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'He Could Win the Caucuses,' Pollster Says as Bernie Sanders Leads Gold-Standard Iowa Survey for First Time

The White House hopeful's surge in support comes just three weeks before the early state's nationally watched caucus day.

Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) greets people as he walks with reporters through the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on August 11, 2019. (Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

With just three weeks until Iowa will hold the first nominating contest in the Democratic Party's presidential primary race, Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading the field, according to results released Friday evening.

The "gold-standard" poll from Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom has Sanders (I-Vt.) at 20% followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 17%, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16%, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points.

Sanders saw a five-point surge in support from November, when he secured just 15%. This is the first time in either of his runs for president that Sanders has led this poll.

"There's no denying that this is a good poll for Bernie Sanders," J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, told the Register. "He leads, but it's not an uncontested lead."

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Of the 701 likely Democratic caucusgoers surveyed Jan. 2–8, 40% say they have made up their minds about which candidates they plan to support. Selzer noted that the poll shows Sanders has "a firmer grip on his supporters than the rest of his compatriots."

As the Register explained:

Sanders' supporters are more likely than those who support the other leading candidates to say their minds are made up (59%), and they are "extremely" enthusiastic about their candidate (49%). Just 32% of Warren's supporters describe themselves as extremely enthusiastic, and 26% each for Biden and Buttigieg.

"There's just the Bernie factor... which is (even) stronger than we saw in the last cycle," said Selzer. "There was a thought that his support was a holdover from when he ran before and that that would evaporate... It certainly has not evaporated."

"For real, he could win the caucuses," the pollster added. "His supporters are more committed and more entrenched."

Although Warren and Buttigieg still have large "footprints" in the state, given the number of caucusgoers who name them as candidates they are considering, the results were still welcomed by Sanders' campaign staffers and supporters.

"Hey everyone," tweeted Sanders 2020 speechwriter and senior adviser David Sirota, "This is exactly why #TrumpFearsBernie."

Sanders' campaign celebrated the development with a fundraising email Friday which declared, "There's a new leader in Iowa, and his name is Bernard Sanders."

"We have a ton of momentum with just three weeks to go. Now we have to finish the job," the email continued. "Because if we do, we will take one GIANT leap forward toward President Bernie Sanders."

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