Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg placed first in a poll of likely Democratic primary voters in Arkansas conducted Feb. 6-7, but much can change before the votes are counted here March 3.
The Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College poll found Bloomberg leading with 19.6 percent support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden with 18.5 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders with 16.4 percent, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 15.5 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was fifth with 8.9 percent, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar was sixth with 4.8 percent. Andrew Yang had 2 percent support, but he has since dropped out of the race. Another 3.3 percent said they would vote for “someone else,” while 11 percent were undecided.
The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 4.3 percent, which would encompass any of the top four candidates and would leave Warren not far behind.
Polls provide a snapshot of the campaign when they are taken, but they cannot predict the future.
And in politics, things can change quickly. We don’t even know who will still be in the race by March 3, when Arkansans’ ballots will be counted and the state’s 31 delegates are apportioned. To give you an idea how early it still is, candidates need 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. So far Buttigieg has 22, and Sanders has 21.
Since the poll was taken, New Hampshirites Tuesday solidified Sanders and Buttigieg as leading candidates, as they essentially tied for first after essentially tying for first in Iowa. Strong third-place finisher Klobuchar received a big boost. Meanwhile, it was a tough day for Warren, who finished fourth, and a terrible day for former front-runner Biden, who finished a lowly fifth. Neither of those two came near the 15 percent required to win any delegates.
Biden’s campaign must do better in Nevada Feb. 22, where he’s leading according to RealClearPolitics’ poll averages. Then he absolutely must win South Carolina Feb. 29. He has a big lead there based on his strong support from African Americans, who compose 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate in that state.
Those leads are shakier after his poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. His campaign is based largely on his electability, but so far this year he’s lost two elections badly. If he loses South Carolina, he’ll likely drop out that night, and then where would his Arkansas supporters go? If he wins both states, I guess he’s the front-runner again.
As for Bloomberg, he entered the race late, skipped the first four states and is concentrating on Super Tuesday March 3, when Arkansas votes along with 13 other states, including California and Texas.
While the other candidates trudged through icy Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s been spending hundreds of millions of his own dollars nationwide to blanket the airwaves and the internet with his “Mike will get it done” ads. He’s also visited Little Rock twice, including participating in the Martin Luther King Day parade. On Monday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott endorsed him and will serve as co-chair of the Mike for Black America National Leadership Council.
Bloomberg’s campaign has been moving in an upward trajectory, which means he’ll now face tougher scrutiny (as will Klobuchar). This week, public remarks made by him in 2015 surfaced where he defended his city’s stop-and-frisk policy that targeted African Americans. Those comments – and the policy – will be hard to defend in a Democratic primary, but it’s yet to be seen how much actual damage they’ll cause him among voters. Otherwise, as shown in the Feb. 6-7 poll, he’s looking more and more like a viable alternative to the fading Biden, the socialist Sanders, and the other Democratic candidates.
There’s not much suspense on the Republican side. It’s certain that President Trump will easily turn back a challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, nationally and in Arkansas.
But among Democrats, much could change between now and March 3, when the only poll that matters – the one on Election Day – will be taken.
Early voting in Arkansas starts Feb. 18, by the way. That’s Tuesday.