Joe Biden Still Tops Democratic Field In New Poll, But Kamala Harris Surges In Poll Of Early Primary States

A new poll of three early primary states shows that Kamala Harris may get off to a fast start once voting season begins, but Joe Biden still holds a solid overall lead.

Kamala Harris places her and on Joe Biden's arm.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A new poll of three early primary states shows that Kamala Harris may get off to a fast start once voting season begins, but Joe Biden still holds a solid overall lead.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged battered and bruised, but nonetheless still in command of the Democratic 2020 presidential race, after a shaky performance in the June 27 candidate’s debate. Biden holds a seven-point lead over second-place Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and a 13-point lead over both Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and California Senator Kamala Harris, according to the results of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Thursday. The raw data from the poll can be accessed online via DocumentCloud.

No other candidate in the field of 24 is polling in double digits, and only South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, coming in at 7 percent, has gained the backing of more than 2 percent of likely voters, according to an NBC News report on the poll.

The candidates also appear to be splitting off into demographic lanes, with Biden drawing much of his support from older voters, black voters, and voters who describe themselves as holding “moderate” or “conservative” political opinions. But Warren leads among self-described liberals, and Sanders sees his best performance with young voters, according to NBC News.

The NBC News/WSJ poll shows a tighter race than the average of all Democratic primary polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. In the polling average, which is generally considered a more reliable portrait of the electorate than any single, isolated poll, Biden continues to hold a dominant 12-point lead, at 27 percent to Sanders’ 15 percent. Harris and Warren trail slightly behind Sanders at 14.8 and 14.4 percent respectively in the RCP average.

Kamala Harris smiles.
California Senator Kamala Harris appears poised for a fast start in the primary season. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

But a separate poll, released on Thursday by Change Research and the podcasting network Crooked Media — best known for its Pod Save America podcast — showed that Harris may be poised to change the momentum of the race once primary voting starts with the Iowa caucus on February 3.

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In the Change Research poll of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Harris sits in fourth place with 17 percent — but that marks a remarkable 12-point upswing since the Change Research poll of those states conducted in June, prior to the two-nights of Democratic debates on June 26 and June 27. Biden plunged 11 points in the poll and occupies third place in the three early states at 18 percent.

That puts the national frontrunner one point behind Warren and Sanders, who are tied atop the early state poll at 19 percent. A solid performance in the early primaries, or a weak one, can have a powerful influence on voter perceptions of a candidate’s electability heading into the heart of primary season.

In New Hampshire, the first actual primary election, which is set for February 11, 2020, Sanders and Warren outpace the field with 26 and 24 percent respectively, according to the Change Research numbers posted by Five Thirty Eight. But their leads there may be a geographical anomaly. Sanders hails from Vermont, which borders New Hampshire to the west, while Warren’s home state of Massachusetts also borders New Hampshire, directly south.