

Don't Know: 3%


Question #2: Who will place second?


Joe Biden: 34%

Elizabeth Warren: 31%

Pete Buttigieg: 12%

Bernie Sanders: 4%

Cory Booker: 3%

Kamala Harris: 3%

Amy Klobuchar: 3%

Tulsi Gabbard: 2%

Tom Steyer: 2%

Andrew Yang: 2%

Steve Bullock: 1%

John Delaney: 1%

Don't Know: 3%


Question #3: Who will place third?


Pete Buttigieg: 25%

Bernie Sanders: 21%

Joe Biden: 13%

Kamala Harris: 7%

Amy Klobuchar: 7%

Cory Booker: 5%

Elizabeth Warren: 3%

Steve Bullock: 2%

Julián Castro: 2%

Tulsi Gabbard: 2%

Beto O'Rourke: 2%

Wayne Messam: 1%

Tom Steyer: 1%

Marianne Williamson: 1%

Andrew Yang: 1%

Don't Know: 7%


Question #4: Which candidate has the best on-the-ground campaign organization?


Elizabeth Warren: 57%

Joe Biden: 8%

Pete Buttigieg: 6%

Cory Booker: 4%

Bernie Sanders: 3%

Tulsi Gabbard: 3%

Kamala Harris: 3%

John Delaney: 2%

Amy Klobuchar: 1%

Joe Sestak: 1%

Tom Steyer: 1%

Andrew Yang: 1%

Don't Know: 12%