We seem to be going back and forth in a debate over whether or not Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s recent “boomlet” in the primary polling game is just the latest flavor of the week moment or a sustainable surge where he’s draining the support of previous boomlet beneficiaries such as Beto O’Rourke. While the road ahead of us is still very long, the most recent results out of Iowa at least hint that the South Bend Mayor could be the real deal. It’s currently boiling down to a three (white) man race, and while Buttigieg remains in third, he’s closed the gap on Sanders and Biden considerably, coming within definite striking distance. (The Hill)

A new 2020 Democratic Presidential Caucus poll of Iowa voters found Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tied for first place with former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to formally declare his candidacy. South Bend Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) came in close behind the two well-known Democrats.

Sanders and Biden both stood at 19 percent in the poll from nonpartisan research firm Gravis Marketing, which was conducted April 17-18 and released Monday.

Buttigieg came in third place among Democratic candidates with 14 percent, but was outflanked by voters who said they were “uncertain,” at 16 percent. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both polled at 6 percent.

To really get the disparity between the top tier and the also-rans here, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

If you can pull your eyes away from the undecided category (which, at 16%, isn’t too surprising this early in the game), you will see that there’s a gaping chasm between the three frontrunners and the rest of the field. A couple of the candidates who were drawing early headlines for their strong fundraising and initial rise in the polls (specifically Harris and O’Rourke) are now down in middle single digits.

The only other person with some good news to celebrate is probably Kirsten Gillibrand who improved her standing by a literally infinite amount, moving from zero to one percent. (I’ll turn off the random sarcasm generator now. Sorry.) But seriously… the pool at the bottom is growing by the day, but competing for a diminishing share of the total possible vote. Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg are currently eating up more than 50% of the total support pool. You would need virtually all of the undecideds to settle on the same third-tier candidate to bring them back into viability.

Another interesting factor here is that a majority of the respondents (57%) were older, in the fifty years of age or up category. A similarly large majority described themselves as either “somewhat” or “very liberal.” You would expect the older voters to gravitate more toward Biden, while the younger, more liberal ones might be Bernie Bros. But Pete Buttigieg seems to have cracked the code and is building a following in both demographic groups.

Again, it’s early on and a lot can change with the turn of a news cycle. We’ve yet to see how Buttigieg will respond to the results of growing efforts to dig up some oppo on him from back in Indiana. And thus far he’s been getting mostly softball press interviews, so we don’t know how he’ll perform on the debate stage when he starts taking some hits. But with all that said, the unlikely guy who had a national name recognition value of basically zero only eight weeks ago looks like he’s the real deal for now.