Pete Buttigieg Jets To The Top As Clear Front-Runner In New Iowa Poll

"We've felt a lot of momentum on the ground," said a pleased Buttigieg.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has gained 16 percentage points since September to rocket to the top of a new Iowa poll, making him the current front-runner ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

“That’s extremely encouraging,” Buttigieg told reporters Saturday. “We’ve felt a lot of momentum on the ground. At the same time, there’s a long way to go.”

Among likely Democratic Iowa caucus participants, Buttigieg is the first choice for president, taking 25%, according to the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom survey. Rivals Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are all in contention for second place, about 10 percentage points behind Buttigieg. Warren was in first place in September with 22% backing her, but has slipped to 16%, according to the Des Moines Register. Biden and Sanders currently both stand at 15%.

“This is the first poll that shows Buttigieg as a stand-alone front-runner,” J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, told the Register. “There have been four candidates that have sort of jostled around in a pack together, but he has a sizable lead over the nearest contender — 9 points. So this is a new status for him.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is next closest to the top group in the latest poll with 6% backing. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang all scored 3%.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who only recently expressed an interest in running, has 2%. Among those surveyed, 5% are not sure who they’ll pick.

The front-runner in Iowa has switched a number of times in the poll in the past months. It’s the first time Buttigieg has led the survey. But just 30% of likely caucus participants — compared to 20% in September — now say they’ve made up their mind and are unlikely to switch their selection. 

A Monmouth poll earlier this week found Buttigieg rising into the state’s crowded top tier of front-runners.

The Feb. 3 caucuses, the first of the Democratic contests, can serve as an early kingmaker by rocketing a candidate ahead of the pack for extra exposure before state primaries.

The poll of 500 likely Democratic caucus participants was conducted Nov. 8-13 using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cellphones, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post referred to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as members of the U.S. House. They are U.S. senators.