Bernie Sanders Is Gaining in National Polls — Here's Where He Stands in Key States

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders finds himself back among the top two candidates in Democratic presidential candidate polls heading into Tuesday's first election year debate at Drexler University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Critics including President Donald Trump are switching their focus from former Vice President Joe Biden, and honing in on Sanders after the progressive senator surged back in polls to replace Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren among the top two candidates.

A Des Moines Register/CNN poll released Saturday appeared to cap Sanders' rise after it revealed the senator as the top Democratic contender in Iowa, where the first primary contest will take place in three weeks. But despite his recent polling boost, the national race shows him clearly trailing Biden and still tight with Warren, the candidate he replaced.

Biden, who a majority of national polls show as the clear Democratic favorite among registered primary voters, maintains solid leads over Sanders and the rest of the candidates in several of the first state contests. In New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden remains at the top of the pack, and in South Carolina, the former vice president has soared to a double-digit lead over every other candidate.

Sanders began 2019 as the clear second-favorite behind Biden before he briefly plunged behind Warren and California Senator Kamala Harris, who has since dropped out of the race. But over the past month, Sanders has reclaimed his spot behind Biden.

In Nevada, a Fox News poll released last week showed Biden on top with 23 percent support and Sanders behind him with 17 percent. Both frontrunners saw their numbers tick down about one percentage point since an identical November Nevada poll. In the January poll, Warren fell six points and found herself tied with billionaire candidate Tom Steyer.

Sanders' campaign, meanwhile, has gone on the offensive against his opponents after the release of his frontrunner Iowa poll, prompting Trump to remark on Twitter Sunday, "Wow! Crazy Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls, looking very good against his opponents in the Do Nothing Party. So what does this all mean? Stay tuned!"

A Politico report published over the weekend found the Sanders campaign handed out talking points to volunteers, tasking them with painting negative pictures for each of his closest Democratic rivals. The script described Warren as an elitist, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as unpopular with African-Americans and Biden as unexciting to voters.

Warren's campaign told Politico they were "disappointed" to hear reports of Sanders criticizing her candidacy.

The January 14 debate will feature six candidates who hit the donation and polling requirements: Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Steyer and Warren. Despite Sanders appearing atop the most recent Iowa and New Mexico polls, he is still trailing behind Biden in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Biden's campaign has largely brushed off criticism from Sanders and has instead focused on criticizing Trump's reelection effort. Sanders and his top campaign aides have gone after Biden for his vote in favor of the Iraq War vote as well as "terrible" trade deals for American workers.

Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Biden have all appeared at the top of state and national polls at one point or another during the past two months. But as the Sanders campaign has noted, the senator frequently performs better against Trump in hypothetical general election match-ups than his competitors. Sanders has touted himself as the lone candidate who can peel off disaffected Trump voters - many of whom may have voted for the Vermont senator during his 2016 presidential run.

In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary contests, Sanders won New Hampshire but was defeated by Hillary Clinton in Nevada and Iowa.

Fox News polls released Friday in Wisconsin and Nevada found Sanders defeating Trump by at least four percentage points in both states, matched only by Biden.

Last Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by editorial board member Jason L. Riley which warned moderates and conservatives to "be prepared for President Sanders." The column went on to describe how the "socialist" is very prepared to win at least one, if not several, of the first three primary contests next month: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

bernie sanders debate trump supporters
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders finds himself atop the Democratic presidential candidate pack in polls heading into Tuesday's first election year debate at Drexler University in Des Moines, Iowa. SCOTT OLSON / Staff/GETTY IMAGES