Poll: Sanders takes lead in Iowa less than a month before vote

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.) has taken the lead in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register/CNN poll released on Friday that shows the Vermont senator jumping past his top rivals after a third-place finish in the same survey in November.

The poll, widely considered the most authoritative in Iowa, shows Sanders with the support of 20 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers. He's trailed closely by another progressive, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (D-Mass.), who registered 17 percent in the survey.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE round out the top four, notching 16 percent and 15 percent support, respectively. 

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Still, Sanders’s lead in Iowa is narrow – within the poll’s 3.7 percent margin of error – suggesting that the race in the Hawkeye State remains wide open with less than a month to go before the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

The Des Moines Register poll shows that Iowa remains a four-person race. No other candidate managed to register in double digits. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE (D-Minn.), an underdog who’s banking on a strong finish in Iowa to lend momentum to her campaign, notched 6 percent in the poll, while former tech executive Andrew YangAndrew YangThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Yang calls on someone to 'pull an Andrew Yang' and bow out of 2020 race Yang criticizes caucus voting method, says they don't encourage high voter turnout MORE finished just below her, with 5 percent support.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats' Obama-to-Sanders shift on charter schooling This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter MORE (D-N.J.) also failed to gain ground in the poll, coming in with just 3 percent support. That’s unchanged from the Register’s November poll.

The poll is welcome news for Sanders, who rose 5 points since the last Des Moines Register poll was released in November. That survey showed Buttigieg surging to the front of the pack with 25 percent support.

But Buttigieg’s political fortunes in the state appear to be reversing. He’s faced criticism in recent weeks for his fundraising practices, especially from Warren, who pointedly attacked the former Indiana mayor at last month’s Democratic presidential debate for holding a fundraiser at a so-called “wine cave” in California.

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The number of likely caucusgoers who say their minds are made up on who they will support in the Feb. 3 caucuses has risen, as well. Forty percent of respondents said they are sure of their choice. But that still leaves 45 percent who say they could still change their minds, and 13 percent who have not yet picked a favorite candidate, according to the poll.

Things could still change in Iowa in the weeks leading up to the caucuses. The five senators running for the Democratic nomination are facing President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE’s impending impeachment trial, which is expected to begin next week. That means that they will be stuck in Washington, while candidates like Buttigieg and Biden will be free to campaign in the Hawkeye State.

At the same time, the Iowa caucuses are famously difficult to forecast, because unlike primaries, they involve showing up to a specific location at a specific time – and in the dead of winter – while caucusgoers work to persuade fellow voters to support their preferred candidate.

Because caucusgoers can change their minds on caucus night, second-choice preferences are considered crucial. Warren and Buttigieg were the two candidates most frequently mentioned as caucusgoers’ second choices, picked by 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Twelve percent said that Biden is their second choice in the state, while just as many said Sanders is their No. 2 pick, according to the poll.

The Des Moines Register/CNN poll surveyed 701 likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa from Jan. 2-8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

-- Updated at 6:38 p.m.