Poll: Jump ball in New Hampshire

Monmouth University is out with a new poll of the New Hampshire primary, the first one conducted entirely in 2020. It shows a logjam at the top.

Pete Buttigieg leads with 20 percent. Joe Biden is right behind at 19 percent, followed closely by Bernie Sanders at 18 percent (the three are tied, statistically speaking). Elizabeth Warren is next. She polls 15 percent. After that, it’s all the way down to Amy Klobuchar with 6 percent.

Buttigieg has surged, having doubled his support since Monmouth’s last poll in September. Warren has faltered, losing nearly half of her support during the same period.

The polls suggest that Buttigieg might win in both Iowa (where RCP the poll average nearly mirrors Monmouth’s Granite State results) and New Hampshire, although the odds remain against that “double.” Having paid considerable attention to Buttigieg’s campaign from almost its beginning, I’m not surprised that he broke away from the no-hopers with whom he originally was bunched. However, I did not expect him to do quite as well as he seems to be doing.

Buttigeig’s advantages over the other three first-tier candidates are obvious, though. He’s 37 years old. The other three are in their 70s.

Buttigieg is, I think, smarter than Warren and Sanders, and much smarter than Biden. At a minimum, he’s more intellectually nimble than all three. He’s smoother, as well.

Buttigieg has not tied himself to the far left, but neither is he clearly tied to the establishment the way Biden is. Unlike Biden, he is not burdened by past votes and utterances.

But despite his relative obscurity (until recently), Buttigieg has a ready and generous source of funding — gay America (and maybe the LBT America, though this seems less clear). Candidates like Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand never had that.

Even if Buttigieg wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he still faces the daunting task of gaining delegates in states with sizable African-American populations. We’ve written about this problem before, as has almost everyone else who analyzes the Democratic field.

Unless Biden gets knocked for a loop in the two earliest states (and polls don’t suggest that he will), he should retain the bulk of African-American support. But if Biden falters, the task of competing with Warren and Sanders for those votes might not be so daunting.

In May of last year, President Trump said of Buttigieg, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States.” Back then, it seemed obvious that Buttigieg could not even become the Democratic nominee for president, not 2020 anyway. It’s less obvious today.

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