New CNN polls from two key early states released Sunday solidify the notion that the Democratic Party presidential primary has largely become a three-way race between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
The new polling figures show that Sanders and Biden are tied for first place in Nevada (both receiving 22%), while a third-place Warren trails slightly at 18% — just four points behind and within the margin of error. In Nevada, the state survey (pdf)—coupled with national demographic trends—suggests Sanders first-place finish has much to do with his strong support from Latinx voters and the working class.
In Nevada, notes CNN, Sanders “does about twice as well among whites without a college degree in our sample than whites with a college degree. That matches what we see nationally.” With Warren surging in other recent state and national polls, CNN political analysis Henry Enten said “our Nevada poll is the best news for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by far” over the last couple of weeks.
In South Carolina, meanwhile, the poll (pdf) shows Biden with 37% — a more commanding lead over Warren’s spot in second place with 16% and Sanders’ 11% which landed him in third place. Both in Nevada and South Carolina, no other candidate escaped low single digits.
According to Enten’s review of the South Carolina data:
Perhaps the biggest question of the Democratic primary race is whether Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren can extend her appeal beyond her white well-educated base. Specifically, can she earn the support of black voters, who are the base of the Democratic Party?
Our South Carolina poll suggests the Massachusetts senator has a lot of work to do. She gets only 4% of the black likely primary voters. That looks quite similar to the 2% Warren was earning amongst this group in previous polls by Fox News and Monmouth University.
For comparison, Warren’s at 28% among white voters in our South Carolina poll.
While Biden received the support of 45% of black voters in the South Carolina poll, Sanders was at 13% compared to Warren’s 4%.
“Black voters, of course,” notes Enten, “make up a majority or near a majority of Democratic primary voters in southern primaries such as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Warren’s going to run into some major problems in southern primaries if she can’t do better with this bloc of voters.”
As Vox‘s Dylan Scott detailed last week, there is much evidence now to support the idea that the primary has become a three-way race:
The three leading candidates have pulled away from the rest of the field. Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have enjoyed moments of strong polling, but they haven’t been able to sustain it. Others — Sen. Cory Booker, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar — are still languishing in the low single digits after months of campaigning. They are starting to confront the real possibility of getting cut from future debates, as the Democratic National Committee raises its standards.
Biden still enjoys a decent polling lead in national polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average, but Warren has been steadily rising behind him, and Sanders still carries a lot of support.
With announcement this week of an official impeachment inquiring into President Donald Trump by House Democrats, the stakes of the 2020 elections continue to rise. One thing national polls have repeatedly shown is that Biden, Sanders, and Warren all beat Trump in hypothetical general election matchups.