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 BidenFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally 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 ClintonFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Trump jokes he'd get 'electric chair' if he deleted even one 'love note' email to Melania MORE is included in the poll. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally 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 CruzGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias GOP lawmaker delays House for second week GOP lawmaker delays House for second week 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 WarrenSanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally Warren introduces universal child care legislation MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren introduces universal child care legislation Warren introduces universal child care legislation Booker responds to Trump's mass deportation threat: 'This is not who we are' MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden, Sanders to be center stage at first debate Biden, Sanders to be center stage at first debate Poll: Six Dems lead Trump in Florida match-ups 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 TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally 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 RomneyHarris hits Trump plan for mass deportations in Spanish-language response A health insurer takes on his own industry: Describe clearly what we favor, not attack what we oppose A health insurer takes on his own industry: Describe clearly what we favor, not attack what we oppose 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 FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 SasseSwing-state Democrats see trouble in proposed pay hike Swing-state Democrats see trouble in proposed pay hike House Dems move to give lawmakers a pay increase 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.