Pete Buttigieg surged ahead of Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire by 1 percentage point, according to a new poll released Friday by Suffolk University, continuing a steady ascension that’s followed his strong performance in the Iowa caucuses Monday.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now the top choice of 25% of likely New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary voters, followed by Sanders, a democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, at 24%. They are trailed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 14%, former Vice President Joe Biden, 11%, and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 6%, according to the poll.
After narrowly edging Sanders in Iowa in state delegate equivalents, Buttigieg is riding a wave of momentum into New Hampshire, climbing 14 percentage points in the same Suffolk daily tracking poll since Monday, when he was at 11%. It’s the first lead for Buttigieg in the tracking poll, which has the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV as partners.
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Over that same time, Sanders has stayed flat at 24%, Warren has gained 1 percentage point and Biden, who finished fourth in Iowa, has dropped 7 percentage points.
“What’s happened in the last week since we began the tracking before Iowa, during, and now after is that he vastly exceeded expectations, unlike Sanders,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, noting that Sanders led two of the last three polls in Iowa. “Sanders did win the first round (of voting), but he certainly did not vastly exceed expectation like Pete Buttigieg.”
Buttigieg’s rise has come at the expense of Biden, according Paleologos, who said the former vice president has had a “dramatic drop” in support from senior voters bolting to Buttigieg since Iowa. The mayor has also picked up undecided voters, he said.
“These older voters in New Hampshire did not feel comfortable rotating to Warren or Sanders because of the ideology and because of the lane that they occupied,” he said. “So Buttigieg was a safe place for them to go – someone who was younger, who shared Biden’s moderate lane and who vastly exceeded expectations. When that demographic imploded, so did Joe Biden’s chances to be in the top tier.”
The poll, based on daily interviews of 500 likely Democratic voters conducted Thursday and Friday, comes just days before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. The margin of error is 4.4%
During Friday’s televised New Hampshire debate, Biden downplayed his expectations.
“I took a hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take a hit here,” Biden said, pointing out that Sanders, from a neighboring state, won by more than 20 points in New Hampshire in the 2016 New Hampshire primary.
If Biden struggles in New Hampshire, he will face enormous pressure to win Nevada and South Carolina, where he has led in polls. Buttigieg, who has had difficulty finding support among minority voters, has struggled to show traction in both states.
Paleologos said he also believes Buttigieg benefited from the caucus-counting chaos in Iowa because it gave him four days of extended television coverage that largely characterized him as the winner.
“That repetition for four days, whereas usually it’s Monday night the winner is announced and that’s it. You don’t see any extended visibility. So, I think in a weird sort of way, counter to what a lot of people predicted, which was Buttigieg blew a opportunity to seize the moment, the opposite happened.”
Sanders has for months been considered the frontunner to win the Granite State, while the other neighboring candidate, Warren, dropped in polls in New Hampshire when she started to decline nationally in October.
Sanders still leads two other recent New Hampshire polls. An NBC/Marist poll released Friday had Sanders with 25% and Buttigieg with 21%, while a poll from Emerson College found Sanders with 31% and Buttigieg with 24%.
But Paleologos said demographically Buttigieg is a “much more balanced” candidate than the others, including Sanders. He said polls shows Biden is heavily reliant on senior voters; for Warren, it’s women voters; and for Sanders, it’s young voters.
“It’s not perfect balance,” Paleologos said of Buttigieg. “But he does have balance of support in terms of gender, age, party affiliation in terms of whether they’re Democrat or independent.
“That’s a more consistent place to be. The parity he shows in demographics, coupled with momentum, makes him a very strong contender in New Hampshire.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.