WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) holds a commanding lead in a new poll of liberal grassroots activists conducted by Democracy for America, the lefty activist group founded by former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean.
In a field of 23 candidates, Sanders claimed 36 percent of the first-place votes by DFA activists, more than double the percentage of former Vice President Joe Biden, who finished in second with 15 percent. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who narrowly lost his Senate race against Republican Ted Cruz last month, took third place with 12 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grabbed fourth with 8 percent and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) rounded out the top five with seven percent.
It’s far too early, of course, to make definitive statements about the state of the 2020 race and which Democrats are best positioned to win their party’s nomination. But the DFA poll largely aligns with a recent straw poll by another stalwart progressive group, MoveOn.org, whose members ranked O’Rourke, Biden and Sanders as their top three picks.
What makes the DFA poll interesting is that the results allow you to remove candidates from the field and see how the poll’s results change accordingly. For instance, take Biden out of the mix and O’Rourke surges into second place, with Warren, Harris and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) behind him. Pull O’Rourke out, however, and Harris leapfrogs Warren into third place behind Sanders and Biden.
And what if Sanders chooses not to run? In the unlikely scenario that happens, the Democratic field becomes wide open, according to DFA’s numbers. Biden, O’Rourke and Warren are neck and neck for first place, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who endorsed Sanders for president and has cultivated an outsider persona akin to Sanders, makes a big leap from ninth place to fourth. Gabbard only last week said in an MSNBC interview that she was seriously considering a run for president. That she performs so well in DFA’s poll isn’t terribly surprising given the pro-Bernie bent of DFA’s membership.
Charles Chamberlain, DFA’s executive director and incoming chair, says in a statement that the poll’s results show that the 2020 Democratic primary “is up for grabs and so is Democracy for America’s endorsement.” Chamberlain adds, “Unlike 2016, no candidate has support strong enough for the Democratic Party establishment to clear the field, which means progressives will have an excellent opportunity over the next year to kick the tires on a wide range of different candidates and find the best one to take on Trump.”