Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the standout front-runner in the Democratic primary race, while former leader Joe Biden continues his downward spiral after big losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to new polling.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval rating climbed to tying his all-time high in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll at 47 percent, signaling impeachment hasn’t hurt the commander in chief and potentially helped him politically. Trump’s approval rating also hit a record of 51 percent among independents, the polling out Tuesday found.
The survey shows Sanders leading the pack after his strong finishes in the first two early voting states at 27 percent support among Democratic primary voters – unchanged from January’s polling. But Biden, who previously led at 26 percent last month, fell to a distant second place at 15 percent.
As Biden’s support waned, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg continued his steady rise in the national polls, fueled by his millions in TV ad spending. Bloomberg is now at 14 percent (up 5 points); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also gets 14 percent (down 1 point); and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 13 percent (up 6 points), the survey found. All four candidates are in a statistical tie for second place behind Sanders.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., follows the pack at 7 percent nationwide (up 2 points.)
“Bernie Sanders is the definitive front-runner, and his numbers represent not his ceiling but his base, with room to grow,’’ Democratic pollster Peter Hart told the Wall Street Journal.
Sanders enjoys a level of enthusiasm unmatched by any of his Democratic rivals.
“It’s a mistake at this stage to say we’re looking at his peak because it just looks to me that, as the field narrows, he becomes the beneficiary, especially if Elizabeth Warren drops out,’’ said Hart, who worked on the poll with Jeff Horwitt, also a Democrat, and Republican Bill McInturff.
A similar poll out this week showed Bloomberg’s surge, which helped him qualify for Wednesday’s debate in Nevada.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is running on his platform of democratic socialism and embraces an expansion of the federal government, including a "Medicare-for-all" health care system. But even as his popularity is cemented, the polling shows that voters haven’t cozied up to socialism. Two-thirds said they were uncomfortable with a socialist.
The Democratic field will have its next big test Saturday at the caucuses in Nevada followed by the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29.