Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has taken the lead in the California Democratic primary with a little help — $30 million in broadcast advertising — from one of the billionaires he loves to rail against: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Consolidating support among the state’s youngest and its most liberal voters, Sanders now draws 26% of the vote among likely primary voters, compared to 20% for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 15% for former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the latest survey from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.
According to IGS, Warren has slipped since September, when the survey had her leading in California, and Sanders has been “the chief beneficiary,” now pulling 41% from strongly liberal voters, up from 31% four months ago.
Mike’s Money A significant factor holding back Biden – who leads in most national polls – is the 6% that Bloomberg now is drawing, up from 2% in late November. While Bloomberg’s support has risen, he has drawn moderate voters who otherwise would likely gravitate to Biden, whose support barely inched up from 14% in November.
According to data from Advertising Analytics, cited by the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg has spent more than $30 million on broadcast ads – almost twice as much as Sanders, Warren and Biden combined have spent nationwide on advertising. The Times is a major underwriter of the University of California poll and receives results before any other media outlet.
Bloomberg’s spending has thrust him into a second tier of candidates that includes Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. at 7%, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 5% and businessman Andrew Yang at 4%.
Under the rules of California’s Democratic primary, a candidate must achieve 15% in any congressional district to win delegates from that district. To the extent that other moderates – like Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang and especially Bloomberg – increase their vote, they threaten Biden’s claim to some share of California’s largest-in-the-nation cache of 495 convention delegates.
Danger to Joe With his limitless private resources, Bloomberg poses the greatest threat to Biden, who is nevertheless regarded by more voters than any other – about a third – as the most likely Democrat to defeat President Donald Trump.
Slightly more than half the voters surveyed – 53% — said it was more important to elect a candidate most likely to defeat Trump than it is to elect a candidate who most agrees with them on major issues – 47%. More than eight in 10 of Biden’s supporters – 82% — said it is more important to beat Trump, compared to just 35% of Sanders supporters who hold that view. Apparently, they’d rather nominate their guy, even if he’s a loser against Trump.
Likewise, while 72% of voters 65 and older, and 55% of voters 50-64 most want a candidate who can beat Trump, only 20% of voters 18-29 and 37% of voters 30-39 hold that view. Not surprisingly, Sanders is strongest among the youngest voters, with 54% of those 18-29.
According to IGS, Sanders also leads among Latino voters with 38% and among black voters with 31% — a finding at odds with most other surveys that shows Biden with a huge lead among black voters.
The Berkeley IGS survey was conducted online in English and Spanish Jan. 15-21 among 6,845 registered voters, including 2,895 considered likely to vote in the California Democratic primary. While online surveys are not based on a random sample, the estimated margin of error of the constructed sample is roughly plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, according to IGS.