Biden Continues To Build A Lead In Early Polling

Two weeks into his campaign, Joe Biden continues to build an impressive lead in polling at the state and national levels.

Another new poll shows former Vice-President Biden continuing to build a lead against his fellow Democrats, this time in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire:

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by a two-to-one margin in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, according to a new poll.

The Monmouth University survey released Thursday found Biden winning 36 percent support, followed by Sanders at 18 percent. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) is at 9 percent support, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 8 percent and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at 6 percent.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) are each at 2 percent support, followed by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 1 percent each.

Biden also has the best favorability rating in the survey, at 80 percent positive and 15 percent negative. Sanders rings in at 73 percent favorable and 15 percent unfavorable.

Biden is mopping up among older voters, with 53 percent of those 65 and older backing the former vice president, compared to only 9 percent for Sanders. Biden also leads Sanders 36 percent to 19 percent among those between the ages of 50 and 64.

Sanders does better with younger voters, leading Biden 27 to 20 among those under the age of 50.

Fifty-eight percent of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire describe themselves as moderates or conservatives, and Biden leads Sanders 45 percent to 10 percent among this group.
Sanders leads Biden 29 percent to 23 percent among self-described liberals.

Biden has sought to highlight his time as vice president under former President Obama, and the Monmouth poll provides evidence that could help him win over New Hampshire Democrats.

Other findings in the poll also seem to favor the former Vice-President. For example, 34% of the respondents say that nominating someone who will build on former President Barack Obama’s legacy is important to them, while 38% say it is somewhat important and only 21% say it’s not important at all. The poll also states that Democratic voters in the Granite State are focused primarily on picking a candidate who can defeat Trump, with 68% saying they want to nominate such a candidate even if they disagree with that candidate on the issues. Given both his ties to the campaign and the fact that polling indicates that Biden is presently one of just a handful of Democrats who are beating Trump in a head-to-head matchup, these are obvious points in Biden’s favor. These numbers are consistent with previous polling both at the national and state levels that show Biden pulling ahead of his competitors in the wake of his entry into the race just two weeks ago.

Looking at the RealClearPolitics average in New Hampshire, for example, we see Biden (28%) leading Bernie Sanders (15%) by 13 points. Pete Buttigieg continues to sit in third place in the Granite State with an average rating of 10.5%, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 8%, Kamala Harris at 6%, and Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker both tied at 2.5%. The remainder of the candidates are all averaging below 2% and have yet to show any indication of moving up in the polls at the state level.

In the national polls, three recent polls all show Biden approaching the 50% level in support, with the rest of the field falling quickly behind:

  • In the latest Harvard-Harris poll, for example, Biden gets the support of 44% of nationwide Democrats, while Bernie Sanders is a distant second at 14%. After Sanders we have Kamala Harris at 9%, Elizabeth Warren at 5%, Cory Booker at 3%, and all the other candidates, including Pete Buttigieg at 2% or less;
  • In the latest national Morning Consult poll, Biden stands at 40%, with Sanders at 19%, Elizabeth Warren at 8%, Kamala Harris at 7%, and Beto O’Rourke at 7%. All the other candidates are at 3% or less; and,
  • In the latest poll from The Hill, Biden stands at 46%, with Sanders at 14%/ Sander is followed by Buttigieg at 8%, Warren at 7%, Harris at 6%. All the other candidates are at 3% or lower.

This is further reflected in the national RealClearPolitics average, which shows Biden at 41.4%, Sanders at 14.6%, Warren at 8%, Harris at 7%, Buttigieg at 6.6%, Booker at 2.6%, and all of the other candidates averaging under 2.0%. As we can see in the chart, Biden has taken off, principally at the expense of Bernie Sanders, and the other candidates have basically been stranded at under 10%:

This is all obviously good news, but as Henry Olsen at The Washington Post reminds us, Biden’s huge leads probably won’t last:

Right now, Biden is about as close to a generic Democrat as you can get. He benefits from his long track record of supporting Democratic Party priorities and his eight years as President Barack Obama’s loyal deputy. Being out of office for about the past three years also means he has had the luxury to pick and choose his moments of public engagement, which allowed him to avoid many of the intraparty fights and controversies.

That’s going to change once he gets on a debate stage with his opponents. Progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) will presumably push him from the left, while others such as former representative Beto O’Rourke (Tex.) will likely make his age a subtle issue by proclaiming a need for new leadership. Biden will have to withstand that pressure, showing he is progressive and energetic enough to give his supporters confidence.

Running a complacent campaign can also cost him. So far, he has focused little on what he wants to do and much on attacking President Trump. But all of his competitors oppose Trump; they are also offering alternative visions of what Democrats should be for as well as what they should be against. Biden will have to do more than express gauzy Democratic pablum. It remains to be seen what Biden’s American vision is.

Biden’s current lead is also artificially large because the progressive vote is divided. Polls taken since his announcement show his lead is largest among Democratic voters who say they are moderates and smallest among those who say they are very or strongly liberal. The most progressive wing of the party is splitting its votes among a number of candidates, but eventually that will change. When a front-runner of that wing emerges, Biden’s lead will shrink considerably, even if he weathers his other challenges.

The question, of course, is when that weaning is likely to happen. In 2016, many analysts expected that the massive Republican field would begin to shrink well before the start of the actual voting season as candidates faced financial and other pressures on their campaigns. As we saw, though, the fact that candidates can now rely on outside SuperPACs and other organizations to pick up much of the slack when it comes to at least some campaign spending such as advertising and “get out the vote” efforts, the pressure to withdraw early is much less than it used to be. In the case of the 2016 Republicans, there were a handful of candidates who withdrew from the race prior to the Iowa Caucuses but the vast majority of them stayed in the race and the first major round of withdrawals did not happen until after Iowa and New Hampshire. Partly this was due to the fact that many Republicans believed that Donald Trump’s campaign would ultimately implode and that they could benefit from that by picking up at least some of his former supporters. Others believed they could be the candidate to stop Trump. It wasn’t until it was far too late that the GOP field was small enough to at least look competitive, but by then Trump was on track to win the nomination and there was next to nothing that could stop him.

Something similar could happen in the Democratic race among the progressive candidates who may be unwilling to give up their spot in the belief that they could be the ones to benefit from a Biden implosion. Another factor that makes it less likely that we’ll see an early coalescing of the Democratic field is the manner in which the party allocates delegates. Unlike the GOP, where the majority of the primary states give all or most of their delegates who wins even if only by a plurality of the vote, Democrats have rules that require delegates to be allocated proportionally in nearly all the primary contests. This gives candidates the incentive to stay in the race in the hope that they could be the progressive that would overtake Biden and win the nomination.

As long as these factors remain in place and the Democratic candidate pool does not shrink significantly to the point where it ends up being Joe Biden against a specific representative of the progressive wing, then Biden benefits from a divided field and progressives could find it difficult if not impossible to overtake him.

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. Lounsbury says:

    Perhaps an antidote to a lurch toward Bernie-Bro Corbynism, which would be welcome to not see four more years of Orangutangism.

  2. just nutha says:

    Our local spokesperson for Loopermania needs to get his game on or the Hickster is goin down.

  3. Gustopher says:

    Right now, Biden is about as close to a generic Democrat as you can get.

    And that’s where Hickenlooper is going to surge — he’s even more generic that Joe Biden, with the advantage of a novelty name that is fun to say.

    Say what you will about Buttigieg, you have to remember that his name isn’t pronounced the way it is spelled. A mistake. You basically have to be bilingual to both read and hear his name. People will scan down that ballot, looking for boot-edge-edge, not find it, and assume he must have dropped out and go with their second choice (which will only be Buttigieg about half the time).

    Hickenlooper 2020: Politics was so much less divisive when we had a mediocre white man as President, and there ain’t anyone more mediocre than Hickenlooper.

    That might be too long to fit on a bumper sticker.

    Hickenlooper: Make America Mediocre Again — I’m thinking beige hats for that one. Maybe gray, but gray might be too bold. Would a gray and beige plaid work?

  4. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: I enjoyed your comment, but Biden’s appeal isn’t just that he’s a Generic Democrat, he also has high name recognition and overall popularity and is seen by many as Obama’s heir apparent. So the only people capable of catching up with him are the ones that are not generic. Look at any of the other candidates who have been competitive so far: whatever else you can say about them, they all have something to make them stand out. So this is still a fantasy.

  5. James Pearce says:


    Politics was so much less divisive when we had a mediocre white man as President, and there ain’t anyone more mediocre than Hickenlooper.

    If you think Hickenlooper is a “mediocre white man” then you don’t really know anything about him. His Wynkoop Brewing Company was a template for the concept of “brewpubs” and helped spur on the redevelopment of the Lodo neighborhood, which is still raging, some 30 years into it.

    We didn’t elect him mayor because he was mediocre. We didn’t elect him governor because he was mediocre.

    (Although he is a white man, but I don’t see why that should matter to anyone.)

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Leaving aside my preference for someone other than Biden or Bernie, my fear with the former VP is that he’ll self immolate at some point in the campaign. Given that he’s run for Prez twice and both times lost as much to self inflicted wounds as the strength of other candidates. If the immolation happens in the primary, we’ll move on, but in the general election?

    Slightly tangential to this post, driving around my Cow Hampshire town today I spied 3, count them 3 Tulsi Gabbard lawn signs. Now perhaps they were promoting the Indian restaurant Tulsi in Kittery, but I doubt it. Those maybe the only 3 or so Gabbard voters next winter or signs of a quiet surge.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: Oh, thank god, we finally have a real Hickenlooper fan, so I can stop pretending. I felt bad for the guy, there he is, running for President, getting no traction or attention, just a random governor with a silly name that no one has heard of outside his state…

    Maybe it’s time to give up on Loopmania, and find a new hopeless candidate to randomly champion.

    Inslee 2020: He’s also running.

    (Inslee has the curious property of being a random governor that even people in his state have never heard of… the state is still there, so he can’t be all bad)

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: I think Biden’s appeal is that he is basically stable, and a known quantity. He gets a bit of the Obama shine, but he’s also been around forever, and is as close to The Establishment as we could possibly get. Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, and entered politics in 1970 (that’s about 1.25 Buttigiegs ago). He doesn’t represent a wing of the party, he’s just middle of the road, slightly behind the times Biden.

    After having elected Trump, who was the most outsidery outsider ever elected, and seen how that has gone, I think some people want a return to the good old days, with a conventional candidate who doesn’t represent change or progress,just a return to normalcy. He’s comfortable and safe.

    He’s not literally a Generic Democrat, but he’s as close as humanly possible. (A Geriatric Democrat?)

    If that’s where the country is right now, then I really hope that’s where the primary voters end up. I think Biden would likely be hamstrung as President by the modern Republican Party, but an ineffective Biden would still be worlds better than what we have now, so I could enthusiastically support him.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: If there were no work to be done after four years of Trump and da boyz, Inslee would be fine. Sadly, that’s not the case. If the state GOP were not committed to running Darth Vader wannabes every 4 years, Inslee might not even be able to win.

  10. James Pearce says:


    Oh, thank god, we finally have a real Hickenlooper fan, so I can stop pretending.

    Just because I’m defending a highly accomplished white man from charges of being “mediocre” doesn’t mean I support his candidacy.

    I’m a Biden man.

    I do think that Hickenlooper would currently have a better showing if various Democratic factions hadn’t been dosed with woke clickbait. I’m not quite sure what people see in Kamala Harris that they don’t see in Hick or Inslee*. Those guys have experience running a state and Kamala asks good questions at hearings. How many times will President Harris be asking questions at hearings? You have to align the skill set with the job.

    * Aside from the obvious.

  11. Jax says:

    @James Pearce: LoDo. Been a long time since I heard that. Used to live there in the mid 90’s. 😉

  12. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m a Biden man.

    Couldn’t you at least pretend to be a Hickenlooper fan? The poor man deserves at least one fan.

    (I would have been a Biden fan in 2016, but wary of his age. He’s a good man, and I could happily support him, but I’m now even more wary of his age…)

    I’m not quite sure what people see in Kamala Harris that they don’t see in Hick or Inslee*. Those guys have experience running a state and Kamala asks good questions at hearings. How many times will President Harris be asking questions at hearings? You have to align the skill set with the job.

    Job one is getting elected. Figuring out how to inspire people and get their attention and support. Without that, being perfect for the job of President is kind of useless.

    If Buttigieg can rise from nothing to become at least the flavor of the month*, from a background that traditionally would be laughably unqualified, and get a chance to show what he is made of, then I have to say that any lack of recognition compared to Harris is Hickenlooper’s and Inslee’s failing. Maybe Hickenlooper’s moment hasn’t arrived yet.

    Inslee… I don’t think he’s going to be having a moment. I know nothing about him, and he’s my governor. The state hasn’t sunk into the ocean or gone bankrupt or anything, but we are still not funding schools adequately.

    *: Buttigieg has been amazing with his messaging and his media handling. He’s gotten himself a platform with the plausible second tier candidates, and we will see if he can do anything with it. He may have gotten this spotlight before he was ready though.

  13. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    As an EU outsider I’m constantly amazed how little traction Warren seems to have in people’s minds. To me, she seems to be by far the most promising candidate, as she combines traditional qualifications with “vision” and specific plans for long-acknowledged existing problems.

    And yet people seem to see her only as the unlikable aunt. It’s puzzling.

  14. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Hey there! Fellow Granite-stater here.

    I’ve been surprised with the utter lack of any signs in our area, with a few remaining Gary Johnson signs hanging around from 2016 the only ones visible.

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Well, we appear to have dismissed any semblance of being a nation that would prioritize competence. Warren will be treated to the same garbage as Hillary was “…well, I support a woman running but not *that* one, she’s [insert any/all of the following: too ambitious, too stiff, too shrill, I don’t like her voice, she seems to want it too much, etc.].” I stand by my prediction that this country will not affirmatively elect a woman to the highest office for at minimum another 9 years. Maybe by 2028.

  15. just nutha says:

    @Gustopher: In fairness to Inslee, Democrats and Republicans alike have been bankrupting schools in Washington for most of my life. When I was young, public education was a little over half of the entire state budget, so in hard times, the schools were where the money was. It’s taken over 30 years for the state to finally get to almost completely centralized funding (which may not be that good of an idea, BTW) from the days when the subject first came up while I was living on Mercer Island in 1976. I’m not surprised that they tried to do it on the cheap and have more work to do.

    Still, Inslee is a nothingburger. Even Scoop was more credible and everyone in the state Democratic infrastructure knew he was the darkest dark horse evah in ’72.

    ETA: “To me, she seems to be by far the most promising candidate, as she combines traditional qualifications with “vision” and specific plans for long-acknowledged existing problems.”
    And yet you say you don’t understand why she has no traction. Perhaps you’re overthinking it.

  16. James Pearce says:


    He’s a good man, and I could happily support him, but I’m now even more wary of his age…

    Yeah, in a perfect world I’d like someone younger, too. But if Biden is the nominee, we’ll have a choice between a 73 year old man and one who is 77 years old. There’s not much difference there.

  17. James Pearce says:


    LoDo. Been a long time since I heard that. Used to live there in the mid 90’s

    The closest I ever got to living in Lodo was on living up on the Hill off 10th and Sherman. Back then, the late 90s, I spent a lot of time down there in Lodo. The Giggling Grizzly was a fav.

    But the only thing that would get me down there now is the Tattered Cover and, maybe, a baseball game.

    Did you ever go to Wynkoop?

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    Hardly any lawn signs around the seacoast, beyond the aforementioned Tulsi’s. There are a number of faded MAGA signs and some Bernie 16 bumper stickers but that is about it.