By Jim EllisJan. 14, 2020 — For the first time in this Democratic primary cycle, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has taken the lead in an Iowa Caucus poll, while billionaire Tom Steyer is moving into contention in both Nevada and South Carolina.
Several surveys released on Friday point to these conclusions. In Iowa, Selzer & Company, polling for the Des Moines Register newspaper and Mediacom (Jan. 2-8; 701 likely Iowa Democratic primary voters) finds Sen. Sanders taking a 20-17-16-15 percent slight edge over Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden. The close results suggest that all four of these contenders are in position to qualify for the all-important delegate apportionment.
Des Moines based Selzer & Company has long been considered the polling industry standard for the Iowa electorate. According to their analysis, Sen. Sanders has the most committed support, and is in the best position to deliver his supporters to the individual caucus meetings on Feb. 3, which will translate into committed delegate votes.
The Selzer poll produces similar results to other pollsters in that the top four contenders are closely bunched, but the rest find a different leader. Instead of Sen. Sanders, most have recently found Mayor Buttigieg holding first position. All, however, suggest the top four finishers will likely qualify to split the 41 first ballot votes that the Democratic National Committee allots to Iowa.
Fox News conducted a series of research studies in Nevada, South Carolina, and Wisconsin over the Jan. 5-8 period and, in the two early states, Steyer has moved into a third place Nevada tie with Sen. Warren and is in sole possession of second place in South Carolina.
The Fox News Nevada poll (Jan. 5-8; 635 likely Nevada Democratic caucus attenders) gives Biden the overall edge in recording 23 percent, Sanders follows at 17 percent, and Steyer and Warren are tied with 12 percent.
The South Carolina Fox poll, conducted during the same period as the other two states and with a healthy sample of 808 likely Democratic primary voters, projects Biden to be maintaining the rather substantial lead he has enjoyed for weeks. The surprise finding is Steyer now appears as his closest Palmetto State rival. Overall, Biden would lead Steyer 36-15 percent according to Fox, with Sen. Sanders close behind at 14 percent preference, while Sen. Warren barely reaches double digits at 10 percent.
The Nevada and South Carolina numbers tell us that the Steyer campaign’s media strategy is beginning to pay political dividends. With more than $116 million in electronic advertising expenditures already reported, Steyer appears to have a more coherent strategy and better targeting plan than does billionaire ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who is operating in a similar manner. These two candidates have spent the bulk of the media money in the Democratic campaign to date.
While Steyer has surpassed $116 million as mentioned above, Bloomberg has reportedly spent more than $153 million. To put these numbers into perspective, the next most prolific Democratic presidential advertisers are Sanders and Buttigieg who have both spent just under $12 million.
The Steyer advertising is targeting to the most liberal voter in the early states, and particularly those who the environmental arguments drive. This strategy makes sense. The Bloomberg media operation is more difficult to understand. Spending more money, the former Big Apple Mayor’s operation is skipping the first four states and moving directly into the Super Tuesday states. So far, his polling numbers have not precipitously moved.
His media message, which generally is a basic bio spot that relates quips about his time as New York’s Mayor, is not particularly pointed and the national buy fails to isolate the voters who will make the earliest critical choices. Skipping the early states has never worked for previous candidates, and it doesn’t appear that the Bloomberg approach will reverse political history.
Now exactly three weeks from the first votes being cast in Iowa, the polling data and message delivery strategy becomes particularly relevant and critically important. This is the time when the political rubber begins to meet the proverbial road.