Beto O'Rourke seen as a top contender in 2020: poll

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is considered one of the top Democratic contenders for the White House in 2020 even among more well-known potential hopefuls, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Top Zelensky aide refutes Sondland testimony The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence MORE is the most popular Democrat in the potential 2020 primary, with 28 percent of Democratic and independent voters saying they’d most likely vote for him, according to the poll released on Monday.

Biden remains the front-runner even when 2016 nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates's probation request The media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Trump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list MORE is included in the poll. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE (I-Vt.), who also ran in 2016, comes in second place at 21 percent.

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O’Rourke, who earned a groundswell of national attention in 2018, was ranked third with 7 percent of Democratic and independent voters backing him, garnering more support than other frequently touted potential challengers.

The outgoing Democratic congressman lost his bid last month to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBarr: 'I haven't looked into' whether Ukraine meddled in 2016 election Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence FBI head rejects claims of Ukrainian 2016 interference MORE (R-Texas) by a surprisingly narrow margin in a deep-red state. O’Rourke is now leaving the door open to a White House bid.

“Beto is the kind of fresh face who could shake up the Democratic race,” said Mark Penn, co-director of Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll. “He starts off by blowing past some well-known names. Biden loses support upon his entry.”

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Buttigieg surrogate on candidate's past consulting work: 'I don't think it matters' Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Krystal Ball: Media turns on Buttigieg, will this end him? Senate Democrats demand Trump fire Stephen Miller MORE (D-Calif.) as well as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who are all openly considering 2020 campaigns — all polled in the low single-digits.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, comes in last with 2 percent. Avenatti was recently arrested for alleged domestic abuse, which he has denied.

Still, 18 percent of Democrats and independents polled remain unsure more than a year out from the early primaries and caucuses, while 2 percent say they support a candidate not listed.

When Clinton is factored into the poll, she bumps O’Rourke down to fourth place, though his support grows from 7 percent to 9 percent.

Biden and Sanders — who have positive favorability ratings — remain in first and second, respectively, in that scenario, but their numbers slightly shrink. Biden then has 25 percent, while Sanders garners 15 percent.

Clinton comes in third place, with 13 percent of support. Fifteen percent of those voters remain undecided, while 4 percent say they’d most likely vote for another candidate.

“Hillary jumping into this race doesn’t put her in front but gives a place from which she could grow,” Penn said.

Many of her aides have said she won’t make a third White House bid, but Clinton hasn’t ruled out the possibility in interviews.

In the poll, 62 percent of voters don’t believe Clinton will run in 2020. Her favorability rating is 39 percent, compared to 55 percent of respondents who viewed her unfavorably — similar to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE’s underwater favorability.

The 2020 Democratic primary is expected to draw a crowded field, but newer names have cropped up in recent weeks, illustrating how the race to challenge Trump remains in flux.

During his Senate campaign, O’Rourke had firmly said he wouldn’t mount a presidential run in 2020. But last week, he told reporters that he’s no longer ruling it out.

“Amy and I made a decision not to rule anything out,” O’Rourke told reporters after a town hall in El Paso, Texas, referring to his wife.

There have been growing calls among Democrats for O’Rourke, who lost to Cruz by less than 3 points in the November midterms, to take on Trump after the Democrat's strong performance in the Senate race.

O’Rourke drew headlines during his Senate run for saying he’d support a vote to impeach Trump following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He’s also earned high praise from allies and aides to former President Obama, who compared O’Rourke to the former president. Obama himself recently heaped praise on the Texas Democrat.

"It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed," Obama told his former adviser David Axelrod for “The Axe Files” podcast on CNN. "And that, you'd like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly, it's not."

After the Senate race, O’Rourke received invitations to speak to Democratic supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first-in-the-nation caucus and primary, respectively.

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Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Trump is the overwhelming favorite, with 44 percent of Republican and independent voters saying they’re likely to vote for him in his 2020 reelection race.

Eight other Republicans are polled as potential primary challengers to Trump, but they only garner support in the low- to mid- single-digits. Sixteen percent of Republican and independent respondents are undecided about whom they’d support in the 2020 GOP primary.

Kasich, who ran for president in 2016 and is considering another run against Trump, had the support of 6 percent of GOP or independent respondents, the same number as Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPotential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment Athlete Peter Frates dies of ALS after becoming face of Ice Bucket Challenge Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (R-Utah), who was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

Only 2 percent of independent or right-leaning voters say they’d most likely vote for retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.), who’s been an outspoken Trump critic. Flake is also considering a potential primary challenge, but in recent weeks, has poured cold water on a run.

Flake has touted Kasich and Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseFCC votes to bar use of its funds to purchase Huawei, ZTE equipment Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition MORE (R-Neb.) as viable primary challengers. In Monday’s poll, Sasse comes in last place, with the support of 1 percent.

“I do hope that somebody does run in the primary against the president,” Flake recently told C-SPAN. “I think Republicans need to be reminded of what conservatism really is, and what it means to be decent.”

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey was conducted from Nov. 27-28 and surveyed a total of 1,407 registered voters.

For the Democratic primary question when Clinton was factored in, 271 Democratic voters and 188 independent voters were surveyed. When Clinton was left out, the poll surveyed 255 Democrats and 194 independents.

For the GOP primary question, the poll surveyed 437 Republican voters and 382 independents.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2018.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.