Buttigieg Leads in NH as First US Primary Draws Near

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (CN) — Pete Buttigieg is holding a slight lead among Democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, according to a Thursday poll from Monmouth University in what has become a tightened, four-way race.

Democratic voters polled 20% for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 19% for former Vice President Joe Biden, 18% for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and 15% for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who failed to register for the New Hampshire primary in time, was excluded from the poll, which found 7% of Democratic voters remain undecided.

Democratic presidential candidates South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., businessman Andrew Yang, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney stand onstage during a fundraiser for the Nevada Democratic Party, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

When all candidates except for the top four were excluded, the race remained tight, with Biden at 24%, Buttigieg at 23%, Sanders at 21% and Warren at 18%.

The poll was conducted from Jan. 3–7 among 404 New Hampshire voters that expect to vote in the Democratic primaries, among a total of 697 voters that were contacted.

The poll results reflect a small increase in the number of voters that gravitating toward the four-way top tier of the Democratic primary, in the weeks following the departures of California Senator Kamala Harris and Julian Castro, the former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If anything, the results of the poll show that the Granite State’s primary remains wide open, said Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray. The poll results are similar to that of a poll conducted one month earlier by WBUR and Mass Inc.

“The race remains fairly wide-open,” Murray said in a statement. “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 [Minnesota Senator Amy] Klobuchar if any of the leading contenders stumble in the earlier Iowa contest.”

The poll also gauged voter opinions on how the primary races are conducted nationally.

Of those responding, 63% said they believed that Iowa and New Hampshire had the appropriate level of influence on the national primary process, although the same percentage of people said that they did not believe that Iowa and New Hampshire’s positions as the first primary races in the country had any significant difference on whether the best candidates were eventually nominated.

In 2016, Senator Ted Cruz won the Republican caucus in Iowa, while Hillary Clinton narrowly edged out Sanders by less than 1 point. Donald Trump would go on to win New Hampshire along with Sanders.

New Hampshire will hold 2020’s first official presidential primary on Feb. 11. In 2016, the Granite State went to Sanders with 60.2% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 37.7%.

Polling data leading up to the contest consistently showed Sanders in the lead, with Monmouth University’s final poll before the 2016 contest showing Sanders with 53%. The poll has a 4.9% margin of error.

The latest national poll, which was released Jan. 8 and conducted by YouGov and The Economist over the three prior days among 574 respondents, shows that Biden still commands the lead, with 27% of the vote. Warren is in second place with 22%  followed by Sanders with 20% and Buttigieg with 7%.

Meanwhile in Iowa, were the Democratic Caucus officially kicks off the primary season on Feb. 3, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg are tied with 23% followed by Warren with 16%, according to a YouGov poll of 747 respondents released Jan. 5.

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