Poll

WASHINGTON — To President Trump, the question of culpability in the explosions that crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman is no question at all. “It’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it,” he declared on Friday.

The question is whether the writing is clear to everyone else. For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting.

For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said “he’s a liar” and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.

Fact-checking Mr. Trump is a full-time occupation in Washington, and in no other circumstance is faith in a president’s word as vital as in matters of war and peace. The public grew cynical about presidents and intelligence after George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on false accusations of weapons of mass destruction, and the doubt spilled over to Barack Obama when he accused Syria of gassing its own people. As Mr. Trump confronts Iran, he carries the burden of their history and his own.

“The problem is twofold for them,” said John E. McLaughlin, a deputy C.I.A. director during the Iraq war. “One is people will always rightly question intelligence because it’s not an exact science. But the most important problem for them is their own credibility and contradictions.”

The task is all the more formidable for Mr. Trump, who himself has assailed the reliability of America’s intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview.

At one point shortly before taking the oath of office, he compared intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany and ever since has cast doubt on their findings about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. This year, he repudiated his intelligence chiefs for their assessments of issues like Iran, declaring that “they are wrong” and “should go back to school.” And just this week, he rebuked the C.I.A. for using a brother of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as an informant, saying, “I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”

All of that can raise questions when international tension flares up, like the explosion of the two oil tankers on Thursday, a provocation that fueled anxiety about the world’s most important oil shipping route and the prospect of escalation into military conflict. When Mr. Trump told Fox News on Friday that “Iran did do it,” he was asking his country to accept his word.

“Trump’s credibility is about as solid as a snake oil salesman,” said Jen Psaki, who was the White House communications director and top State Department spokeswoman under Mr. Obama. “That may work for selling his particular brand to his political base, but during serious times, it leaves him without a wealth of good will and trust from the public that what he is saying is true even on an issue as serious as Iran’s complicity in the tanker explosions.”

White House officials declined to discuss the president’s credibility on the record on Friday, but a senior administration official who asked not to be identified said Mr. Trump was not hyping a threat to justify a war. If anything, Mr. Trump has made clear since becoming a presidential candidate that he did not favor the sort of military interventionism that characterized Mr. Bush’s presidency and, to a lesser extent, even Mr. Obama’s at times.

Indeed, in his telephone interview on Friday with Fox News, Mr. Trump offered a measured response, avoiding any kinds of threats or discussion of military action. While he condemned the Iranians, he has pointedly not publicly floated the possibility of retaliation, and, in fact, he once again said he was open to talks with Tehran. “I’m ready when they are,” he said.

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An oil tanker that was attacked this week.CreditISNA, via Reuters

Still, Mr. Trump’s strained relationship with the truth has been a defining feature of his presidency. As of June 7, The Washington Post’s fact-checker had counted 10,796 false or misleading claims since he took office.

The president dismisses that as so much “fake news” by journalists who are “enemies of the people.” Just this week, he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that he was the truthteller, not reporters. “I like the truth,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, I’m actually a very honest guy.”

But it has taken a toll on his credibility with the public. A Quinnipiac University poll last month found that only 35 percent of Americans trust Mr. Trump to tell the truth about important issues versus 52 percent who trusted the news media more.

When it came to this week’s oil tanker explosions, Mr. Trump at first left it to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to point the finger at Iran and he followed up a day later. To bolster the case, the United States military released video footage that American officers said showed an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boat pulling alongside one of the stricken ships several hours after the first explosion and removing an unexploded limpet mine in broad daylight. That mine is what Mr. Trump said had “Iran written all over it.”

Iran has denied responsibility and suggested that the episode was a “false flag” operation by the United States to frame it and justify aggression. But Iran has its own credibility issues, and even Mr. Trump’s critics were generally not rushing to accept Tehran’s word.

“Look, it could very well have been the Iranians,” said Trita Parsi, a scholar at Georgetown University and the founder of the National Iranian American Council. “I don’t think anyone can say they’re innocent.”

But Mr. Trump’s “relationship with the truth” is so suspect, he said, it argues for stepping back and not drawing conclusions until there is more evidence. “With this president, with the country already so divided, even those who support him may not be totally confident that everything he’s saying is truthful,” said Mr. Parsi, the author of “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.”

Even supporters of Mr. Trump’s tougher approach to Iran acknowledge the credibility challenge. Mark Wallace, the executive director of United Against Nuclear Iran and a strong critic of Mr. Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran that Mr. Trump has since renounced, said the government needs to rely on its career professionals to inform the public about Tehran’s activities.

“The one way of doing that is place the burden of persuasion and validating the facts on the military and intelligence community that at least is more immune to the politically charged atmosphere that we live in,” said Mr. Wallace, who was a diplomat at the United Nations under Mr. Bush. “With Iran, I’ve been surprised actually that it’s been relatively depoliticized.”

Much of the distrust traces back to Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that he and intelligence agencies assured the public were there. Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged the damage that did to the public standing of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies.

But he said the intelligence community has reformed itself since then. “There really has been an enormous effort to take stock of that and use that,” he said. “And intelligence has been right about an awful lot since then.”

“The problem with intelligence is it’s always contentious, it’s always arguable,” Mr. McLaughlin added. “But at some point you have to settle on a bottom line and he often doesn’t believe in a bottom line on intelligence. So how do you believe what he says?”

As he reflected on the moment, he added, “It’s a pretty dangerous situation I think.”

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NBC has set the lineups for the first round of the 2020 Democrat presidential candidate debates. Twenty candidates raised enough campaign money to qualify for the debate stage. The field has been split into 2 groups of ten, each set to debate on a different night. The debates will take place on June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida.

Campaign officials attended a random drawing, held at NBC’s 30 Rock offices in New York, for the debate slots. The drawing was implemented in an attempt to spread out the front-runners and divide each night’s lineup between the candidates polling above and below 2%. The drawing was closed to the press.

Here are the line-ups as decided by the random drawing:

June 26: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren

June 27: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang

The DNC is still crying foul, believing the drawing was stacked despite NBC claiming it was random. They’re also being accused of creating a tiered debate structure by holding the Biden-Sanders-Harris-Buttigieg debate on Thursday night, which will likely maximize viewership over Wednesday night’s debate.

Lesser known candidates stand to gain the most from qualifying for the debate stage, irrespective of which event in which they appear. Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Gabbard, Delaney, Inslee, Bennet, de Blasio, Williamson, and Swalwell are all polling at 0% in the most recent Qunnipiac poll, so have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Each debate is set to run for two hours, giving each participant very little time to get their point across. However, if viewership comes close to the 24 million viewers who watched the Republican debates in 2015, it may be an excellent opportunity for these candidates to gain some traction with potential voters.

Five news personalities from NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, will ask questions of the 20 presidential hopefuls. They include:

  • “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt,
  • “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie,
  • “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd,
  • MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow, and
  • “Noticias Telemundo” and “NBC Nightly News Saturday” anchor José Díaz-Balart

Diaz-Balart will moderate both nights of the debate.

Source: The Washington Pundit

WASHINGTON — Two of the best-known women in Democratic politics had just recorded a video to upbraid Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started bantering about the final episode of “Game of Thrones.” Their riff bemoaning the show’s anti-feminist finale was caught on tape, slapped up on Twitter, and in a flash drew almost 2 million viewers.

Most every time Warren and Ocasio-Cortez have teamed up of late — for lunch, legislative matters and video messaging — they have drawn millions of eyeballs.

They have also raised eyebrows.

Warren fans wonder whether — and hope that — Ocasio-Cortez may eventually endorse the Massachusetts senator in her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

But the freshman House member, a superstar of the progressive movement, has more history with Warren’s leading rival for progressive votes in the 2020 Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They too have teamed up on many legislative and political matters. Many Democrats find it hard to imagine Ocasio-Cortez will not eventually back Sanders, as she did in 2016.

The fact that a 29-year-old freshman House member is being sought out by two presidential candidates with years of congressional seniority who are more than twice her age speaks volumes about the state of the Democratic Party and the dynamics of its primary process.

Ocasio-Cortez embodies a younger generation of Democrats led by women and people of color — a progressive voting bloc that brings intense passion to the fight to oust President Donald Trump. She also has a gift for creating social media sensations that old-school Democrats can only dream of.

“I would argue that she is one of the most important endorsements in the Democratic Party right now,” said Rebecca Katz, a strategist who used to work for former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “She has a huge reach beyond any other member of Congress. She knows how to use her voice.”

That voice could make a big difference in the sub rosa contest between Warren and Sanders for dominance among the party’s most progressive voters and in the jockeying to emerge as the leading left challenger to Joe Biden, who currently leads in polling. Sanders, who became a folk hero to progressives in his 2016 presidential bid, has held a significant lead over Warren since he entered the race, but the spread has narrowed in recent weeks.

Ocasio-Cortez told CNN this spring that she did not expect to make an endorsement in the crowded 2020 field “for a while,” but in discussing what she was looking for in a nominee, she singled out Warren and Sanders.

“What I would like to see in a presidential candidate is one that has a coherent worldview and logic from which all these policy proposals are coming forward,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think Sen. Sanders has that. I also think Sen. Warren has that.”

Asked for more specifics about when she would make an endorsement, her spokesman, Corbin Trent, said it would be early enough to have an impact.

“She wants to make sure her endorsement matters in the race,” he said. “Timing is important.”

One candidate she almost surely will not endorse in the early primaries is Biden.

He “does not particularly animate me,” she said in an interview earlier this spring with the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

But she was, perhaps surprisingly, prepared to be a party loyalist in the end: “I will support whoever the Democratic nominee is,” she said.

For Democrats other than Warren and Sanders, association with Ocasio-Cortez could be risky: Party centrists worry about her high profile as a democratic socialist. She has become the poster child for Republicans’ cornerstone strategy for 2020 — portraying the entire Democratic Party as pursuing a socialist agenda.

Republicans believe their job has been made easier since several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, the self-styled centrist, have embraced Ocasio-Cortez’s signature issue — the Green New Deal agenda for combating climate change.

“The fact that Joe Biden is embracing the Green New Deal shows you how far left the Democratic Party has gone,” said Michael McAdams, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of the House GOP.

A March Quinnipiac University poll found that more people (36%) had an unfavorable view of Ocasio-Cortez than a favorable one (23%). But 38% didn’t know enough to have an opinion. Opinion was of course deeply split by party: 74% of Republicans viewed her unfavorably; just 7% of Democrats did.

It is not clear how much an Ocasio-Cortez endorsement would mean in the early-voting states that matter most: In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, voters like to make their own judgments, and the endorsement of a progressive Democrat from New York City might not matter much.

Still, she has already succeeded in using her social-media megaphone to shape the 2020 debate and promote issues she cares about.

She called for former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland to end his long-shot presidential bid after he was booed at the California Democratic Party convention for saying Medicare for all was bad politics and policy.

–Sponsored Video–

She teamed up with Sen. Kamala Harris of California on a bill to expand access to federally subsidized housing. The two are not ideological soulmates but are looking for ways to promote the bill together, perhaps in a video.

Her biggest footprint has been left on the climate change debate. The Green New Deal was regarded as a wish list when Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives unveiled it earlier this year. Now it is almost a mandatory part of candidates’ stump speech.

For now, progressive candidates are happy to shine in Ocasio-Cortez’s reflected social media glow.

“Irrespective of any kind of endorsement, the fact she is often lending support for the progressive movement is so immensely helpful,” said Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager. On whether she will endorse Sanders, Shakir said, “I want to respect that she is going to have her own process. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s ties to Sanders reach back to his 2016 campaign, when she worked as a volunteer organizer in New York. When she ran for Congress in 2018, in her upstart primary challenge to 10-term Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley, she was endorsed by Our Revolution, a political organization close to Sanders — but not by Sanders himself.

After she won the primary, which was tantamount to winning the general election in the heavily Democratic district, she was enough of a political celebrity that she campaigned with Sanders on behalf of other Democrats in the midterm election.

Before she was even sworn in, she appeared with Sanders at a December 2018 forum on climate change.

“She is a bold progressive fighting for a Green New Deal,” Sanders said then.

The two also appeared at another event on the Green New Deal in May, when Ocasio-Cortez took a not-so-veiled swipe at Biden, just days after reports surfaced that he was considering a “middle ground” climate plan — a report his campaign denied.

“I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need a ‘middle of the road’ approach to save our lives,” she declared.

Ocasio-Cortez and Warren had not gotten to know each other until this year. They met for lunch in March at Olivia, a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Washington. The lunch became a Twitter sensation after they were spotted. In response, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the Middle Eastern yogurt dish they ate, and got more than 100,000 “likes.”

On more substantive matters, Ocasio-Cortez supported Warren’s campaign promise to break up big tech companies. And she spoke up to deride a news report that appeared to criticize legal consulting work Warren did while she taught at Harvard Law School.

“Breaking News: Lady Had a Job, Got Paid More Than Me,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Their joint video on Mnuchin, which raised questions about his role in the demise of Sears, where he had been a board member, got hundreds of thousands of views on Warren’s Facebook page.

Warren lionized Ocasio-Cortez when Time magazine asked her to write about the young member of Congress for its “100 most influential people of 2019” issue.

“A year ago, she was taking orders across a bar,” Warren wrote. “Today, millions are taking cues from her.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s divided 2020 loyalties were on full display in the “Skullduggery” interview.

“‘I’m very supportive of Bernie’s run” she said. “I haven’t endorsed anybody, but I’m very supportive of Bernie. I also think what Elizabeth Warren has been bringing to the table is … truly remarkable, truly remarkable and transformational.”

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

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© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates is starting to settle into tiers: Joe Biden leads the pack, and Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are in close competition for second place, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll shows.

Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. 

No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.

More of the latest Iowa Poll results and coverage

  • A guide to Democrats running for president and what likely Iowa caucus participants think of them
  • Defeating Donald Trump is the top priority for likely Democratic caucus participants
  • Likely Democratic caucus participants split on Donald Trump impeachment question
  • Democrats’ virtual caucus plans remain a mystery, even for those who intend to participate
  • How proposed Democratic caucus rules make polling even harder, and how we crafted our best shot

“We’re starting to see the people who are planning to caucus start to solidify,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.”

But many candidates in this historically large field are failing to break into the public consciousness in any meaningful way, she said.

Seven candidates tally 1% support and nine earn no support. Two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — were not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.

“There’s always been a question mark as to how many (candidates) can get any real traction,” Selzer said. “And we gave them every opportunity to show that they have some kind of constituency here. But there’s a fair number who, their constituency just isn’t very big.”

New rules prompt poll changes

For the first time, the Iowa Poll accounts for new rules proposed this year by the Iowa Democratic Party that will allow Iowans to participate in a virtual caucus online or over the phone. The results of those virtual caucuses will account for 10% of the final delegate equivalents, regardless of how many people participate.

The poll, conducted June 2-5, sampled registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses in person, as well as those who plan to attend virtually.

The poll asked respondents to name their first choice for president. The responses to that question have been combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person participants and 10% to the preferences of virtual participants, as will happen on caucus night. The margin of error for these results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The rest of the results here, except where noted, use only those people who say they will caucus in person, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Because the Iowa Poll’s methodology has changed, the results are not directly comparable to past Iowa Polls of this presidential field.

Generally, though, Biden and Sanders led the pack in both the December and March Iowa Polls, as they do now.

In December, O’Rourke was in third place, followed by Warren. In March, O’Rourke was displaced by Warren and Harris, who rose to third and fourth place.

Buttigieg was largely unknown by likely Democratic caucusgoers in March, the first time he appeared in an Iowa Poll.

“It’s like with the vitriol and the hatred and all the bad things people say — he seems to be coming out fresh,” said Patti Thacker, a Cedar Rapids poll respondent who says Buttigieg is her first choice for president. “He wants to get the country into a new mode and give us new hope there really is something better than what’s been happening.”

But even though she likes Buttigieg’s youth and vision, Thacker said she’s torn. She’s also drawn to Biden, who she says is her second choice for president.

“We need someone to sort of heal the country — to level things out and get us back on track,” she said. “I feel like he can do that on that hand.”

Who’s on your ‘list?’

Joann McCracken Young, a poll respondent and 66-year-old Des Moines resident, says Warren currently is her first choice for president. She likes Warren’s ideas, particularly on health care. But, like many Democrats right now, Young says she keeps a mental list of several candidates she’s considering.

“Joe Biden is certainly on my list,” Young said. “Kamala Harris would be on my list. Beto O’Rourke. Cory Booker. There are a lot of good people running.”

Among those who plan to caucus in person, 61% say Biden is on their list in some way.

Twenty-three percent say he is their first choice for president, 13% say he is their second choice and an additional 25% say they are actively considering him.

Just as many — 61% — say Warren is on their list. That includes 15% who choose her as their first choice, 14% who pick her as their second choice and 32% who say they are considering her.

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“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer said. “I think that all of the publicity lately and all of the polls lately are so Biden-heavy that for her to have any metric that shows her on par (with him) … it says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”

Only three other candidates amass a majority of respondents using the same measure — being named as first or second choice or being actively considered: 56% for Sanders and 52% each for Buttigieg and Harris.

Booker, a New Jersey senator, is next with 43%, O’Rourke with 39% and Klobuchar with 32%.

Support falls off substantially beyond that and is below 15% for 11 candidates. Candidates must meet a 15% threshold on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020, to remain viable.

Selzer said it’s too early to write off candidates who fall below the 15% viability threshold. However, “Given multiple chances for people to say they’re even thinking about these candidates — there are several who just can’t get into double digits,” she said.

Biden warning signs, Harris upsides

In a March Iowa Poll, almost all data points looked encouraging for Biden, who had yet to enter the race. Now, roughly six weeks into his candidacy, there is at least one sign of potential weakness.

Among those who list Biden as their first choice for president, 29% say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about their choice. Among all those who name another candidate as their first choice for president, that number is substantially higher (39%). 

Peter Orazem, a 63-year-old poll respondent from Ames, said Biden is his first choice for president, though he said he’s only “mildly enthusiastic” about his choice. He pointed to Biden’s recent reversal of his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.

“I may disagree with everything that Bernie Sanders believes in, and yet I’m fairly confident he believes in what he’s saying,” Orazem said. “And I don’t get that” with Biden.

But ultimately, experience and familiarity elevate Biden above other candidates about whom he’s more enthusiastic, Orazem said.

“He’s a known commodity,” Orazem said of Biden. “He’s been a heartbeat removed from the biggest stage, and he’s actually had executive experience.”

Another potential pitfall for Biden: He has more support among people who say they plan to use the new virtual caucus process than among those who say they will caucus in person.

Among the virtual caucus group, 33% say the former vice president is their first choice. That’s compared with 23% of those who plan to caucus in person. Though more support is never a bad thing, those virtual attendees will count for only 10% of the delegate equivalent total on caucus night.

The results also surface signs of weakness for Sanders. He does better with those less committed to caucusing (20% among probable caucusgoers) than those who definitely plan to participate (14%).

The poll also shows underlying strengths for Harris, who ties with Warren in being named most often as respondents’ second choice for president, with both at 14 percent.

Harris draws strong support from those who say Biden, Warren or Buttigieg is their first choice. But among those who list Sanders as their first choice, just 5% say Harris would be their second choice.

“In caucuses, people drop out,” Selzer said. “To be a strong second-choice player is a good place to be.”

Larry Slavens, a 62-year-old Urbandale resident, said Warren is his first choice for president and Harris is his second.

“She doesn’t back down,” the poll respondent said of Harris. “She was very tough in some of those Senate hearings when witnesses wouldn’t give an answer. She didn’t accept a non-answer as an answer as so many senators do.”

Slavens said Warren and Harris “are both favorites at this point,” but said the months of campaigning ahead could change things.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 2-5, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 600 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. These 600 likely Democratic caucus participants were sorted into two discrete groups:  433 who say they plan to attend a caucus in person and 167 who say they plan to participate online or by telephone in a virtual caucus.

Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 3,776 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list.

Questions based on the sample of 433 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in person have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. Questions based on the sample of 167 voters likely to participate in a virtual caucus have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.7 or 7.6 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.

Because the proposed rules for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses at the time this poll was conducted include a provision that the results of the in-person caucuses will account for 90 percent of delegate equivalents and the results of the virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of the delegate equivalents, the first-choice candidate results of this poll have been reported out in three ways: 1) among likely in-person caucus attenders alone; 2) among likely virtual caucus participants alone; and 3) combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person attenders and 10% weight to the preferences of virtual participants.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.

Iowa Poll methodology

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Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who is seeking the Democratic nomination, at Sunday’s Iowa event. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—In both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the sprawling field of Democratic presidential hopefuls made clear Sunday that Joe Biden has a large political target on his back.

Following a week in which Mr. Biden stumbled as he reversed his stance on abortion funding, several 2020 candidates sought to contrast themselves with the Democratic front-runner at the Iowa Hall of Fame celebration, one of the party’s annual fundraisers. The heightened combativeness served as a preview to the first primary debates late this month.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mr. Biden’s chief rival according to polls, said Democrats won’t defeat President Trump “unless we bring excitement and energy into this campaign.” He added, “The status quo—same old, same old kind of politics—will not do that,” in what many among the 1,400 state Democratic activists gathered at the event interpreted as a jab at the former vice president.

Without mentioning Mr. Biden by name, Mr. Sanders said there were some “well-intentioned Democrats and candidates” who thought the best way to achieve victory in 2020 is through a “middle ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing.”

Mr. Biden didn’t attend the gathering although Iowa will launch the Democratic nomination voting in less than eight months. Nineteen of his 22 rivals were scheduled to speak, with candidates each getting five minutes to make their pitch.

The former vice president, who also bypassed a California convention last weekend that attracted 14 candidates, instead plans to hold two days of campaign events in Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday, overlapping with Mr. Trump’s first visit to the state this year.

Mr. Biden’s campaign didn’t comment on his rival’s pitches and he tweeted Sunday that he was thrilled to watch his granddaughter graduate from high school.

Joe Biden, seen last month in Philadelphia, didn’t attend the Iowa gathering. Photo: dominick reuter/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Last week, Mr. Biden said he now opposes a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions, reversing his longstanding position amid pressure from fellow Democrats and abortion-rights groups. He said he could no longer support the Hyde Amendment, which bans government funding of abortions except for victims of rape and incest. Mr. Biden blamed Republican efforts to limit access to the procedure and overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

An Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers released over the weekend showed Mr. Biden atop the field with 24%. The survey, sponsored by the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, showed Mr. Sanders supported by 16%, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 15%, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 14% and Sen. Kamala Harris of California at 7%. No one else topped 2%.

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The biggest political event in Iowa this year was a mecca for those involved in Democratic presidential politics. Campaign workers and volunteers waved signs and led cheers outside the venue while candidates milled about the exhibit hall, seeking to impress Democrats who will be crucial in the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses.

Inside the hall, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York chatted with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and his wife, Christie Vilsack, as guests helped themselves to a buffet of chicken satay, spicy meatballs and spinach dip. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, meanwhile, greeted Doug Emhoff, the husband of Ms. Harris, while Marianne Williamson, an author and spiritual adviser, chatted with activists.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has built a large organization in Iowa in his long-shot bid, said the party needed to have “bigger aspirations and bolder dreams” than simply defeating the president.

“Beating Donald Trump is the floor—it is not the ceiling. Beating him will get us out of the valley but it will not get us to the mountaintop,” Mr. Booker said. The senator also referred to abortion funding, saying, “abortion is health care, and health care is a right, not a privilege.”

Mr. Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor and military veteran, made a generational pitch, saying the party couldn’t succeed by returning to old policies. “We’re not going to win by playing it safe,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “We Democrats can no more promise a return to the ‘90s than the Republicans can deliver on a promise to return us to the ‘50s.”

Mr. Swalwell, meanwhile, said he would only appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold Roe v. Wade. But he said that’s not enough. “Let’s repeal the discriminatory Hyde Amendment,” Mr. Swalwell said.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California at the Iowa event Sunday. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Ms. Harris focused on her record as a prosecutor during a tongue-in-cheek speech, rattling off various forms of “fraud” that she would prosecute against the president. She said Mr. Trump committed “securities fraud” for striking up friendships with authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Vladimir Putin of Russia, and tax fraud for the GOP’s tax rewrite of 2017.

She noted that Mr. Trump has on several occasions called himself the best American president. “Well, I say, let’s call Barack Obama because that’s identity fraud,” she said.

Before her address, Ms. Warren told reporters that she had no plans to attack fellow Democrats, even though she has sought to contrast her positions with Mr. Biden. “I’m not here to knock another Democrat, I’m just here to talk about my campaign,” she said.

Jim Garrett, a legislative director for a transportation union who attended the gathering, said he understood Mr. Biden’s absence from the event. “He’s going to have other opportunities,” he said. “What are you going to learn from him in five minutes that you don’t already know?”

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who is seeking the Democratic nomination, was the first to mention Mr. Biden by name, saying, “When I saw the program for today, I thought the same thing you all did, which is this: Joe Biden must really not like to travel.”

Write to Ken Thomas at ken.thomas@wsj.com and John McCormick at mccormick.john@wsj.com

© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates is starting to settle into tiers: Joe Biden leads the pack, and Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are in close competition for second place, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll shows.

Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. 

No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.

More of the latest Iowa Poll results and coverage

  • A guide to Democrats running for president and what likely Iowa caucus participants think of them
  • Defeating Donald Trump is the top priority for likely Democratic caucus participants
  • Likely Democratic caucus participants split on Donald Trump impeachment question
  • Democrats’ virtual caucus plans remain a mystery, even for those who intend to participate
  • How proposed Democratic caucus rules make polling even harder, and how we crafted our best shot

“We’re starting to see the people who are planning to caucus start to solidify,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.”

But many candidates in this historically large field are failing to break into the public consciousness in any meaningful way, she said.

Seven candidates tally 1% support and nine earn no support. Two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — were not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.

“There’s always been a question mark as to how many (candidates) can get any real traction,” Selzer said. “And we gave them every opportunity to show that they have some kind of constituency here. But there’s a fair number who, their constituency just isn’t very big.”

New rules prompt poll changes

For the first time, the Iowa Poll accounts for new rules proposed this year by the Iowa Democratic Party that will allow Iowans to participate in a virtual caucus online or over the phone. The results of those virtual caucuses will account for 10% of the final delegate equivalents, regardless of how many people participate.

The poll, conducted June 2-5, sampled registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses in person, as well as those who plan to attend virtually.

The poll asked respondents to name their first choice for president. The responses to that question have been combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person participants and 10% to the preferences of virtual participants, as will happen on caucus night. The margin of error for these results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The rest of the results here, except where noted, use only those people who say they will caucus in person, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Because the Iowa Poll’s methodology has changed, the results are not directly comparable to past Iowa Polls of this presidential field.

Generally, though, Biden and Sanders led the pack in both the December and March Iowa Polls, as they do now.

In December, O’Rourke was in third place, followed by Warren. In March, O’Rourke was displaced by Warren and Harris, who rose to third and fourth place.

Buttigieg was largely unknown by likely Democratic caucusgoers in March, the first time he appeared in an Iowa Poll.

“It’s like with the vitriol and the hatred and all the bad things people say — he seems to be coming out fresh,” said Patti Thacker, a Cedar Rapids poll respondent who says Buttigieg is her first choice for president. “He wants to get the country into a new mode and give us new hope there really is something better than what’s been happening.”

But even though she likes Buttigieg’s youth and vision, Thacker said she’s torn. She’s also drawn to Biden, who she says is her second choice for president.

“We need someone to sort of heal the country — to level things out and get us back on track,” she said. “I feel like he can do that on that hand.”

Who’s on your ‘list?’

Joann McCracken Young, a poll respondent and 66-year-old Des Moines resident, says Warren currently is her first choice for president. She likes Warren’s ideas, particularly on health care. But, like many Democrats right now, Young says she keeps a mental list of several candidates she’s considering.

“Joe Biden is certainly on my list,” Young said. “Kamala Harris would be on my list. Beto O’Rourke. Cory Booker. There are a lot of good people running.”

Among those who plan to caucus in person, 61% say Biden is on their list in some way.

Twenty-three percent say he is their first choice for president, 13% say he is their second choice and an additional 25% say they are actively considering him.

Just as many — 61% — say Warren is on their list. That includes 15% who choose her as their first choice, 14% who pick her as their second choice and 32% who say they are considering her.

► Iowa politics delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer said. “I think that all of the publicity lately and all of the polls lately are so Biden-heavy that for her to have any metric that shows her on par (with him) … it says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”

Only three other candidates amass a majority of respondents using the same measure — being named as first or second choice or being actively considered: 56% for Sanders and 52% each for Buttigieg and Harris.

Booker, a New Jersey senator, is next with 43%, O’Rourke with 39% and Klobuchar with 32%.

Support falls off substantially beyond that and is below 15% for 11 candidates. Candidates must meet a 15% threshold on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020, to remain viable.

Selzer said it’s too early to write off candidates who fall below the 15% viability threshold. However, “Given multiple chances for people to say they’re even thinking about these candidates — there are several who just can’t get into double digits,” she said.

Biden warning signs, Harris upsides

In a March Iowa Poll, almost all data points looked encouraging for Biden, who had yet to enter the race. Now, roughly six weeks into his candidacy, there is at least one sign of potential weakness.

Among those who list Biden as their first choice for president, 29% say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about their choice. Among all those who name another candidate as their first choice for president, that number is substantially higher (39%). 

Peter Orazem, a 63-year-old poll respondent from Ames, said Biden is his first choice for president, though he said he’s only “mildly enthusiastic” about his choice. He pointed to Biden’s recent reversal of his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.

“I may disagree with everything that Bernie Sanders believes in, and yet I’m fairly confident he believes in what he’s saying,” Orazem said. “And I don’t get that” with Biden.

But ultimately, experience and familiarity elevate Biden above other candidates about whom he’s more enthusiastic, Orazem said.

“He’s a known commodity,” Orazem said of Biden. “He’s been a heartbeat removed from the biggest stage, and he’s actually had executive experience.”

Another potential pitfall for Biden: He has more support among people who say they plan to use the new virtual caucus process than among those who say they will caucus in person.

Among the virtual caucus group, 33% say the former vice president is their first choice. That’s compared with 23% of those who plan to caucus in person. Though more support is never a bad thing, those virtual attendees will count for only 10% of the delegate equivalent total on caucus night.

The results also surface signs of weakness for Sanders. He does better with those less committed to caucusing (20% among probable caucusgoers) than those who definitely plan to participate (14%).

The poll also shows underlying strengths for Harris, who ties with Warren in being named most often as respondents’ second choice for president, with both at 14 percent.

Harris draws strong support from those who say Biden, Warren or Buttigieg is their first choice. But among those who list Sanders as their first choice, just 5% say Harris would be their second choice.

“In caucuses, people drop out,” Selzer said. “To be a strong second-choice player is a good place to be.”

Larry Slavens, a 62-year-old Urbandale resident, said Warren is his first choice for president and Harris is his second.

“She doesn’t back down,” the poll respondent said of Harris. “She was very tough in some of those Senate hearings when witnesses wouldn’t give an answer. She didn’t accept a non-answer as an answer as so many senators do.”

Slavens said Warren and Harris “are both favorites at this point,” but said the months of campaigning ahead could change things.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 2-5, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 600 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. These 600 likely Democratic caucus participants were sorted into two discrete groups:  433 who say they plan to attend a caucus in person and 167 who say they plan to participate online or by telephone in a virtual caucus.

Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 3,776 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list.

Questions based on the sample of 433 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in person have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. Questions based on the sample of 167 voters likely to participate in a virtual caucus have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.7 or 7.6 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.

Because the proposed rules for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses at the time this poll was conducted include a provision that the results of the in-person caucuses will account for 90 percent of delegate equivalents and the results of the virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of the delegate equivalents, the first-choice candidate results of this poll have been reported out in three ways: 1) among likely in-person caucus attenders alone; 2) among likely virtual caucus participants alone; and 3) combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person attenders and 10% weight to the preferences of virtual participants.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.

Iowa Poll methodology

​​​​​​​

© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates is starting to settle into tiers: Joe Biden leads the pack, and Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are in close competition for second place, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll shows.

Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. 

No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.

More of the latest Iowa Poll results and coverage

  • A guide to Democrats running for president and what likely Iowa caucus participants think of them
  • Defeating Donald Trump is the top priority for likely Democratic caucus participants
  • Likely Democratic caucus participants split on Donald Trump impeachment question
  • Democrats’ virtual caucus plans remain a mystery, even for those who intend to participate
  • How proposed Democratic caucus rules make polling even harder, and how we crafted our best shot

“We’re starting to see the people who are planning to caucus start to solidify,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.”

But many candidates in this historically large field are failing to break into the public consciousness in any meaningful way, she said.

Seven candidates tally 1% support and nine earn no support. Two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — were not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.

“There’s always been a question mark as to how many (candidates) can get any real traction,” Selzer said. “And we gave them every opportunity to show that they have some kind of constituency here. But there’s a fair number who, their constituency just isn’t very big.”

New rules prompt poll changes

For the first time, the Iowa Poll accounts for new rules proposed this year by the Iowa Democratic Party that will allow Iowans to participate in a virtual caucus online or over the phone. The results of those virtual caucuses will account for 10% of the final delegate equivalents, regardless of how many people participate.

The poll, conducted June 2-5, sampled registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses in person, as well as those who plan to attend virtually.

The poll asked respondents to name their first choice for president. The responses to that question have been combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person participants and 10% to the preferences of virtual participants, as will happen on caucus night. The margin of error for these results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The rest of the results here, except where noted, use only those people who say they will caucus in person, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Because the Iowa Poll’s methodology has changed, the results are not directly comparable to past Iowa Polls of this presidential field.

Generally, though, Biden and Sanders led the pack in both the December and March Iowa Polls, as they do now.

In December, O’Rourke was in third place, followed by Warren. In March, O’Rourke was displaced by Warren and Harris, who rose to third and fourth place.

Buttigieg was largely unknown by likely Democratic caucusgoers in March, the first time he appeared in an Iowa Poll.

“It’s like with the vitriol and the hatred and all the bad things people say — he seems to be coming out fresh,” said Patti Thacker, a Cedar Rapids poll respondent who says Buttigieg is her first choice for president. “He wants to get the country into a new mode and give us new hope there really is something better than what’s been happening.”

But even though she likes Buttigieg’s youth and vision, Thacker said she’s torn. She’s also drawn to Biden, who she says is her second choice for president.

“We need someone to sort of heal the country — to level things out and get us back on track,” she said. “I feel like he can do that on that hand.”

Who’s on your ‘list?’

Joann McCracken Young, a poll respondent and 66-year-old Des Moines resident, says Warren currently is her first choice for president. She likes Warren’s ideas, particularly on health care. But, like many Democrats right now, Young says she keeps a mental list of several candidates she’s considering.

“Joe Biden is certainly on my list,” Young said. “Kamala Harris would be on my list. Beto O’Rourke. Cory Booker. There are a lot of good people running.”

Among those who plan to caucus in person, 61% say Biden is on their list in some way.

Twenty-three percent say he is their first choice for president, 13% say he is their second choice and an additional 25% say they are actively considering him.

Just as many — 61% — say Warren is on their list. That includes 15% who choose her as their first choice, 14% who pick her as their second choice and 32% who say they are considering her.

► Iowa politics delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer said. “I think that all of the publicity lately and all of the polls lately are so Biden-heavy that for her to have any metric that shows her on par (with him) … it says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”

Only three other candidates amass a majority of respondents using the same measure — being named as first or second choice or being actively considered: 56% for Sanders and 52% each for Buttigieg and Harris.

Booker, a New Jersey senator, is next with 43%, O’Rourke with 39% and Klobuchar with 32%.

Support falls off substantially beyond that and is below 15% for 11 candidates. Candidates must meet a 15% threshold on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020, to remain viable.

Selzer said it’s too early to write off candidates who fall below the 15% viability threshold. However, “Given multiple chances for people to say they’re even thinking about these candidates — there are several who just can’t get into double digits,” she said.

Biden warning signs, Harris upsides

In a March Iowa Poll, almost all data points looked encouraging for Biden, who had yet to enter the race. Now, roughly six weeks into his candidacy, there is at least one sign of potential weakness.

Among those who list Biden as their first choice for president, 29% say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about their choice. Among all those who name another candidate as their first choice for president, that number is substantially higher (39%). 

Peter Orazem, a 63-year-old poll respondent from Ames, said Biden is his first choice for president, though he said he’s only “mildly enthusiastic” about his choice. He pointed to Biden’s recent reversal of his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.

“I may disagree with everything that Bernie Sanders believes in, and yet I’m fairly confident he believes in what he’s saying,” Orazem said. “And I don’t get that” with Biden.

But ultimately, experience and familiarity elevate Biden above other candidates about whom he’s more enthusiastic, Orazem said.

“He’s a known commodity,” Orazem said of Biden. “He’s been a heartbeat removed from the biggest stage, and he’s actually had executive experience.”

Another potential pitfall for Biden: He has more support among people who say they plan to use the new virtual caucus process than among those who say they will caucus in person.

Among the virtual caucus group, 33% say the former vice president is their first choice. That’s compared with 23% of those who plan to caucus in person. Though more support is never a bad thing, those virtual attendees will count for only 10% of the delegate equivalent total on caucus night.

The results also surface signs of weakness for Sanders. He does better with those less committed to caucusing (20% among probable caucusgoers) than those who definitely plan to participate (14%).

The poll also shows underlying strengths for Harris, who ties with Warren in being named most often as respondents’ second choice for president, with both at 14 percent.

Harris draws strong support from those who say Biden, Warren or Buttigieg is their first choice. But among those who list Sanders as their first choice, just 5% say Harris would be their second choice.

“In caucuses, people drop out,” Selzer said. “To be a strong second-choice player is a good place to be.”

Larry Slavens, a 62-year-old Urbandale resident, said Warren is his first choice for president and Harris is his second.

“She doesn’t back down,” the poll respondent said of Harris. “She was very tough in some of those Senate hearings when witnesses wouldn’t give an answer. She didn’t accept a non-answer as an answer as so many senators do.”

Slavens said Warren and Harris “are both favorites at this point,” but said the months of campaigning ahead could change things.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 2-5, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 600 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. These 600 likely Democratic caucus participants were sorted into two discrete groups:  433 who say they plan to attend a caucus in person and 167 who say they plan to participate online or by telephone in a virtual caucus.

Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 3,776 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list.

Questions based on the sample of 433 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in person have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. Questions based on the sample of 167 voters likely to participate in a virtual caucus have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.7 or 7.6 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.

Because the proposed rules for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses at the time this poll was conducted include a provision that the results of the in-person caucuses will account for 90 percent of delegate equivalents and the results of the virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of the delegate equivalents, the first-choice candidate results of this poll have been reported out in three ways: 1) among likely in-person caucus attenders alone; 2) among likely virtual caucus participants alone; and 3) combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person attenders and 10% weight to the preferences of virtual participants.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.

Iowa Poll methodology

​​​​​​​

© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

The field of Democratic presidential candidates is starting to settle into tiers: Joe Biden leads the pack, and Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are in close competition for second place, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll shows.

Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. 

No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.

More of the latest Iowa Poll results and coverage

  • A guide to Democrats running for president and what likely Iowa caucus participants think of them
  • Defeating Donald Trump is the top priority for likely Democratic caucus participants
  • Likely Democratic caucus participants split on Donald Trump impeachment question
  • Democrats’ virtual caucus plans remain a mystery, even for those who intend to participate
  • How proposed Democratic caucus rules make polling even harder, and how we crafted our best shot

“We’re starting to see the people who are planning to caucus start to solidify,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.”

But many candidates in this historically large field are failing to break into the public consciousness in any meaningful way, she said.

Seven candidates tally 1% support and nine earn no support. Two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — were not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.

“There’s always been a question mark as to how many (candidates) can get any real traction,” Selzer said. “And we gave them every opportunity to show that they have some kind of constituency here. But there’s a fair number who, their constituency just isn’t very big.”

New rules prompt poll changes

For the first time, the Iowa Poll accounts for new rules proposed this year by the Iowa Democratic Party that will allow Iowans to participate in a virtual caucus online or over the phone. The results of those virtual caucuses will account for 10% of the final delegate equivalents, regardless of how many people participate.

The poll, conducted June 2-5, sampled registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses in person, as well as those who plan to attend virtually.

The poll asked respondents to name their first choice for president. The responses to that question have been combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person participants and 10% to the preferences of virtual participants, as will happen on caucus night. The margin of error for these results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The rest of the results here, except where noted, use only those people who say they will caucus in person, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Because the Iowa Poll’s methodology has changed, the results are not directly comparable to past Iowa Polls of this presidential field.

Generally, though, Biden and Sanders led the pack in both the December and March Iowa Polls, as they do now.

In December, O’Rourke was in third place, followed by Warren. In March, O’Rourke was displaced by Warren and Harris, who rose to third and fourth place.

Buttigieg was largely unknown by likely Democratic caucusgoers in March, the first time he appeared in an Iowa Poll.

“It’s like with the vitriol and the hatred and all the bad things people say — he seems to be coming out fresh,” said Patti Thacker, a Cedar Rapids poll respondent who says Buttigieg is her first choice for president. “He wants to get the country into a new mode and give us new hope there really is something better than what’s been happening.”

But even though she likes Buttigieg’s youth and vision, Thacker said she’s torn. She’s also drawn to Biden, who she says is her second choice for president.

“We need someone to sort of heal the country — to level things out and get us back on track,” she said. “I feel like he can do that on that hand.”

Who’s on your ‘list?’

Joann McCracken Young, a poll respondent and 66-year-old Des Moines resident, says Warren currently is her first choice for president. She likes Warren’s ideas, particularly on health care. But, like many Democrats right now, Young says she keeps a mental list of several candidates she’s considering.

“Joe Biden is certainly on my list,” Young said. “Kamala Harris would be on my list. Beto O’Rourke. Cory Booker. There are a lot of good people running.”

Among those who plan to caucus in person, 61% say Biden is on their list in some way.

Twenty-three percent say he is their first choice for president, 13% say he is their second choice and an additional 25% say they are actively considering him.

Just as many — 61% — say Warren is on their list. That includes 15% who choose her as their first choice, 14% who pick her as their second choice and 32% who say they are considering her.

► Iowa politics delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer said. “I think that all of the publicity lately and all of the polls lately are so Biden-heavy that for her to have any metric that shows her on par (with him) … it says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”

Only three other candidates amass a majority of respondents using the same measure — being named as first or second choice or being actively considered: 56% for Sanders and 52% each for Buttigieg and Harris.

Booker, a New Jersey senator, is next with 43%, O’Rourke with 39% and Klobuchar with 32%.

Support falls off substantially beyond that and is below 15% for 11 candidates. Candidates must meet a 15% threshold on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020, to remain viable.

Selzer said it’s too early to write off candidates who fall below the 15% viability threshold. However, “Given multiple chances for people to say they’re even thinking about these candidates — there are several who just can’t get into double digits,” she said.

Biden warning signs, Harris upsides

In a March Iowa Poll, almost all data points looked encouraging for Biden, who had yet to enter the race. Now, roughly six weeks into his candidacy, there is at least one sign of potential weakness.

Among those who list Biden as their first choice for president, 29% say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about their choice. Among all those who name another candidate as their first choice for president, that number is substantially higher (39%). 

Peter Orazem, a 63-year-old poll respondent from Ames, said Biden is his first choice for president, though he said he’s only “mildly enthusiastic” about his choice. He pointed to Biden’s recent reversal of his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.

“I may disagree with everything that Bernie Sanders believes in, and yet I’m fairly confident he believes in what he’s saying,” Orazem said. “And I don’t get that” with Biden.

But ultimately, experience and familiarity elevate Biden above other candidates about whom he’s more enthusiastic, Orazem said.

“He’s a known commodity,” Orazem said of Biden. “He’s been a heartbeat removed from the biggest stage, and he’s actually had executive experience.”

Another potential pitfall for Biden: He has more support among people who say they plan to use the new virtual caucus process than among those who say they will caucus in person.

Among the virtual caucus group, 33% say the former vice president is their first choice. That’s compared with 23% of those who plan to caucus in person. Though more support is never a bad thing, those virtual attendees will count for only 10% of the delegate equivalent total on caucus night.

The results also surface signs of weakness for Sanders. He does better with those less committed to caucusing (20% among probable caucusgoers) than those who definitely plan to participate (14%).

The poll also shows underlying strengths for Harris, who ties with Warren in being named most often as respondents’ second choice for president, with both at 14 percent.

Harris draws strong support from those who say Biden, Warren or Buttigieg is their first choice. But among those who list Sanders as their first choice, just 5% say Harris would be their second choice.

“In caucuses, people drop out,” Selzer said. “To be a strong second-choice player is a good place to be.”

Larry Slavens, a 62-year-old Urbandale resident, said Warren is his first choice for president and Harris is his second.

“She doesn’t back down,” the poll respondent said of Harris. “She was very tough in some of those Senate hearings when witnesses wouldn’t give an answer. She didn’t accept a non-answer as an answer as so many senators do.”

Slavens said Warren and Harris “are both favorites at this point,” but said the months of campaigning ahead could change things.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 2-5, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 600 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. These 600 likely Democratic caucus participants were sorted into two discrete groups:  433 who say they plan to attend a caucus in person and 167 who say they plan to participate online or by telephone in a virtual caucus.

Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 3,776 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list.

Questions based on the sample of 433 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in person have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. Questions based on the sample of 167 voters likely to participate in a virtual caucus have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.7 or 7.6 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.

Because the proposed rules for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses at the time this poll was conducted include a provision that the results of the in-person caucuses will account for 90 percent of delegate equivalents and the results of the virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of the delegate equivalents, the first-choice candidate results of this poll have been reported out in three ways: 1) among likely in-person caucus attenders alone; 2) among likely virtual caucus participants alone; and 3) combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person attenders and 10% weight to the preferences of virtual participants.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.

Iowa Poll methodology

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House Democrats this week plan to begin making the case for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants the caucus to stay away from impeachment, but to mollify her pro-impeachment faction, she has sanctioned hearings as well as votes citing two Trump administration officials with contempt of Congress.

The action starts Monday in the House Judiciary Committee where lawmakers plan to hold a series of hearings to examine the findings in the 448-page Mueller report, which Democrats believe show Trump broke the law.

On Tuesday, lawmakers will vote on a resolution to cite Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn with contempt of Congress.

The hearings, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said, will focus on “the alleged crimes and other misconduct laid out in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.”

Democrats hope it will shift public sentiment in favor of impeachment of Trump for various offenses, including a refusal to cooperate with a broad array of House investigations conducted by their party. Polls show a majority of voters do not support impeachment although the number has ticked up slightly recently.

“I’m hoping all these hearings that we have will allow us not only a chance to get into the legal pieces of this but really the implications for our democracy if we concentrate power in one person,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said. “That’s called a king. What we have is a president and a democracy and three co-equal branches of government.”

The star witness at Monday’s hearing is John Dean, a key Watergate figure who served as White House counsel to President Richard Nixon.

While Dean served time in prison for obstruction of justice, he’s been a staunch critic of Trump and attacks him regularly on Twitter and on cable news shows.

Dean, Democrats hope, can help the public understand the similarities between the Watergate scandal, which forced Nixon’s resignation, and President Trump, who they believe tried to obstruct Mueller’s two-year inquiry into alleged Russian collusion with his campaign.

The hearing, Nadler said, will focus on Trump’s “most overt acts of obstruction” while subsequent hearings will feature “other important aspects of the Mueller report.”

Dean has made the case that Trump’s alleged wrongdoing in office generally is worse than anything that pushed out Nixon.

“Trump is making the long nightmare of Nixon’s Watergate seem like a brief idyllic daydream,” Dean tweeted in November. “History will treat Nixon’s moral failures as relatively less troubling than Trump’s sustained and growing decadence, deviousness and self-delusive behavior. Nixon=corrupt; Trump=evil.”

Tuesday’s contempt vote will shift to federal district court the fight between Congress and Trump over access to material and witnesses from his administration.

Democrats want to cite Barr with contempt for refusing to turn over the unredacted version of the Mueller report while McGahn faces their wrath for declining to appear as a witness at a public hearing.

They will vote on a civil contempt resolution, which will leave it up to the courts to decide whether the Trump administration was legally entitled to hold back witnesses and documents Democrats want to see.

In Barr’s case, the redacted material must remain concealed by law. Democrats are mainly angry at him for his four-page memo declaring the Mueller report cleared President Trump of obstruction and collusion.

Democrats believe Barr lied to them and that Mueller found evidence of obstruction.

The courts have greenlighted Democrats recently in their quest to subpoena access to Trump’s financial documents, which they want to scour for crimes.

“We have already seen the courts side with Congress and we’ll continue to pursue the facts on behalf of the American people,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Ultimately pro-impeachment Democrats, who are still only a fraction of the caucus, hope the actions they take beginning this week will shift the polls in favor of impeachment.

A June 4 Hill-HarrisX poll found only 35% of respondents favored impeachment, compared to 45% who aren’t in favor of it and 20% who are undecided.

Nadler, in a CNN interview last week, acknowledged there is not enough support for impeachment but believes it would grow if more people heard about the facts of the case.

“Right now, we have to get the facts out, we have to educate the American people, because after all, the American people have been lied to consistently by the president, by the attorney general, who have misrepresented what was in the Mueller report,” Nadler said.

President Trump said if the press would report the news fairly, his poll numbers would be much higher.

During an impromptu news conference by Trump on the South Lawn as he was departing for Japan, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked the president if he was worried another investigation would hurt his chances for reelection in 2020.

“I don’t know. My poll numbers are very good. You don’t like to report them, but I guess we have a 48 [percent] today. We have a a 51. We have very good poll numbers considering. Now I have to tell you, if you people would give straight news, I would be at 70. I’d be maybe at 75. But you don’t give straight news. You give fake news. With fake news, I’m still winning the election,” Trump said.

“But if you gave serious, good news the way you’re supposed to, I’d probably be at 70 or 75 based on the economy alone,” he said.

Trump has an average 42% approval rating, according to RealClearPolitics. Quinnipiac’s poll has the lowest approval rating, at 38%, with Rasmussen Reports and Fox News’ polls the highest rating at 46%.

[Opinion: How Trump’s approval rating will shape the 2020 Democratic primaries]


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