(CN) – Someone other than former Vice President Joe Biden leads a national poll tracking the Democrats’ race for the White House for the first time in 2019: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
According to Wednesday’s Quinnipiac Poll, Warren has 27% of support from likely Democratic and independent voters while Biden has 25%.
Two percentage points falls well within the statistical margin of error, meaning the candidates are essentially tied. But the numerical advantage for Warren is significant as she continues a surge in polls.
Warren also polled first in a survey conducted by the Des Moines Register over the weekend, important as Iowa will hold the nation’s first primary contest with its caucus on Feb. 3, 2020.
“After trailing Biden by double digits since March in the race for the Democratic nomination, Warren catches Biden,” said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy. “We now have a race with two candidates at the top of the field, and they’re leaving the rest of the pack behind.”
Despite a large stable of candidates, the race for the Democratic nomination has been marked by stability in 2019, with three candidates consistently finishing in the top three – Biden, Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Sanders finished third in Wednesday’s poll with 16% of the support.
It increasingly appears only a handful of candidates have a realistic path to the nomination.
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, managed 7% support for fourth place, while Senator Kamala Harris of California came in fifth place at 3% – the lowest polling numbers for her in the Quinnipiac Poll since it began conducting surveys in March.
No other candidate tops 2%, bad news for the second-tier candidates who need at least 3% in four national or state polls in order to qualify for the November debate.
The jockeying for position at the top is most notable as Warren has made up so much ground largely due to her appeal with white college-educated voters, who favor her over Biden by 37-20. The same demographic was essentially split between the candidates just last month.
“Dig a little deeper, and the reasons behind Warren’s rise become more clear,” Malloy said. “She generates a lot of excitement as a potential nominee. On top of that, half of Democrats want a presidential candidate that supports big changes – even if it means things are harder along the way.”
Warren’s swell in the national polls is mirrored in a California poll conducted by UC Berkeley, in which she received 29% support from likely voters compared with 20% for Biden. Support for Warren in the Golden State went up 11 points from June.
Sanders came in third, essentially tied with Biden at 19%.
“It is noteworthy that Warren’s growing base of support has come from the ranks of those formerly
supporting Harris, Buttigieg and Biden,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.
Harris’ poor performance in her home state is an ominous sign her chances to secure the nomination are rapidly dimming. She received 8% of support in her home state, coming in a distant fourth.
California’s primary isn’t until March 3, but early voting in the state begins a month prior – about the same time polls open in Iowa and the primary election season begins in earnest.
While Warren is riding a wave to the top of the polls, don’t discount Biden, who came in first in a Goucher College survey that asked likely voters in Maryland who they support. Biden won 33% support, while Warren managed 21%.
The two candidates at the top of the field now present Democrats a clear choice between a more moderate approach to the 2020 presidential election embodied by Biden, or a more uncompromisingly progressive vision with Warren.
In Maryland as in other states, a large swathe of voters remains undecided which direction they want the party to go.
“Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are currently the front-runners among Maryland Democratic likely voters,” said Mileah Kromer, the Goucher College poll director. “Democrats in Maryland are divided over whether they want a more moderate or progressive nominee.”