Sanders Surges Ahead of 2020 Democratic Hopefuls in California Poll

(CN) – With two weeks until California’s presidential primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders widened his lead over Democratic rivals by picking up support Tuesday from nearly a third of Golden State voters, including more than half of Latinos, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Sanders is the top choice of 32% of California Democratic primary likely voters, an 18-point lead over nearest rival former Vice President Joe Biden who has 14% support, the PPIC poll found. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in New Hampshire on Jan. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was third with 13% support, according to the survey of 1,702 California residents, including 537 Democratic and independent voters, conducted between Feb 7 and Feb. 17.  

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg each have 12% support, the poll found.

No other Democratic candidate picked up more than 5% support in the poll and 8% of voters said they are undecided, according to the nonpartisan institute.

Sanders has 53% support from voters aged 18 to 44, far outpacing Warren and Buttigieg – who each have 13% support – and Biden, who has 9% support from the voter group.

Sanders’ California campaign director Rafael Návar said in a statement that Golden State voters have embraced the Vermont senator’s grassroots message and his plan to enact transformative policies.

“In a moment of extreme inequality, increasing homelessness, and an uncertain future for young people, Californians understand that only Senator Sanders has the vision to make housing affordable, create tuition-free public colleges, and fight for the good-paying, union jobs that all Americans deserve,” Návar said.

Návar also noted the political strength of Latino voters in California and their role in the 2020 election.

Latinos in California support Sanders by similarly wide margins, with 52% saying they support the self-described Democratic Socialist.

“We are also grateful for the support of the Latino community, which is the strength of our grassroots movement in the Golden State, and we do not underestimate their power in this election,” Návar said. 

Sanders was also the choice of 34% of voters asked who is best positioned to defeat President Donald Trump in November. Sixteen percent of voters said Biden was the best suited to beat Trump, while an equal amount of voters said Bloomberg has the qualities necessary to beat the president. 

Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, said in a statement Sanders’ standing among Golden State voters cements his position as the Democratic frontrunner in the election.

“Bernie Sanders leads all candidates in the Democratic presidential primary today, and he is most likely to be named by voters as the candidate who can win against Donald Trump in November,” said Baldassare. “As the campaign moves to larger and more diverse states, Sanders’ support among Latinos and younger voters is noteworthy.” 

PPIC is set to release the full survey on Thursday.

Sanders’ lead in California is his widest in the crowded field of Democratic hopefuls since last July and upends PPIC’s January survey, which billed the Golden State’s primary as a three-way race between Sanders, Biden and Warren.

In the January poll, Sanders was favored by 27% of voters while Biden had 24% support and 23% of voters said they preferred Warren.

Biden – who has skipped major events on the California campaign trail, including the state Democratic Party’s convention last November – has been endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

A nationwide poll by National Public Radio/PBS NewsHour/Marist found Tuesday that Sanders has 31% support among voters, 12 points clear of Bloomberg’s 19% support.

Sanders’ California poll numbers come after he claimed victory last week in New Hampshire’s primary and his strong performance in Iowa where he took the popular vote in the Feb. 3 caucuses but placed second behind Buttigieg in the delegate count.

Jeff Weaver, a Sanders advisor, said in a statement Tuesday the campaign will request a recount in several precincts in the Iowa caucuses following the Iowa Democratic Party’s release of recanvass data. 

“While it is clear that Sen. Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa by 6,000 votes, the recanvass process reduced the State Delegate Equivalent deficit by 97 percent,” Weaver said. “We now believe a recount will give Sen. Sanders enough State Delegate Equivalents to put him over the top by that metric as well.”

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