Poll: Klobuchar rising in Iowa

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is suddenly attracting the notice of potential Iowa caucus goers, according to a new poll where the Minnesota Democrat pulled in 10 percent — placing her fourth in a crowded Democratic presidential field.

Former Vice President Joe Biden led the field with 30 percent saying he was their top pick for president, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders with 13 percent and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who captured 11 percent.

But Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — the Massachusetts senator who placed just below Klobuchar with 9 percent — saw their numbers slide among potential Democratic Iowa caucus-goers since September, according to a new Focus on Rural America poll released Monday and first obtained by POLITICO.

Both prospective candidates saw seven-point drops in their performance since the poll was last in the field in September, with Warren’s support cut nearly in half in the quarterly survey funded by former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge.

In the intervening months, Warren stumbled with the release of DNA results designed to rebut President Donald Trump, who derisively nicknamed her “Pocahontas” in an effort to raise questions about her Native American heritage. Unlike many of the possible candidates polled, Warren did not make a personal trip to Iowa to help boost candidates during a competitive midterm campaign.

While Biden continues to dominate what figures to be a sprawling 2020 field — he also led in a Des Moines Register poll published Saturday — Klobuchar’s performance stands out in a field filled with better-known contenders. The senator, who hails from a neighboring Midwestern state and visited Iowa earlier this month, was not included in the group’s first survey in September.

O’Rourke was also not included in the September poll. Also new to the most recent survey was billionaire Mike Bloomberg and former Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom came in at 2 percent.

The most recent survey suggested Sanders, the Vermont senator who nearly beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa in 2016, must confront a new reality if he runs in 2020: his popularity two years ago in the first presidential caucus state is not a predictor of his 2020 viability.

Only one-third of those who caucused for Sanders in 2016 said they would pledge their 2020 loyalties to him. They’re instead welcoming a diverse, broadened pool of progressive Democrats.

The apparent rise of Klobuchar and O’Rourke — along with signs of a Biden and Warren fade — suggests that Iowa Democrats are making way for new faces in what’s expected to be the largest and most diverse field in decades.

“I love Joe Biden, but I think those numbers of his will dive further as people get a closer look at candidates like Beto O’Rourke or some of the governors or the less known senators spend some time here,” Judge said Monday. “I think it’ll change pretty markedly.”

Another poll takeaway: 65 percent said they wanted a candidate who will foster economic development in rural America, something Judge said progressive candidates should keep in mind if they expect to compete hard in all parts of the state and ultimately hope to carry Iowa against the Republican nominee.

Of the top poll performers, none have officially launched a bid, though Warren has laid perhaps the most advanced groundwork for a 2020 campaign. Biden has said he would consider the question with family over the holidays. O’Rourke recently said he would take a look at running. Last week, Klobuchar said the same. Earlier this month, Klobuchar spoke at the Iowa Farmers Union state convention and is a frequent visitor to the state.

“She’s a neighbor. I would guess she has a lot higher name ID,” Judge said of Klobuchar but warned the polling is merely an early snapshot of a Democratic roster still in formation. “I don’t know that that translates into anything except she’s a favorite daughter. It does kind of gauge for people where they are now and whether they should dedicate resources in Iowa.”

Presidential announcements are expected to begin dropping in January and February.

“As soon as these holidays are over, it’s game-on in my opinion,” Judge said.

In the Focus on Rural America survey, 47 percent said they wanted a presidential contender who was “a younger candidate with fresh ideas” versus 31 percent who preferred an older candidate who has a “lifetime of experience.” That was different from the Des Moines Register poll where more people said they wanted a “seasoned hand” to run for president over “more of a political newcomer.“

Veteran Iowa strategist Jeff Link, who worked with Judge on the poll, said the results point to potential caucus participants who are craving a new face versus longtime political veterans.

“Sanders almost beat Hillary Clinton and that was her whole campaign,” he said.

California-based David Binder Research interviewed 500 potential Democratic Iowa caucus goers by cell phone and landline on December 10 and 11.

Other prospective candidates to score high in the single digits were Sen. Kamala Harris at seven percent and Sen. Cory Booker at six percent. Each dropped slightly since the September survey — Harris by three points and Booker by two — as the roster of candidates has grown.

Unlike Warren, however, both Harris and Booker have campaigned on the ground in Iowa, making personal appearances before key Democratic groups during the midterm election campaigns.

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