Biden And Warren In Dead Heat In Latest Iowa Poll

The latest Des Moines Register poll puts Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at the top of the pack in the Hawkeye State.

The newest poll from The Des Moines Register and CNN shows Elizabeth Warren surging in the Hawkeye State to the point where she is ahead of former Vice-President Biden, although the two candidates are within the margin of error of each other:

A surging Sen. Elizabeth Warren is challenging Joe Biden’s dominance in the race for the Democratic nomination, standing at 22% to the former vice president’s 20% in a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers.

Although neither candidate holds a clear lead at this point, the new poll finds Warren and Biden well ahead of other contenders for the Democratic nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support has dipped to 11% in this poll, with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9% and Sen. Kamala Harris at 6%. Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar each land at 3%, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, investor Tom Steyer and businessman Andrew Yang each have the backing of 2% of likely caucusgoers. The poll marks Gabbard’s third qualifying poll for inclusion in October’s Democratic debates. The rest of the field each notched 1% or less.

Warren’s improved standing overall in the Iowa poll comes on the heels of a stronger showing in recent national polls and is bolstered by an increasing positive favorability rating (75% have a favorable view, the best in the field, and she is one of only four candidates who have improved their net favorability since the June CNN/DMR poll), as well as a growing percentage of likely caucusgoers who say she is either their first choice, second choice or someone they are actively considering. All told, 71% are at least considering Warren’s candidacy, ahead of the next best candidate on that score by 11 points (Biden at 60%). Her supporters are also more enthusiastic than those behind Biden (32% of her backers are extremely enthusiastic vs. 22% for the former vice president).

The Massachusetts senator appears to be gaining ground primarily at the expense of Sanders. She holds the support of 32% of those who say they caucused for Sanders in 2016 (Sanders himself stands at 25% among that group), stands at 48% among those who consider themselves “very liberal,” and for the first time in CNN/DMR polling on the race, has edged ahead of Sanders among those under age 35 (27% back Warren, 22% Sanders).

Biden’s core backers remain behind him in largely the same way they were in the previous poll. Among seniors, he is the first choice of 35%, about the same as earlier this year. And he remains above 30% support with moderate and conservative likely caucusgoers.
And Warren’s supporters are a bit less apt to be locked in than are those backing Biden (12% of Warren supporters say their mind is made up vs. 26% of Biden’s supporters). Overall, though, just 20% of likely caucusgoers say their mind is made up now, suggesting there is plenty of room for these preferences to shift before February.

At the same time that Warren surges ahead of her fellow progressive Senator, though, the poll also finds that voters seem to be most concerned with the area where Biden seems to do better than his fellow candidates, namely the supposition that he can beat President Trump in the General Election:

Though views on the candidates have shifted, those likely to attend Iowa’s Democratic caucuses remain more apt to prioritize nominating a candidate with a strong chance of beating Trump (63%) over one who shares their positions on major issues (31%). And most think that after Trump, American government could return to the way it was before his election (59%)

The poll sought to gain insight into what it is likely caucusgoers think an electable candidate would be. Nearly three-quarters said a candidate who can excite new voters (74%) is closer to their vision of electability than one who would excite the base (16%). And most preferred a candidate who would represent a new generation of leadership (57%) over one with a long history in government (28%), as well as one who would take the high road against Trump (54%) vs. getting in the mud as needed to take on the President (35%).

Roughly two-thirds felt the more electable candidate is one who seeks common ground with Republicans (63%) rather than moving the country to the left (28%). But in assessing six positions that have become signatures of the more liberal candidates in the Democratic field, the poll finds wide variation in likely caucusgoers’ level of comfort with them.

More from The Des Moines Register:

Elizabeth Warren has surged in Iowa, narrowly overtaking Joe Biden and distancing herself from fellow progressive Bernie Sanders, the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.  

Warren, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, now holds a 2-percentage-point lead, with 22% of likely Democratic caucusgoers saying she is their first choice for president. It is the first time she has led in the Register’s poll. 

Former Vice President Biden, who had led each of the Register’s three previous 2020 cycle polls, follows her at 20%. Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont, has fallen to third place with 11%.  

No other candidate reaches double digits. 

“This is the first major shakeup” in what had been a fairly steady race, said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “It’s the first time we’ve had someone other than Joe Biden at the top of the leader board.” 

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows the three leaders as the favorite of 9% of poll respondents. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California is at 6%. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey are at 3%.  

Polling at 2% are U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, businessman Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.  

Eight others are polling at 1% or less. 

But the race is far from settled: Just one in five likely Democratic caucusgoers say their minds are made up, while 63% say they could still be persuaded to support a different candidate.  

“The data in this poll seem to suggest the field is narrowing, but my sense is there’s still opportunity aplenty,” Selzer said. “The leaders aren’t all that strong. The universe is not locked in.”   

The numbers in this poll are consistent with other recent polls from the Hawkeye State:

  • The latest poll from Iowa State University, for example, actually showed Warren in first place by herself at 24%, with Biden and Sanders tied at 16%, Pete Buttigieg at 13%, Kamala Haris at 5%, Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar tied at 3%, Tom Steyer at Cory Booker at 2%, and the rest at the candidates at 1% or below;
  • A poll from FRA/Binder has Biden at 25%, Warren at 23%, Buttigieg at 12%, Sanders at 9%, Klobuchar at 8%, Harris at 5%, Steyer at 3%, Booker and Yang tied at 2%, and everyone else at 1% or lower;

Turning to the RealClearPolitics average for the state, it looks like this:

  1. Joe Biden — 23.6%
  2. Elizabeth Warren — 21.0%
  3. Bernie Sanders — 14.2%
  4. Pete Buttigieg — 9.8%
  5. Kamala Harris — 6.6%
  6. Amy Klobuchar — 3.8%
  7. Tom Steyer — 2.4%
  8. Cory Booker and Andrew Yang — 2.0%
  9. Tulsi Gabbard — 1.8%
  10. Beto O’Rourke — 1.4%
  11. All other candidates at or below 1%.

This latest poll follows in the wake of other polling at the national and state level that has shown Warren overtaking Sanders and closing the gap with Biden at the national and state level. However, while that seems like it could end up being what the Democratic race comes down to, it’s far too early to say for sure. For one thing, regardless of what the other candidates do it is unlikely that Sanders is going to drop out of the race early. As we saw in 2016 when he stayed in the race long after it was apparent that he was not going to win the nomination. For another, with 134 days left to go until the Iowa Caucuses, there’s still a good possibility that the race could change significantly for one reason or another.

Finally, there is always the question of whether or not Warren, who has seen her numbers rise consistently over the course of the summer, might peak too early and how she will react when she becomes more of a target. To some extent, we already saw this emerging in the third debate as both Warren and Sanders came under fire not from Biden so much as from many of the lower-tier candidates who have argued that their plans are too far to the left, that they are dragging the party too far to the left, and that they have not adequately explained how they would get their plans through a potentially hostile Congress or how they would pay for them. That criticism is likely to increase. Additionally, every candidate faces moments in their campaign where they stumble. So far, Warren has not had one of those moments, but she will and if it comes closer to the start of voting it could have a real impact on the actual outcome. As things stand now, though, Warren continues to surge and Bernie continues to stumble. As long as that remains the case, this will come to look like a two-person race rather than a three-person one.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Teve says:

    WARREN 2020!

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Warren is clearly the best candidate. I think she’d be a good president. Do I like all her ideas, no, but she has ideas, she explains them, she may be wrong but she’s not just spouting empty rhetoric or basing her campaign on a red hat and resentment. Can she win? That’s another question, but I’m with Warren.

  3. Liberal Capitalist says:

    It’s not surprising at all that she is polling well, as you see, Warren has a plan. And she has laid it all out on

    And I think that when “Pocahontas” is on the stage with Trump, his worst true persona and go-to habits will surface.

    And she will kick his ass.

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    This may be the chance for the nation to test whether it is willing to elect a woman to President. I’m not sure that’s good news for the Democratic Party. She doesn’t strike me as an “asskicker” type–most higher ed teachers I’ve met aren’t–so I have no particular feel for how the debates will go.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Doug, arguably Warren has already had her stumble with the whole Native American heritage debacle. Though nothing precludes another trip up.

  6. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I’m thinking that “asskicker” is exactly the wrong person to put on a stage with Trump. All the Republicans tried it in 16, and they all made fools of themselves. Trump is better at being Trump than anyone, and if someone else attempts to out-Trump him, it’s a disaster. My guess is that putting someone who is his exact opposite on with him will lead him to defeat himself.

    Just a guess, of course….

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: @wr: How would you (either of you) define an asskicker? To me the term doesn’t necessarily suggest sinking to Trump’s level of adolescent name-calling. Obama was able to kick people’s asses (apart from the first debate in 2012) through dignified coolness. And Hillary, for that matter, definitely kicked Trump’s ass in the debates; it just wasn’t sufficient to overcome her other vulnerabilities.

    For that matter, I don’t agree that all the Republicans made fools of themselves when trying to take on Trump on the debate stage. I think Carly Fiorina did quite well when confronting him over his attacks on her looks. It was one of the few moments when he came off rather wobbly and uncertain on the debate stage. Just because she never gained much traction as a candidate doesn’t mean she made a fool of herself in the way she debated Trump.

    We need to get out of this mindset that the outcome of an election (or primary) is itself proof of how well the candidates did in the debates. Debates are just one factor among several. There are those who view them as essentially irrelevant. I don’t agree with that, either. For better or worse they do have an impact on elections. They’re just not a silver bullet, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

  8. Teve says:

    @wr: when Warren is on stage against Trump, the contrast will be severe.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Trump intimidates people – a fact which I find depressing for what it reveals about just how weak people are. He plays alpha male and wimps like Lindsay Graham cream their Depends and strap on their kneepads. That won’t work with Warren.

    First, we are post #MeToo and thuggish men are not as tolerated. Second, she’s fearless. Third, she knows things, he knows nothing. Fourth, she can speak in complete sentences and even paragraphs and that more than anything else will reveal his stupidity and senility.

    Finally, he has no new tricks. He’s learned nothing. Easy to counter.

  10. Teve says:

    I would add to that, She clearly has values, and he’s the kind of person who stole from his own charity multiple times.

  11. Gustopher says:

    Finally, there is always the question of whether or not Warren, who has seen her numbers rise consistently over the course of the summer, might peak too early and how she will react when she becomes more of a target.

    I’m far more worried about Biden fading too late. An underperforming front-runner who stumbles through the primaries and barely clinches the nomination is not good.

  12. mattbernius says:

    I can only wonder how different this race might look if Sanders had chosen not to run again. I wonder the degree to which his presence is the key thing keeping Biden in the lead position.

  13. Kylopod says:


    I wonder the degree to which [Sanders’] presence is the key thing keeping Biden in the lead position.

    As counter-intuitive as it may seem, most polls up to now have indicated that the top second-choice for Sanders is Biden, and vice versa. Furthermore, Warren and Sanders seem to be drawing from different demographics: Sanders supporters are primarily lower-income, less educated, and likelier to be young and male compared to Warren supporters who are predominantly older, better educated, and more often female.

  14. mattbernius says:

    Thanks man! As always you deliver!

  15. de stijl says:

    This seems callow and shallow, but I just want Trump gone.

  16. de stijl says:

    Warren is my pick thus far.

    She’s process and timelines. She has bones in getting things done a la CFPB.

    I’m 80 – 90% in on Warren/Buttigieg for 2020.

  17. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    I’m 80 – 90% in on Warren/Buttigieg for 2020.

    I know it’s way too early to begin speculation on running mates, but I have a few senses about it. I strongly suspect the ticket will consist of one man and one woman–in either order. Biden has already signaled he probably intends to pick a woman. Sanders is somewhat of a wild card (if you listen to his cult, the only running mate they’d tolerate is Warren or perhaps Tulsi). I personally would have no problem with a ticket of two women, but Dems right now are so petrified of awakening the sleeping giant of misogyny I think it’s unlikely it would happen. And there are other, similar issues of demographic balance that come into play. For instance, I doubt Buttigieg, if he were to win the nomination, would pick Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, since both are gay. But I could easily see Biden picking Baldwin (it would nicely complete the Rust Belt strategy for taking back the White House), and I could also easily see Buttigieg as a running mate for the other candidates.

  18. wr says:

    @de stijl: “I’m 80 – 90% in on Warren/Buttigieg for 2020.”

    I’d have no problem with that, especially since I’d love to see Mayor Pete debating Pence. But my guess is that Warren would want to find an African-American man to run with.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Warren-Booker works. I don’t see two women. I think Castro damaged himself and I don’t know another viable Latino to replace him. And as much as I love mayor Pete, he’s not a Veep for a woman candidate. Booker is a good speaker, and his level of sincerity matches hers.

    What does not work is Warren in the number 2 slot, it’s just not her style.

    If it’s Biden I think the go-to may be Kamala Harris. But he has more choices among the governors than Warren has. Maybe Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan?

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Warren/Buttigieg looks pretty good…at the top we have an intelligent woman unintimidated by the mental midget she’ll be going up against and on the undercard we have someone who seems to be a real Christian and knows exactly how to use scripture against an alleged Christian with phony piousness…

  21. Teve says:

    I would like Warren/Buttigieg but it’s not going to happen. For one thing, unfortunately some black Democrats have issues with gay people. Plus Warren needs help reaching out to black voters. And Pete has caught criticism for his handling of racial issues as mayor. Booker would be a better choice. Stacy Abrams would be a good choice but every misogynist in America would crawl over broken glass to vote against that ticket.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:



    If the dem prez candidate is white, male or female, the VP needs to be AA or Hispanic.

  23. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: that’ll come in handy in 2024 when repubs nominate Richard Spencer.

  24. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: I don’t think black folks need a black person on the ticket to get excited about a ticket. Plus, if black folks were excited about Booker, he would be doing better in his campaign.

    @Sleeping Dog: Same for Latinos.

    It’s just tokenism, and I suspect they can see through that. VP is sort of a nothing job — a bad choice can hurt, but a good choice isn’t going to help much.

    If Warren or Buttigieg or Harris or whoever the nominee is wants the support of minority communities, they are going to have to talk to those communities directly and ask for support, not rely on someone’s skin color.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    It’s just tokenism, and I suspect they can see through that. VP is sort of a nothing job — a bad choice can hurt, but a good choice isn’t going to help much.

    If Warren or Buttigieg or Harris or whoever the nominee is wants the support of minority communities, they are going to have to talk to those communities directly and ask for support, not rely on someone’s skin color.

    Exactly…Democrats don’t need to follow the Republican playbook when it comes to minority outreach…

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    At some point, Warren will be exposed, much like Algore was. She’s not as dumb as Algore, but her policies are cribbed from progressive talking points and have little contact with political or economic reality. To take her signature issue – the wealth tax. She vastly overestimates the amount of revenue it will bring in (all but four countries have abandoned wealth taxes because they are a nightmare that brings in pathetic revenue). And she’s now committed to paying for six or seven things with it. And at some point, it’s going to be pointed out that her trade policy is Trump’s trade policy, just wrapped up in progressive language.

    The only question is when. She probably won’t be exposed until after the nomination because the press are pushing REALLY hard for her, touting every variation in the polls as a sign of her inevitable ascendence and ignoring any problems. Her main advantage right now is that Trump is a grade-A moron whose policies are even worse and not thought out at ALL. But I have to think some Dem will start going after her.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    @Hal_10000: So you’ll be voting for Trump if she secures the Democratic nomination…

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    No. I’ll be voting Dem (or libertarian if my state is not close) and then battening down for when Warren finishes the destruction Trump has begun on the global trade system. Warren would be a bad President; a re-elected Trump would be a disaster.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    @Hal_10000: And who would be your ideal Democratic nominee…

  30. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “Warren would be a bad President; ”

    You mean she’d dare raise taxes on rich people?

    If only the Dems would get their act together and nominate the one truly great Democratic candidate, Mitt Romney!

  31. Matt says:

    @An Interested Party: Well based on my prior conversations with him I’d say one that gives the rich more tax breaks. Because apparently taxing the rich is the worst thing you can do ever!!! Just because less than 1% of this country owns over half it’s wealth doesn’t mean they should be taxed more. Heck it means they should get cuts because they should own at least 70% of the country!!!

    If Trump wasn’t such a racist POS Hal wouldn’t have a problem voting Republican…