The first Democratic debate reshaped the presidential field in Iowa as support surged for California Sen. Kamala Harris, undercutting the standing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and raising questions about the solidity of former Vice President Joe Biden’s front-runner status.
In a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll, Biden continues to lead the field, backed by 24% of those who say they are likely to attend the Democratic caucuses in Iowa that will open the presidential contests next year. Harris jumped to second place, at 16%, leapfrogging over Sanders, whose support sagged to single digits. At 9%, he finished fourth, behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 13%.
The new standings are hardly set in stone. Twenty-one percent are undecided. Six of 10 who have decided say they might change their mind before the caucuses. One in four say their minds are firmly made up. The second set of debates, scheduled for the end of the month in Detroit, could upend the horse race again.
The survey has some sobering findings for Biden, a familiar figure in the state. His level of support didn’t change from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll taken last month, but among those who watched him debate, more than four in 10 say he did worse than they expected. Among all of those surveyed, he is the second choice of 11%. . .
For Sanders, who lost the 2016 Iowa caucuses to Hillary Clinton by less than a point, the new poll has warning flags. His support is 7 points lower than in the Iowa Poll taken in June, when he finished second to Biden. When first and second choices are combined, Sanders finishes fifth – trailing Biden, Harris and Warren by double digits and Buttigieg by single digits. (Read more from “New Poll Has Horrible News for Bernie Sanders” HERE)