Joe Biden remains far ahead of the pack of Democratic 2020 contenders in a new Iowa poll, suggesting the recent media storm over multiple allegations from women that the former vice president inappropriately touched them isn’t yet damaging the prospects of his likely White House run.
And the Monmouth University public opinion survey, released Thursday, is the second straight poll in an early-voting primary or caucus state to provide evidence that onetime long-shot candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is surging.
Twenty-seven percent of likely Democratic caucus goers in the state that votes first on the road to the White House said if the caucus were held today, they’d back Biden, who’s close to announcing his third bid for president.
Biden’s well-known but controversial brand of "tactile" politics was thrust into the spotlight nearly two weeks ago, amid allegations from 2014 Nevada Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores. She said in an essay published in New York magazine that Biden made her feel "uneasy, gross and confused" at a campaign rally when she said he kissed her on the back of the head. Other accusers soon came forward.
Speaking with reporters a week ago the former vice president stressed: “I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.”
But he acknowledged that "it is incumbent on me and everybody else to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone, it’s with their consent, regardless of your intentions."
The survey was conducted April 4-9, during and after the height of media coverage of the controversy.
The poll indicates that Biden does better among women – 37 percent said they back him – than men, where support dropped to 15 percent. And Biden’s 81 percent favorable rating among likely female Democratic caucus-goers was 8 percentage points higher than the 73 percent favorability he held with male Democrats.
“If Biden does get into this race, he’ll start out as a clear front-runner in Iowa. Not only does he garner support from crucial demographic groups but he is almost universally well-liked among all Democratic voters,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – who’s running a second straight time for the Democratic nomination – was second at 16 percent.
Buttigieg, a 37-year-old Afghanistan War veteran who would be the nation’s first openly gay president, was in third place in the poll, at 9 percent.
“Buttigieg’s current standing in the horse race is impressive given that nearly half of likely Democratic caucus-goers have yet to form an opinion of him. He has one of the best positive to negative ratios in the field,” Murray said in a statement.
Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts stood at 7 percent, with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas at 6 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 4 percent, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey at 3 percent, and former Housing and Urban Development secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro at 2 percent.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Eric Swalwell of California, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and entrepreneur Andrew Yang each received 1 percent support.
Everyone else in the large field of declared or potential Democratic 2020 contenders registered at less than 1 percent.
Polls this early in a presidential election cycle – there's still 10 months to go until the first votes are cast – are often heavily influenced by name recognition. Results can change often and drastically between this stage and the start of the caucus and primary calendar.
The Monmouth University poll was conducted by live telephone operators, with 761 registered Democrats in Iowa questioned. The questions in the Democratic race have a sampling error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.