Mayor Pete Buttigieg Makes His Move In Early-Voting States

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announces that he will not seek another term as mayor Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, during a news conference at his office in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s (D) strong media buzz appears to be translating into growing support in key early-voting states, according to a pair of polls released Thursday.

According to two new surveys, Buttigieg has climbed into third place in both Iowa and New Hampshire, trailing only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Monmouth University’s survey of Iowa caucusgoers found Biden leading the field in Iowa with 27% support, Sanders at 16% and Buttigieg with nine percent — a notable rise given how few voters know about him at this point. They were followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at seven percent apiece, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) at six percent, with the other candidates below five percent support.

Just over half of voters have formed an opinion of the young mayor, a sign he has room to grow, while at least 70 percent survey’s respondents have formed opinions about the other candidates — including more than 90 percent for Sanders and Biden.

“Buttigieg’s current standing in the horse race is impressive given that nearly half of likely Democratic caucusgoers have yet to form an opinion of him. He has one of the best positive to negative ratios in the field,” Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray said in a statement.

St. Anselm College found similar results in a New Hampshire poll released Thursday morning, with Biden leading the field at 23% support , Sanders at 16%, and Buttigieg in third place with 11% support. Warren was at nine percent, Harris at seven percent, O’Rourke at six percent, and the rest of the field didn’t top five percent support.

A few major caveats. First, both polls have small sample sizes (351 likely Iowa caucus-goers for Monmouth, 326 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters in the St. Anselm poll), and as a result, the polls’ margins of error are both above five percent. That means there’s no statistical difference between Buttigieg’s position and that of the candidates bunched up behind him, and they could be very well leading him right now in more accurate polls.

Also, as Buttigieg’s own rapid rise displays, there’s a ton of uncertainty in the race, with rapid shifts likely to continue between now and late next winter. And Biden and Sanders remain well ahead of the rest of the field.

But it appears the Butti-mentum is real — at least for now.

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