Everyone is chasing Joe Biden: Here's how 2020 Democrats are stacking up in early nominating states

Key Points
  • Early-state 2020 Democratic presidential election primary polls consistently show Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders near the top.
  • Elizabeth Warren makes gains in a new Monmouth University survey of Nevada.
  • Early-state success allows candidates to get a leg up on their rivals, but a lot can change between now and the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in February.
Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden taks a selfie attendees during a campaign event on June 11, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa.
Joshua Lott | Getty Images

Two dozen Democratic presidential candidates have swarmed early 2020 primary nominating states to build support, but one candidate has consistently found himself ahead of the pack.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has led or tied for the top spot in every major poll of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada so far, according to surveys tracked by RealClearPolitics.

The latest poll came Wednesday: Biden garners support from 36% of likely Nevada Democratic caucusgoers, followed by 19% for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., 13% for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 7% for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 6% for Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a Monmouth University survey found.

The result largely reflects other polls in the four early nominating states. Biden and Sanders have enjoyed a cushion over their competitors in an average of surveys in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But Warren's 19% of support in Nevada stands out, because it ranks as easily her best performance in an early-state poll.

Strong showings in the four states can not only start the process of racking up delegates but also help candidates unlock donations and media coverage that propel them to later success. Factors from campaign strategy to demographics or even a candidate's home state can lead to drastically different results across the first four voting states.

Warren's already-sprawling policy platform — which broadly relates to reining in big corporations and boosting workers — "may be a good fit" for Nevada's "highly unionized service sector workforce," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. But the senator is "nowhere near the top tier" among Latino and black voters, who make up a "significant part" of the Democratic base in the state, Murray added.

Here's where the 2020 Democratic front-runners stand on the issues

The Democratic field has spent the most time so far in Iowa, which will hold the first primary nominating contest in February. Nineteen candidates spoke in the state Sunday at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner. Numerous candidates have also made stops in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. On Friday, Harris will rally with striking McDonald's workers in Las Vegas, while Buttigieg and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke will join a McDonald's picket line Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina.

Read on to see how the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have fared in early-state polling, according to a RealClearPolitics average of early surveys. CNBC included the 10 candidates with the highest polling averages in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Of course, the Iowa Democratic caucuses are still about eight months away. Much could change in the race as the contests get closer.


  1. Biden: 23.8%
  2. Sanders: 18.8%
  3. Buttigieg: 12%
  4. Warren: 9.3%
  5. Harris: 7.5%
  6. O'Rourke: 4.5%
  7. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.: 3.5%
  8. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: 3%
  9. Former Rep. John Delaney: 1.3%
  10. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro: 1%

New Hampshire

  1. Biden: 28%
  2. Sanders: 15%
  3. Buttigieg: 10.5%
  4. Warren: 8%
  5. Harris: 6%
  6. O'Rourke: 2.5%
  7. Booker: 2.5%
  8. Klobuchar: 1.5%
  9. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang: 1%
  10. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio: 0.5%

South Carolina

  1. Biden: 41.5%
  2. Sanders: 18%
  3. Harris: 9.5%
  4. Warren: 6.5%
  5. Booker: 5%
  6. Buttigieg: 4%
  7. O'Rourke: 3.5%
  8. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.: 1.5%
  9. Klobuchar: 1%
  10. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hi.: 1%


  1. Biden: 31%
  2. Sanders: 18%
  3. Warren: 14.5%
  4. Harris: 7.5%
  5. Buttigieg: 6%
  6. O'Rourke: 6%
  7. Yang: 2.5%
  8. Booker: 2%
  9. Klobuchar: 1.5%
  10. Gabbard: 1.5%

Early polls also give insight into what Democratic voters want in a candidate. Monmouth polls find Democrats overwhelmingly choose health care as their top issue: 51%, 41% and 41% of respondents listed health care as their main concern in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada surveys, respectively.

In all three states, Democrats listed climate change and the environment as their next most important issue.

Wednesday's Monmouth University telephone poll includes responses from 370 likely Nevada Democratic caucusgoers with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.

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