Scheduled to take place on February 22, the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucuses could alter the dynamics of the primary race, either solidifying Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' frontrunner status, or creating an opening for a candidate such as former Vice President Joe Biden to receive a boost ahead of South Carolina and Super Tuesday.
According to a new poll conducted by WPA Intelligence on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada, Sanders -- who recently opened a significant lead over Biden in national polling -- is poised to win the Silver State. The Vermont senator is leading the field with 25 percent of the vote, with a seven-point advantage over Biden, who is polling at 18 percent.
Polling at 13 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is in third place. Billionaire Tom Steyer is in fourth with 11 percent support. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- who overperformed the polling in Iowa and came in second in New Hampshire -- is in fifth place with 10 percent.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar -- who pulled somewhat of an upset in New Hampshire, finishing third -- is in sixth place, polling at 10 percent. Notably, 13 percent of likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers are undecided. Billionaire and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is not on the ballot.
Sanders' greatest strength is the support he enjoys among "very liberal" and "somewhat liberal" Democrats, according to the poll. Thirty-three percent of those who consider themselves very liberal support Sanders, as do 31 percent of somewhat liberal voters. Among very liberal Democrats, Warren is polling at 32 percent, but she poses no threat to Sanders among other ideological groups.
As WPA research director Trevor Smith explained, this has allowed Sanders to hold a firm grip on left-leaning voters.
"Right now, Senator Sanders is winning the 'progressive' battle in Nevada," he said.
Smith also noted that the upcoming Las Vegas debate will likely not influence the vote very much, given that 59 percent of respondents said they would be early caucusing before it takes place.
"The debate may be too late for any of these candidates to really make the adjustments they need," he explained.
Progressives appear to have made up their mind, but moderates have not. Biden, who led in Nevada before collapsing in Iowa and New Hampshire, faces strong competition from Buttigieg, Steyer, and Klobuchar. One of those candidates could sweep up the bulk of moderate votes.
"One or two of these three alternatives may be able to entrench themselves within this lane prior to the primary. My bet would be on Senator Klobuchar," Smith said.
Voters' second and third choices will likely have tremendous impact on the race, so the poll also tested the favorability ratings of all candidates. In that category, Sanders and Warren lead the field, with 71 percent of likely caucus-goers holding a favorable view of them. Buttigieg has the lowest favorability rating at 59 percent.