Buttigieg surges in Iowa poll

By Quint Forgey

A new Iowa survey of the 2020 Democratic presidential contest shows Pete Buttigieg surging in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, locked in a three-way race with frontrunners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Eighteen percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers back the former vice president, while 17 percent favor the Massachusetts senator and 13 percent prefer the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll released Monday.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the 2016 caucuses to Hillary Clinton by less than 1 percentage point, achieved 9 percent support in the poll.

Four candidates garnered 3 percent: billionaire Tom Steyer, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Still, 29 percent of caucus-goers say they remain undecided.

The poll was conducted in the days after the fourth Democratic debate, during which Buttigieg adopted a more aggressive posture and accused Warren of equivocating on the cost of her Medicare For All proposal.

Other recent Iowa surveys — including a CBS/YouGov poll conducted before the debate and several statewide polls in September — have also had Buttigieg in either the high single-digits or low double-digits.

In the last several weeks, Buttigieg has sought to establish himself as a pragmatic alternative to primary voters unmoved by Warren's brand of progressive populism and reluctant to embrace the more moderate Biden, whose standing in public polling has begun to diminish.

Buttigieg has also maintained a formidable fundraising operation, raking in $19.1 million in the three months ending in September, the third-largest amount raised by a Democratic candidate in the third quarter of this year — behind Sanders with $25 million and Warren with $24.6 million.

Buttigieg’s top-tier finish in Monday's survey represents a marked improvement from his performance in an earlier Suffolk/USA TODAY poll conducted following the first Democratic debate in late June.

In that summer survey of likely Democratic caucus-goers, Biden led the field with 24 percent, followed by Harris at 16 percent, Warren at 13 percent, Sanders at 9 percent and Buttigieg at 6 percent.

The latest Suffolk poll also moves two White House contenders — Klobuchar and Gabbard — closer to qualifying for the November debate stage. To participate in that forum, candidates need to achieve at least 3 percent support in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and amass contributions from 165,000 donors by Nov. 13.

The survey is Klobuchar's second qualifying poll and Gabbard's first. Both have said publicly they've passed the donor threshold. Eight candidates have already qualified for the Atlanta-area debate on Nov. 20.

The Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll was conducted Oct. 16-18, surveying 500 likely Democratic caucus-goers. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.