2020 Democratic Primary Polls: Once Buried At The Bottom, Pete Buttigieg Surges To Striking Distance Iowa

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Pete Buttigieg is surging in Iowa, with a new poll showing the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, jumping over some of the more established candidates and into third place.

The new survey from Emerson Polling showed that 11 percent of voters wanted Buttigieg to be the 2020 presidential nominee. In past polls, Buttigieg had hovered near the bottom as he worked to build up name recognition in a crowded field that includes Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was ahead in the Iowa poll with 25 percent support, followed by Bernie Sanders at 24 percent. Biden has not yet announced whether he will be running, though has been giving hints of an intended run. Buttigieg has yet to officially announce after forming an exploratory committee.

Experts said the recent surge is especially important for Buttigieg, who needs to strike while the iron is hot, using the attention to build his name recognition.

“The biggest surprise in this poll is Mayor Pete, last week we saw him inching up in our national poll, and now he’s in double digits in Iowa, America is going to be asking who is ‘Mayor Pete’?” said Spencer Kimaball, director of the Emerson Poll.

While Buttigieg has been polling at low levels so far — the position where candidates normally drop out before primaries even begin — some political experts believe that Buttigieg has a chance of making a run similar to Barack Obama in 2008, coming from far behind early in the primary.

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“There are definitely some folks who are talking about him,” Jaime Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman and Senate candidate, who ran against Buttigieg for Democratic National Committee, told NBC News. “He’s an extremely gifted politician and he’s very genuine. I think what everybody else is seeing is what I saw when we were head to head….I would not dismiss Pete at all.”

Iowa state Democratic Party chairman Troy Price said the interest in Buttigieg has been growing among the state’s voters. A strong performance in the Iowa caucus could also help boost him into a position where a win could be within reach, as Obama did with his surprise victory in the Iowa caucus in 2008.

Whatever happens in next year’s start of the Democratic primary, the South Bend mayor has already come a long way since entering the race. As The Hill reported, Buttigieg had previously polled at zero percent in Emerson’s Iowa poll back in January.