Biden's polling lead in first primary state all but evaporates

Joe Biden remains on top in the state that holds the first presidential primary in the race for the White House, but a new poll is the second in two days to suggest the former vice president’s lead over his 2020 Democratic nomination rivals has all but disappeared.

Twenty-four percent of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire say they back Biden, according to a University of New Hampshire survey conducted for CNN.

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The poll, released Tuesday, shows Sens. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of neighboring Massachusetts each at 19 percent, just a few points back.

According to the survey, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg stood in fourth place at 10 percent, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California at 9 percent. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas each registered at 2 percent in the poll. No one else in the record-breaking field of some two-dozen Democratic White House hopefuls topped 1 percent.

The survey is the latest early voting state or national poll to suggest a deterioration in Biden’s lead following his less-than-stellar performance late last month during the first round of Democratic presidential nomination debates.

A Saint Anselm College public opinion survey released on Monday also indicated a tighter contest in New Hampshire, with Biden at 20.8 percent, Harris at 17.5 percent, and Warren at 16.7 percent. The poll put Buttigieg at 11.5 percent and Sanders at just 9.9 percent. But the Saint Anselm poll only tested around half of the declared Democratic White House candidates.

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By comparison, Biden enjoyed leads of 8, 13 and 18 percentage points in the three surveys in New Hampshire conducted after his campaign launch in late April and before the first debate.

UNH Survey Center pollster Andrew Smith told Fox News that “there’s a clustering” among the leading rivals “because voters are hearing more about them.”

He pointed to Biden and Sanders as being very well known in New Hampshire and said that “Warren did well in the last debate and she’s a local person whose name is known.”

Some other takeaways from the poll – 45 percent said Biden’s the candidate with the best chance of beating Republican President Trump in November 2020. Only 16 percent say Sanders has the best chance of ousting Trump from the White House, but four in 10 view him as the most progressive candidate in the vast Democratic field.

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Only 16 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say that they have made up their mind about whom they’ll support in next February’s primary. One in five is leaning toward a candidate. But nearly two-thirds (64 percent) are undecided.

“Voters are not in any position to make up their minds on whom they’re actually going to support yet,” Smith emphasized.

In the Republican primary, 86 percent of those likely to vote in New Hampshire’s GOP presidential contest said they currently support the president. Just 7 percent said they would back former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the only Republican who’s declared a primary challenge against Trump

The CNN poll was conducted by UNH from June 8 to 15, with 863 New Hampshire adults questioned by live telephone operators. The sample included 386 likely 2020 Democratic primary voters and 289 likely 2020 Republican primary voters. The sampling error for likely Democratic primary voters was plus or minus 5 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points for likely GOP primary voters.