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Biden and Sanders lead new poll of 2020 Democrats. But it’s still super early.

Neither of them is actually in the race yet.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden swears in Sen. Bernie Sanders at the US Senate in January 2013.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden swears in Sen. Bernie Sanders at the US Senate in January 2013.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Democratic voters nationwide and in early primary states ahead of the 2020 election at the moment prefer two candidates who haven’t even declared their campaigns yet: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) ranks third.

A new Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday tracks how Democratic presidential candidates are doing among Democratic primary voters nationwide and in early voting states — namely, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The firm says it will survey more than 5,000 registered voters daily and each week release new results to track how the race changes.

Its first report shows Biden and Sanders leading the pack, followed by Harris, among Democrats nationally and in the early voting states.

Twenty-nine percent of voters who say they are likely to vote in a Democratic primary in 2020 say they prefer Biden, followed by 22 percent who say Sanders, 13 percent who say Harris, 8 percent who say Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 7 percent who say former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, 5 percent who say Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 3 percent who say Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

Among early primary state voters, Biden has more of a lead with 33 percent support, followed by Sanders at 21 percent, Harris at 11 percent, Warren at 10 percent, Booker at 6 percent, and O’Rourke at 5 percent. Klobuchar and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg each have 2 percent support.

Morning Consult also asked voters who their second choice would be. Biden, Warren, and O’Rourke voters said Sanders. Sanders and Harris voters said Biden.

Democratic voters pick their second choice in the 2020 primaries.
Morning Consult/2020 Primaries Political Intelligence Report

Among the top five candidates — Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, and O’Rourke — Biden’s supporters are the oldest, with an average age of 52, and Sanders’s are the youngest, averaging 41. Forty-four percent of Sanders supporters are under the age of 30, while 30 percent of Biden’s are over the age of 65.

Sanders and O’Rourke have more male voter coalitions. Harris led the others in black voters (28 percent of her supporters) and college-educated voters (50 percent). Warren led the group in women supporters.

Candidate coalitions in the 2020 primaries.
Morning Consult/2020 Primaries Political Intelligence Report

Morning Consult asked Republican voters how they feel about 2020 and found that about one in five would like to see someone besides President Donald Trump on the GOP ticket.

It’s still very, very early

Before you panic because you’re all in for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) or South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg or Bloomberg and see they’re not really taking off, here’s the thing to remember: It’s still really early in the cycle. Three of the candidates in the top five haven’t even declared their campaigns yet, and it’s possible not all of them will end up doing so.

There’s still a ton of campaigning to get through — most of the already-declared candidates are just now making some of their first stops in early primary states. The Democratic National Committee will hold 12 debates, starting in June 2019. The Iowa caucuses aren’t until February 3, 2020, and the New Hampshire primary is on February 11, 2020.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias explained, Democrats don’t really have a strong frontrunner heading into 2020, with Biden and Sanders only sort of leading the pack:

[T]he fact that Bernie and Biden are both out there makes each of them weaker than they would be alone. Without the other, either one would be the name-recognition candidate; with two well-recognized contenders, nobody has a clear edge.

Nipping at their heels are two other top-tier contenders: Warren — who suggests herself to many as being able to finally put the Bernie/Hillary wars to rest, but who has really failed to assuage doubts about her electability — and Harris, who looks in many ways like a winner on paper but hasn’t demonstrated the kind of charisma on the stump that you normally expect from a presidential candidate.

The bigger the field gets, the more people are tempted to hop in. You don’t need to be overwhelmingly popular to win. You just need to be a bit more popular than anyone else.

In other words, this isn’t anywhere near decided yet.

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