People obsessed with presidential politics often look to Iowa for early indications of which candidates might be favored to win their party’s nomination. This is because for decades Iowa has held presidential nominating caucuses before any other states hold primaries.
Even though there are other early caucus and primary states, the preferences of Iowans are still considered important. If a dark horse candidate wins in Iowa it can give him or her momentum (and invaluable publicity) that might lead to winning the nomination.
So when the state’s leading newspaper, The Des Moines Register, published its first poll of 2020 Democratic contenders, the entire political world was paying attention. The highly-respected Iowa Poll is known for its accuracy, and it currently shows Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke as the top three contenders.
Biden was the first choice of 32 percent of respondents, and Sanders, who finished second in the Democratic primary in 2016, followed with 19 percent. O’Rourke was chosen by 11 percent of the Iowans who participated in the survey.
Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the firm that conducted the poll, said:
“This is obviously a warm welcome to some people who are really familiar to caucusgoers in the state. But there’s also some welcoming of newcomers who are only now starting to come to the state and get to know the people who could shape their future.”
The top two candidates, Biden and Sanders, are not only veteran politicians but well into their 70’s, which may be a problem down the road. Nearly half of poll respondents — 49 percent — said the right person to defeat Trump should be a “seasoned political hand” rather than a “newcomer.”
But still 36 percent of poll respondents said that a political “newcomer” is best suited to defeat President Trump.
And O’Rourke may be the candidate that most Democrats are looking at right now to fill that “newcomer” role. Since he lost his close Senate battle with Ted Cruz in Texas there has been rampant speculation that he would run for president, and he has been encouraged by such diverse people as Barack Obama and Chris Matthews from MSNBC. O’Rourke has met with and spoken to many prominent Democrats in recent weeks, including not only Obama but also Rev. Al Sharpton and unsuccessful Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
Another veteran politician, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts finished in fourth place, with 8 percent.
Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), all of whom have visited Iowa, were the first choices for 5, 4, and 3 percent of those polled, respectively. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also polled at 3 percent.
Biden and Sanders, who seemingly have been around forever, had the highest name recognition among those included in the survey. Just 4 percent of respondents had no opinion them.
So far, none of the candidates have formally announced that they will be running for president in 2020. Such announcements are expected after the first of the year.
The poll gave likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa a list of 20 possible candidates.
The results of the Iowa poll are similar to those in a national survey on potential Democratic nominees released last week that had Biden, with 30 percent, Sanders, with 14 percent, and O’Rourke, with 9 percent, as the three front-runners.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.