Hmmm: Buttigieg rises to third place in polls of two different early states

If you thought he was eager to bait Mike Pence before, wait until he sees how well it’s working for him among Democratic voters.

Butti-mentum is really happening, huh? Strange but true: Even though we’re only ~10 percent of the way through Democratic primary season, this guy has already basically accomplished his goals for his campaign. He was, and remains, a longshot to win or even to be VP given his tender age but he’s made a smashing first impression on blue-state America. The next Democratic president will be looking for a position for him in the federal government. And Buttgieg will be primed for a more plausible run for president a few years from now.

New from St. Anselm’s poll of New Hampshire:

He’s ahead of Warren in a state that’s next door to her own and ahead of Kamala Harris, whom many smart politicos will tell you is the favorite to be nominee. He’s also creeping up on Bernie Sanders, whose own home state is adjacent — although more on that in a minute.

The other new early-state poll is of Iowa and comes from Monmouth:

If you’re Harris or Warren you might shrug that result off on grounds that you’re not expecting Iowa to be your stronghold anyway. How do you shrug it off if you’re Beto O’Rourke, though? Beto’s supposed to be the charismatic young white guy who’s going to take Iowa by storm on the strength of his retail skills and his sheer idealism. Mayor Pete, who seems to be a more genuine progressive than Beto is (or at least that’s how the early chatter has it), may be elbowing him out of that niche.

One of the most striking results from both polls is just how well-liked Buttigieg is. He’s the only “major” candidate in New Hampshire whose favorable rating has improved significantly from February, from 12/3 two months ago to 42/6 now. In the span of eight weeks or so, his name recognition has essentially doubled — and virtually everyone who’s noticed him has decided that they like him. (O’Rourke’s name recognition is 20 points higher but his rating stands at 46/17, a lower net favorability than Buttigieg’s.) He’s also the only “major” candidate in the Iowa poll with an unfavorability rating in single digits, at just nine percent compared to 45 percent favorability, although there are plenty of lopsided ratings among the top-tier there. (The better-known O’Rourke stands at 60/13.) There just isn’t much for Democrats to dislike about a solidly left-wing Rhodes Scholar turned veteran who speaks eight languages. Yet.

Back to Bernie, though. Nate Silver noticed in the Iowa poll that Buttigieg is overperforming among men, young adults, liberals, and college-educated Democrats. He’s also overperforming with young adults and “very liberal” voters in the New Hampshire survey. Those groups, notes Silver, happen to comprise the core of Bernie Sanders’s base. That is, for all the hype about Buttigieg eating into Beto’s support, he may also be eroding the socialist-in-chief’s. And as that fact begins to percolate online, it’s a cinch that the Bernie cult’s view of Buttigieg will begin to sour. His free pass from the left thus far is about to end, as tends to happen when newbie candidates begin to threaten more established pols with solid bases of support.

Here’s Pence implying that Buttigieg is dogging him about religion as a way to increase his notoriety on the left, which is of course correct. One data point related to that: Check the crosstabs of the New Hampshire poll and you’ll find Buttigieg tied for second among Democrats there who describe themselves as “somewhat conservative.” (He does better among that group than he does among Democrats overall, in fact.) That may seem surprising for a candidate who’s left-wing and not yet very well-known but I think it makes sense in the context of Buttigieg’s religious attacks on Pence. One consequence of those attacks is to telegraph to religious Democrats, who probably see themselves as a bit more conservative than the average Dem, that Buttigieg is a man of faith himself. If he can form a coalition of progressives and “somewhat conservative” Dems, he’s formidable.