Booker way behind in 2020 Democratic primary, poll finds

By Emily Bader
United States | May 9, 2019 at 12:00 pm

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is lagging way behind the front-runner of New Hampshire’s first Democratic primary, according to a Monmouth University Poll of Granite State primary voters in the 2020 cycle.

Of the 24 potential candidates, former vice president Joe Biden is in the lead with 36% support of registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are likely to vote come February. He is followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 18% support, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (9%), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (8%) and California Sen. Kamala Harris (6%).

Booker remains near the bottom with only 2% of voter support, registering at least 1% in the poll, along with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (2%), Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (2%), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (1%), Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (1%) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang (1%). The remaining 13 candidates earned less than 1% support or were not chosen in this poll.

“As other polls have shown, Biden officially enters the race as a clear front-runner. He is the preferred candidate of voters who want someone to take up Obama’s mantle but it does not seem that this is a decisive factor right now,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

The poll said Biden running has raised the question if his former boss, President Barack Obama, will be involved in the race.

About a third (34%) of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire said nominating someone who will build on Obama’s legacy is very important to them with 38% saying it is somewhat important, 21% saying it is not important and 7% are unsure.

Among voters who said Obama’s legacy is important, 39% support Biden while 15% support Sanders, followed by Buttigieg (10%), Harris (9%), Warren (8%), Booker (3%), and Klobuchar (3%). Among those who say Obama’s legacy is somewhat important, 39% support Biden while 20% support Sanders, followed by Buttigieg (9%), Warren (8%), and Harris (5%).  Among those who say it is not important or are unsure, 30% support Biden and 19% support Sanders, followed by Warren (10%), Buttigieg (7%), Harris (5%), and O’Rourke (3%).

“While Democrats may have positive feelings about Obama, the current White House occupant is a much more significant factor in the 2020 primary. In fact, it really isn’t an either-or calculation. Voters who value Obama’s legacy say the best way to preserve it is to beat Trump in 2020,” Murray said.

The poll asked voters to rate the potential candidates on their favorability.

Biden has the most positive rating of 80% favorable to 15% unfavorable. Sanders also has a strong rating of 73% to 19%. Warren has the third-highest favorability rating (63%) but also one of the highest unfavorability ratings (24%). Booker sat at 54% favorable to 12% unfavorable.

The top issues New Hampshire Democrats are thinking about when picking a nominee include health care (41%), environmental concerns (12% climate change, 12% environment in general), honesty and integrity (13%), and beating Trump (11%). Other issues that are important include immigration, education and jobs (all 9%), Social Security (7%), paying for college, taxes, competence and experience, income inequality, civil rights, foreign policy (all 6%), reproductive rights (5%), gun control (4%) and other issues.

“As in Iowa, New Hampshire Democrats are focused on health care.  If this becomes a defining issue in the early contests, it could boost Sanders or another contender who is currently in the back of the pack,” Murray said.

The poll was conducted from May 2 to May 7 with 376 New Hampshire voters who are likely to vote in the Democratic presidential primary. It has a margin of error of +/- 5.1 percentage points.

Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | emilybader