Buttigieg outpolling most of Democratic field in early states

WASHINGTON – As Pete Buttigieg prepares to officially kick off his presidential campaign Sunday, new polls in two important states show the previously little-known mayor from South Bend, Indiana, doing better than far more established Democrats.

He ranked behind only former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a Monmouth University Poll of registered Democratic voters in Iowa.

That was the same order of preference in a New Hampshire poll by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center.

"The emerging dark horse in this race may be Pete Buttigieg, who has gone from a virtual unknown to vault to 11% support, trailing only Biden and Sanders and ahead of (Elizabeth) Warren," said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

His rise is driven by a 33-percent increase in name recognition, almost all of it favorable, Levesque said.

Likewise, in Iowa, Buttigieg had one of the best ratios of positive and negative opinions about him among the 24 Democratic presidential hopefuls the Monmouth University Poll tested.

"Buttigieg's current standing in the horse race is impressive given that nearly half of likely Democratic caucus-goers have yet to form an opinion of him," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. "He could move up if he is able to maintain that rating as he introduces himself to more voters."

Biden topped the poll with 27% support. Sanders got 16%. Buttigieg was next with 9% choosing him as their top choice in the survey of 351 Iowa voters who are likely to attend the 2020 Democratic presidential caucuses – the first balloting contest for the nomination.

Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris lagged Buttigieg with 7% support. Beto O'Rourke, whose campaign has been seen by some as having been eclipsed by Buttigieg, was the choice of 6%.

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South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg poses for photos with Erica Woolley of Nevada after Buttigieg spoke at a meet-and-greet at Madhouse Coffee on April 8, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Buttigieg has also gotten a recent boost from influential Democrats.

Democratic megadonor Susie Tompkins Buell, a Democratic megadonor, held a fundraiser for Buttigieg in San Francisco Thursday.

“How has this 37-year old Rhodes scholar war veteran and openly gay South Bend mayor risen from being largely under the radar to raising $7 million in the first quarter of his presidential campaign? We’d like to know!” she wrote in an email invitation obtained by Politico.

Buell, who raised money for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and in 2016 presidential bids, had attended California Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential campaign kickoff in Oakland in January. 

In Massachusetts, another donor-rich state, party insider Steve Grossman is backing Buttigieg despite his previous encouragement for Warren.

"I think (Buttigieg) is a MIdwestern, down-to-earth, smart, savvy, in-touch candidate who will continue to grow," Grossman told The Boston Globe. 

Grossman is one of the five former leaders of the Democratic National Committee who endorsed Buttigieg when he ran for DNC chair in 2017. 

Although Buttigieg had the most support from previous chairs for DNC job, he withdrew from the race when it was clear he was not going to beat Tom Perez for the job.

Grossman told the Globe that he had backed Buttigieg because he saw him as someone "who can help revolutionize a party that is in desperate need of being revolutionized."

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