Kamala Harris Surges into 2nd Place in New Iowa Caucus Poll

Kamala Harris polls

Getty Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris’ status as one of the frontrunners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is becoming increasingly clear. That’s one of the takeaways from a new Iowa poll from Emerson College that shows Harris leading all but one Democratic candidate, and closing in on frontrunner Joe Biden, who’s yet to formally enter the race.

Harris is at 18 percent in the poll of Democrats who say they plan to caucus next year — among her best showings in any state or national poll of the 2020 cycle. After formally entering the race on Martin Luther King Day, Harris has gained far more traction than the other candidates who have entered the race: Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and former HUD Secretary and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. (Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey entered the race on Friday, a day after Emerson started conducting the poll.)

In December, Harris was routinely stuck in the low- to mid- single digits in national and state polls. A December Iowa poll from Selzer and Co., sponsored by the Des Moines Register and CNN, had Harris in fifth place, with just 5 percent of the vote.

“(Harris) has a stronger presence on the campaign trail than some might have otherwise thought,” said Spencer Kimball, director of the Emerson poll.

Biden, who has led the majority of state and national polls, leads the Emerson poll at 29 percent. It’s a less dominant showing for the former Vice President than many other recent state and national polls.

Iowa Poll Results: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris & Bernie Sanders Lead the Pack

The Emerson poll, conducted January 30 through February 2, finds Biden with a modest 11-point lead over Harris and the rest of the field. Biden gets 29 percent of the vote. Harris is second at 18 percent. Bernie Sanders, who’s expected to enter the race but hasn’t made a formal announcement, is next at 15 percent.

Warren, at 11 percent, is the only other candidate to earn the support of more than 6 percent of respondents. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke, who had been polling as a top-tier candidate in December, is a distant fifth in the poll, with 6 percent of respondents saying they support him.

Booker is at 4 percent in the poll, as is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who hasn’t yet entered the race. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is at 3 percent, while Castro is at 2 percent and Gillibrand and Representative John Delaney of Maryland are each at 1 percent. Three other candidates — Gabbard, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigeig, and businessman Andrew Yang — were at 0 percent.

Joe Biden 29
Kamala Harris 18
Bernie Sanders 15
Elizabeth Warren 11
Beto O’Rourke 6
Cory Booker 4
Sherrod Brown 4
Amy Klobuchar 3
Julian Castro 2
John Delaney 1
Kirsten Gillibrand 1
Tulsi Gabbard 0
Pete Buttigieg 0
Andrew Yang 0
Someone else 8

A Huge Majority of Voters Say They Prefer a Younger Candidate

In a race with several top-tier candidates in the late 60s or 70s, age could be a factor in both the Democratic primary and the general election. That could be good news for the 54-year-old Harris.

Seventy-one percent of Iowa Democrats and 67 percent of Iowa voters overall say that either “over 65,” “over 70,” or “over 75” is “too old” to be president. Three top-tier Democrats — Sanders, 77, Biden, 76, and Warren, 69 — are older than 65. President Trump is 72.

“The poll shows voters prefer a younger candidate,” Kimball said. “This is good news for Harris. Also, Warren is a known commodity, while Harris is still a bit of a novelty that voters might be giving a first look at.”

Donald Trump Trails Joe Biden but Narrowly Leads Other Democrats in Iowa

No state swung further from Democrats to Republicans in 2016 than Iowa, which Barack Obama carried by six percentage points in 2012 but Trump carried by nine points over Hillary Clinton in 2016. But there have been signs that the Hawkeye State could be competitive in 2020. Democratic House candidates won the cumulative popular vote in Iowa in 2018 and flipped two of the state’s GOP-held seats.Trump’s approval rating in Iowa has been under water for the majority of his term.

The Emerson poll finds Trump showing signs of weakness, but still leading all but one potential Democratic candidate in head-to-head matchups.

Trump’s approval rating in the state is at 46 percent, according to the Emerson poll, with 48 percent disapproving. Head-to-head, he trails Biden by 2 percentage points, but leads other Democrats by between 1 and 9 points. (He also leads House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by 10 points in a hypothetical matchup, but there are no signs that Pelosi is considering a run for President.)

Here’s how the President stacks up against each potential rival:

Trump vs. Biden 49-51 Biden +2
Trump vs. Sanders 51-50 Trump +1
Trump vs. Warren 52-48 Trump +4
Trump vs. Harris 53-47 Trump +6
Trump vs. O’Rourke 53-47 Trump +6
Trump vs. Gillibrand 54-46 Trump +8
Trump vs. Brown 55-46 Trump +9
Trump vs. Pelosi 55-45 Trump +10

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