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NBC/WSJ poll: Biden leads Dem 2020 field, Warren's support grows

While Biden dominates among more moderate Democrats and black voters, Warren overperforms among whites and liberals.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continue to top the Democratic 2020 presidential field after last week’s debate — in a race for the nomination that breaks along ideological and racial lines, according to a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday.

The survey also shows that Warren has the advantage in enthusiasm, and that she gets the most second-choice support.

Biden leads the overall horserace with backing from 31 percent of Democratic primary voters (up 5 points since July), while Warren gets 25 percent (up 6 points).

They’re followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 14 percent (up 1 point), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 7 percent (unchanged) and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at 5 percent (down 8 points).

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang gets support from 4 percent of Democratic primary voters, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., both get 2 percent.

No other Democratic presidential candidate gets more than 1 percent support in the poll, which was conducted Sept. 13-16 — immediately after Thursday’s debate in Houston.

So despite all of the debates and all the campaigning, the candidates who gained ground since July were the Top 3 of Biden, Warren and Sanders, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his firm.

“The race is more solid for the front-runners than it was in July,” McInturff said.

Important, however, only 9 percent of all Democratic respondents say their minds are definitely made up.

As a result, these numbers could very well change between now and next year’s early nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“What we see in September isn’t what we see in December,” said Hart, the Democratic pollster.“There is going to be a change.”

Ideology, race define Democratic race

Ideology, race and age still define the Democratic horserace, with Biden leading among moderates, African Americans and older Democratic primary voters, while Warren overperforms with liberal and white Democrats.

Fifty-six percent of Democratic primary voters in the NBC/WSJ poll prefer a nominee who proposes larger-scale policies on health care, climate change and the economy that cost more and might be harder to pass — but still could bring greater change.

Warren gets support from 32 percent of these Democrats, Biden gets 21 percent and Sanders 19 percent.

By contrast, 40 percent of Democratic primary voters want a nominee who proposes smaller-scale policies that would cost less and might be easier to pass.

Biden dominates these voters, getting 43 percent to Warren’s 17 percent, with Harris at 9 percent and Buttigieg at 8 percent.

In a separate question, 78 percent of Democratic primary voters say they’re satisfied that Barack Obama’s presidency did as much as possible at the time in addressing the issues facing the country.

Biden leads Warren among these voters, 33 percent to 25 percent, with Sanders getting 13 percent.

But 20 percent of Democratic voters say they weren’t satisfied with Obama’s presidency, and Warren leads Biden here, 27 percent to 19 percent, with Sanders at 18 percent.

Ninety-percent of Democratic primary voters in the poll hold a favorable view of Obama, versus just 4 percent who view him negatively.

Warren has edge in enthusiasm

While Warren narrowly trails Biden in the Democratic horserace, she holds the advantage in enthusiasm.

Thirty-five percent of Democratic primary voters say they’re “enthusiastic” about Warren (which is up 9 points since June), another 35 percent are “comfortable” with her and just 6 percent are “very uncomfortable.”

That’s compared with 23 percent who are enthusiastic about Biden, another 41 percent who are comfortable and 13 percent who are very uncomfortable — essentially unchanged since June.

Bernie Sanders’ numbers are 25 percent enthusiastic, 37 percent comfortable and 12 percent very uncomfortable.

Warren also gets the most second-choice support in the horserace, with 21 percent of Democratic primary voters picking her as their second choice — followed by Sanders at 16 percent, Buttigieg at 12 percent and Biden at 11 percent.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 13-16 of 506 Democratic primary voters – including more than half who were reached by cellphone — and it has a margin of error here of plus-minus 4.4 percentage points.

The remainder of the NBC/WSJ poll will be released at a later date.