A new survey released Wednesday showed Bernie Sanders soaring above his rivals for the US Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, while former vice president Joe Biden slumped in the polls.
According to the survey commissioned by the Washington Post and ABC News, Sanders now has 32 percent support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents — an increase of eight percentage points from the end of last month.
In contrast, Biden fell to 17% with a decrease of 11 points.
Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg are in a virtual dead heat at the top of the race for the nomination after the first two primary contests. Nonetheless, Buttigieg was near the bottom of the poll with just 7 % support.
Biden, who performed far below expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire, has focused efforts on rebounding in South Carolina, which will hold its primary on February 29.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is due to face his rivals in a debate for the first time on Wednesday evening, has 14% support, according to the poll.
The poll showed little change for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 11%, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 6%.
Both Sanders and Bloomberg are Jewish and would be the first Jews nominated by a major party for the US’s highest office.
In terms of electability, just 19% said Biden is likeliest to beat US President Donald Trump in November, down from 38% in January.
In contrast, Sanders got the vote 30% of those leaning toward identifying as Democrats, an increase of 12 points.
Eighteen percent said Bloomberg could beat Trump, up 10 points.
The billionaire will on Wednesday stand alongside the rivals he has so far avoided by bypassing the early voting states and using his personal fortune to define himself through television ads.
The Democratic National Committee recently changed its rules for how a candidate qualifies for the debate, opening the door for Bloomberg to be on stage and drawing the ire of some candidates who dropped out of the race for failing to make prior stages. Candidates were previously required to receive a certain number of campaign contributions to qualify, but Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $60 billion, is not taking donations.
Bloomberg is expected to use his debate stage premiere to attack Sanders’s broad call for economic and political revolution as unworkable and too liberal for more mainstream voters who simply want to defeat Trump. Sanders hasn’t fully united the party’s liberal wing and was denied the most coveted union endorsement in Nevada.
His trademark “Medicare for All” proposal could unnerve voters in both major political parties who worry about higher taxes and the loss of private health insurance.
Sanders faces high expectations in Nevada, which formally holds its Democratic presidential caucuses on Saturday. He has a strong organization and has generated enthusiasm among younger and Latino voters. But there are plenty of hurdles that could dent his confidence in the weeks ahead.
“The reason that we are going to win here in Nevada, with your help, the reason that we are going to win the Democratic nomination, with your help, the reason we are going to beat Trump is we have an agenda that speaks to the needs of working families, not the billionaire class,” Sanders told a crowd at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Tuesday.
And while Sanders has notched a win, he has yet to post a commanding victory. Buttigieg essentially tied with Sanders in Iowa and finished closely behind him in New Hampshire, a state the senator won by more than 20 percentage points in 2016.
Campaigning in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Buttigieg again raised questions about whether Sanders could unify the party against Trump.
“Sen. Sanders, I think, speaks to a lot of ideals that we all share,” Buttigieg said. “But right now we need to make sure we’re drawing as many people as we can into our coalition. And if the message goes out, ‘Your choices are you either need to be for a revolution or you must be for the status quo,’ I don’t think most of us see ourselves in that picture.”