Steyer Surges in South Carolina, Nevada Polls: Campaign Update

Gregory Korte

(Bloomberg) -- Two breakout polls are bolstering the presidential campaign of billionaire Tom Steyer, who has surged to second place in South Carolina and tied for third in Nevada.

The Fox News surveys released Thursday night also allow Steyer to participate in the Democratic debate in Iowa next week, giving him the two additional polls he needed to qualify under Democratic National Committee rules.

Joe Biden still has a commanding lead in South Carolina with 36%, a sign of his strength with African-American Democrats. Steyer, at 15%, is now competing for second place with Bernie Sanders at 14%. The South Carolina poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The Nevada poll shows Biden at 23%, Sanders at 17%, and Steyer and Elizabeth Warren both at 12%. That survey had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Steyer’s largely self-funded presidential campaign has bought $13.3 million worth of air time in South Carolina and $10.3 million in Nevada, according to data from Advertising Analytics, which tracks political commercials. Overall, he’s spent $96.6 million on advertising. Steyer was an early proponent of the movement to impeach President Donald Trump, funding national cable television ads before he entered the race last July.

Booker Says Impeachment Could Hobble His Run (5:53 p.m.)

Cory Booker said the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump could deal a “big, big blow” to his presidential campaign by keeping him in Washington during the final stretch before the Iowa caucus.

“It’s going to be a challenging four weeks in the caucus for us,” the New Jersey senator said in an interview with the Associated Press. “If we can’t raise more money in this final stretch, we won’t be able to do the things that other campaigns with more money can do to show presence.”

Booker said he could be forced to end his campaign if he didn’t do well in Iowa. “If our pathway to victory ever closes off, I’m not staying in,” said Booker. Still, he predicted he would “upset expectations“ in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest.

The four other senators running for president -- Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado -- would also be required to serve as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial instead of campaigning across Iowa. The House voted to impeach Trump last month, but the timetable for a Senate trial has not been determined.

Booker did not qualify for the December debate and has yet to make the cut for the forum next week. He’s polling at 1.8% nationally in the RealClearPolitics average and is sixth in Iowa with 3%. -- Emma Kinery

Buttigieg, Biden, Sanders Tied in New Hampshire (11:12 a.m.)

Pete Buttigieg is virtually tied with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders for the lead in New Hampshire with a month until the state’s primary, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.

Buttigieg’s support in the first primary state doubled to 20% from 10% since the last Monmouth poll of New Hampshire in September. Biden had 19% and Sanders had 18% with Elizabeth Warren behind at 15%. The poll of 697 likely New Hampshire voters was taken Jan. 3-7 and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Sanders, from Vermont, and Warren, from Massachusetts, were expected to do well in neighboring New Hampshire. Sanders won New Hampshire handily in the 2016 primary with 60% over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

The other candidates received single-digit support. But Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said these lower polling candidates should not be counted out yet.

“The race remains fairly wide-open. To the extent that New Hampshire voters could take some cues from Iowa, it’s also worth keeping an eye on lower-polling candidates” like Amy Klobuchar, he said. -- Emma Kinery

Five Democrats Could Beat Trump in Michigan (10:35 a.m.)

Five of the Democratic presidential candidates would beat President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Michigan, according to a poll published Thursday by The Detroit News.

The Glengariff poll of 600 likely Michigan voters found former Vice President Joe Biden had a 7 percentage-point lead over Trump, beating him 50% to 43% in the state. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a 6-point lead over the president, beating him 47% to 41%, the Detroit News reported.

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Michigan voter preferences matter to both parties after Trump narrowly beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes in the state in 2016, the first time a Republican candidate won Michigan in 28 years. The Glengariff poll only surveyed voters about how five Democratic candidates would fare against Trump: it also found Senator Bernie Sanders led Trump 49% to 45%, and ex-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren held a 2-point lead over Trump.

The Jan. 3-7 survey of 600 likely Michigan voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. -- Kathleen Miller

Buttigieg Gets First Nod from a Black Lawmaker (7:26 a.m.)

Maryland Democrat Anthony Brown endorsed Pete Buttigieg, the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to do so, giving the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a high-profile surrogate as he seeks to dispel persistent questions about his campaign’s appeal to non-white voters.

Buttigieg spokesman Chris Meagher announced the endorsement via Twitter Thursday after it was first reported by the Washington Post.

The move follows the campaign’s release of a 30-second ad featuring four black South Bend residents praising Buttigieg’s record in the city where he was the mayor until Jan. 1.

Brown’s Prince George’s County-based district, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, covers much of one of the most affluent majority-black counties in the U.S. -- as well as stretching eastward to the suburbs of the state capital in Annapolis.

While Maryland doesn’t vote in the presidential primaries until April 28, Brown instantly becomes arguably the former mayor’s highest-profile black supporter. -- Derek Wallbank

COMING UP:

Six Democrats -- Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, Steyer and Klobuchar -- have qualified for the next debate, on Jan. 14 in Iowa.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally in Milwaukee on the same night as the debate, as well as a rally in Toledo on Thursday.

The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses will be held Feb. 3.

(Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

--With assistance from Derek Wallbank, Kathleen Miller, Emma Kinery and Bill Allison.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Korte in Washington at gkorte@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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