O'Rourke and Buttigieg Surge in Polls of Democratic Hopefuls

Fresh National polling data shows that White House contenders Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Pete Buttigieg of Indiana are gaining ground in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

O’Rourke, the former three-term congressman came to national attention after a strong showing against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections, ranked third at 12 percent among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in a new Quinnipiac University national poll.

Buttigieg came in at 4 percent in the survey, well behind the leaders. But the new number still indicates a rise in the polls. The South Bend, Indiana mayor and Afghanistan War veteran had not been considered a realistic contender for the nomination when he launched his presidential exploratory committee in January. But that seems to have changed now.

“Hungry for a candidate to take on President Donald Trump, Democrats and Democratic leaners put the three B's, Biden, Bernie and Beto, at the top in a race where age, race and gender take a back seat to electability and shared views,”  Quinnipiac University poll assistant director Tim Malloy said.

Buttigieg would add a fourth ‘B’ candidate to the list.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 21 – 25, with 1,358 voters nationwide questioned by live telephone operators. The survey’s overall sampling error is 3.3 percentage points, with a 5.1 margin of error for the questions on the 2020 Democratic nomination race.

Buttigieg cautioned against overconfidence:

“You can’t put too much stock in polls, but obviously it’s not bad news,” said Buttigieg. “We know that we’re a long way -- almost a year from the Caucuses. But certainly another encouraging data point as we think about the road ahead.”

"It's heady," Buttigieg said in an interview with CNN. "And it has happened very quickly."

“As much as these things can go to your head, the truth is most Americans don’t yet know me, my story, or what we’ve been doing in South Bend,” said Buttigieg. “I think we’re a long way from having to worry about peaking too early.”

"The good news is it means the more people that see our message, the more it resonates," he said. "Because what I said in the town hall is no different than what I've been saying all along, it's just that more people saw it."

“We could use more state and federal support and certainly that's something that hopefully the next president -- hopefully me -- will be looking at and paying attention to,” said Buttigieg.

"That's good news but I'm trying not to let it go to my head because for every one person that stops me at the airport or on the street there's still probably 99 who still haven't heard our message yet," he said.

Commentators weigh in:

Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, took note of Buttigieg's rise in the Iowa poll, tweeting Monday, "Way early. Lots of chapters — and polls — to come. But remarkable progress for the young South Bend mayor whose name few knew, much less could pronounce, a month ago."

"How do you capture the data and build relationships with all the people suddenly eager to help? How do you quickly build an organization equipped to utilize that data and those relationships and develop a strategy, particularly in the must-win early states," said Axelrod, who is a CNN senior political commentator. "And how do you prepare for the sterner tests that come for a 'hot' candidate, as media and opponents begin to poke and prod with greater intensity to see if you are up to the job."

He added, "It's challenging."

About O’Rourke, commentators were equally encouraging.

“They’re making smart hires and building the kind of campaign you need to run for president,” said Scott Arceneaux, a Democratic strategist, and the Florida Democratic Party’s former executive director. “Running for president is different than running for statewide office. It’s just a different animal. It’s a lot bigger and it’s multidimensional chess. You’re playing in four, five, 10 states at a time with both national and in-state implications. It’s different. He seems to be building an organization to do that, not just run statewide.”

Chris Lippincott, an Austin-based consultant who ran a super PAC opposing Cruz in the Senate campaign, said O’Rourke’s early staffing and organizational efforts reflect an understanding that in 2020 “he can’t DIY things like he did in Texas.”

“Clearly, they’ve acknowledged they can’t just re-create their Texas mechanism in Iowa or New Hampshire,” Lippincott said. “This idea of, ‘We’re running against one other guy, Ted Cruz, who’s really unattractive to your average voter, and you’ve got all these people who just don’t vote,’ that’s the terrain in which they just ran super fast and hit every door, bang, bang, bang. You can’t do that … You have to be much more specific with your targeting.”

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