Early Democratic Presidential Candidate Polling Shows Clear Leader

May 24, 2019

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • KY, MA, MS-Sen: Incumbents draw primary challenges
  • MI-3: Rep. Justin Amash (R) in nomination trouble
  • NY-19: Ex-Rep. John Faso (R) won't seek re-match
  • PA-12: Fred Keller (R) wins special election
  • KY-Gov: Gov. Matt Bevin (R); AG Andy Beshear (D) nominated


Two Polls, Same Result:  Both Monmouth University and Harris X (polling for the Hill Newspaper) conducted national Democratic presidential primary polls during the same period and arrived at virtually identical results. Monmouth's small sample poll (5/16-20; 334 US registered voters likely to vote in their respective Democratic primary) found former Vice President Joe Biden leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) by a 33-15% margin with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) following with 11, 10, 6, 4, and 3%, respectively.

Harris X (5/17-18; 448 US registered voters likely to vote in their respective Democratic primary) finds Biden's advantage over Sanders to be an almost identical 33-14%. They see a different second tier, however. Harris finds their order as Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and O'Rourke at 8, 6, 6, and 5%.

Florida Poll:  Florida Atlantic University polled the Sunshine State Democratic electorate (5/16-19; 1,007 FL registered voters; 403 likely FL Democratic primary voters) and finds former Vice President Joe Biden again establishing a solid advantage over the rest of the candidate field. Here, he leads Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 39-12-12%, with South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Sen. Kamala Harris trailing with 9 and 7%, respectively. Florida, with 219 first ballot votes, is the fourth largest voting entity in the Democratic nomination process. The state's electorate, along with those in Arizona and Illinois, will vote on March 17th.

Iowa Poll:  A new Change Research poll (5/15-19; 615 Democratic likely IA Caucus attenders) for the Iowa Starting Line political blog finds that former Vice President Joe Biden's post-announcement bump may be dissipating. According to the results, Mr. Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are again tied for the lead at 24%. South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg is third with 14%, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) posting 12 and 10%, respectively.


Kentucky:  Former state Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, who won a central Kentucky state House seat in 2016 but then lost re-nomination in 2018, announced his Republican primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After his defeat, Mr. Morgan said he was leaving the Republican Party and endorsed the Democratic nominee for the general election, a candidate who lost by just 23 votes. Now, it appears, Mr. Morgan is returning to the GOP to launch a political suicide effort against Sen. McConnell who was first elected in 1984 and has risen to the Senate's top position. No major Democrat has yet filed to oppose the Majority Leader, but we can expect to see some action after the Kentucky Governor's race comes to a close in November.

Maine: To the surprise of very few, freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) has officially eschewed overtures that he challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R), and announced he will run for re-election to his 2nd District House seat. At this point, Sen. Collins has drawn only minor Democratic and Republican primary opposition.

Massachusetts:  Though Sen. Ed Markey (D) is not drawing a primary challenge from either upstart House member Seth Moulton (D-Salem) or Ayanna Presley (D-Boston) as originally speculated, he will have intra-party opposition, nonetheless. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan this week announced her intention to challenge the 43-year congressional veteran, attempting to deny him re-nomination. Ms. Liss-Riordan specializes in defending under-paid workers and has won lawsuits against American Airlines, FedEx, Harvard University, and Starbucks, among others. This will be her first run for public office, so Sen. Markey certainly begins as an overwhelming favorite to win the party nod and general election.

Mississippi:  Wealthy businessman and Vice Chairman of the Mississippi Lottery Board Gerard Gilbert said late this week that he is considering challenging Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in next year's Republican primary. So far, this race has been quiet after the Senator, appointed to serve the remainder of Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) final term in office after his resignation for health reasons, defeated former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy (D) in a 54-46% special election victory last November.

Wyoming:  Mega GOP donor Foster Friess, who finished second in the 2018 open Wyoming Governor's primary losing 33-26% to now-Gov. Mark Gordon (R), is quoted as saying he is considering entering the open US Senate race now that incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is retiring. All political eyes, however, are still on at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson) to see if she will announce for the Senate.


CA-10:  San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott (R-Tracy), a retired Army Colonel, was already an announced candidate for state Senate. Early this week, however, he switched gears and instead will file to oppose freshman US Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock). Also, in the GOP congressional race is Turlock former City Councilman Ted Howze (R), but he ran in 2018 and received only 15% in the jungle primary. Two other minor candidates have declared, but it appears that Mr. Elliott would be the strongest opponent for Rep. Harder in the general election at this point in time.

IL-14:  In contrast to several other defeated Republican former Congressmen, ex-Rep. Randy Hultgren says it is "unlikely" that he will run again in 2020 in order to re-claim his former northern Illinois district. In November, Mr. Hultgren lost his bid for a fifth term to current freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville), 52-48%.

At this point, state Senator and frequent federal candidate Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) has announced his congressional candidacy along with three minor candidates. In the background, however, is state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), who appears to be taking steps toward constructing a congressional campaign apparatus. In what is usually a reliable seat for the GOP, we can again expect a highly competitive campaign to ensue.

IA-2:  Despite Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) retiring after this term, 2016 and '18 Republican nominee Christopher Peters announced that he will not seek the open seat next year. On the heels of Mr. Peters declining to run, another Republican took himself out of the political picture. State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) confirmed that he will not run for Congress next year. At this point, only Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley is in the Republican field.

Former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart (D) is fast becoming a consensus 2nd District Democratic candidate. Late this week, state Sen. Zach Wahls (D-Coralville), who was himself considering the congressional race, publicly endorsed Ms. Hart, as did state Rep. Wes Breckinridge (D-Newton). The latter man was also said to be contemplating becoming a congressional candidate. Since President Trump carried this usually reliable Democratic congressional district, 49-45% in 2016, this open seat could become competitive particularly in a year with Mr. Trump returning to the ballot.

MI-3:  President Trump brandishing Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) a "loser" after the latter man became the first Republican to call for the former's impeachment upon reading the Mueller Report, is going to be a factor in a new primary challenge campaign. State Rep. Jim Lower (R-Greenville) declared his candidacy this week and released a survey that gives numerical support to the claim that Rep. Amash will be highly vulnerable in a Republican primary.

Mr. Amash, who repeatedly has bucked House Republican leadership during his nine years of congressional service, faced serious opposition in 2014 but the Congressman defeated challenger Brian Ellis, 57-43%. He was re-elected 54-43% in the 2018 general election against activist Cathy Albro (D) who spent less than $160,000 on her campaign.

NY-19:  Former US Representative, ex-state Assembly Minority Leader, and 2006 gubernatorial nominee John Faso (R) said this week that he will not seek a re-match with the Democrat who unseated him in November, freshman Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck). The 19th District is likely to be a battleground region next year despite New York not being a competitive state at the presidential level. With Mr. Delgado winning with just over 50% (50.3) in 2018, we can expect another hard-fought political contest to develop in this eastern Upstate CD again next year.

NY-27:  Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) has drawn a serious Republican primary challenge. Mr. Collins, who won a close re-election last November despite being indicted for insider trading even as three other New York Republicans went down in defeat, is scheduled for trial before the next election. State Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Erie County) has announced that he will challenge Rep. Collins in next year's Republican primary, saying that, "it's hard for anyone to say Chris Collins is fully capable of advocating for this district."

PA-12:  Pennsylvania state Rep. Fred Keller (R-Mifflinburg) easily defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg last Tuesday in the battle to succeed resigned-Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport). Mr. Keller's victory margin was 68-32%, a stronger performance than both President Trump and Rep. Marino enjoyed in their most recent elections in the district. More than 130,000 people voted in the special election, which was a strong number considering the outcome never seemed in doubt. Mr. Keller holding this seat for the GOP means the House party division is now 235 Democrats; 198 Republicans; and 2 vacancies that will both be filled on September 10th (NC-3; NC-9).

TX-10:  Until last year's tight 51-47% re-election victory for eight-term Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Austin), Democrats had not aggressively challenged for the seat. Earlier this week, attorney Susan Hutcheson announced that she would join the burgeoning field of Democratic candidates. Already, 2018 nominee Mike Siegel and Dell Medical School assistant professor Pritesh Gandhi are in the race. Despite the closeness of the last contest, Rep. McCaul begins as a definitive favorite for re-election.


Kentucky:  Attorney General Andy Beshear won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Tuesday night on the strength of his performance in the Louisville area and western Kentucky, which off-set his being blown out in the eastern part of the state. Mr. Beshear defeated state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), and former state Auditor Adam Edelen, 38-32-28%.

Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who has been suffering from poor job approval ratings, won re-nomination with just over 52% of the vote, a very weak performance within his own party base. Like AG Beshear, Gov. Bevin was anemic in the eastern part of the state. Therefore, the region east of Frankfort and Lexington should be an interesting one since neither general election nominee performed well there.