Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg has experienced a notable surge in the polls in recent weeks, rising above 10 percent support for the first time in an average of six leading surveys. According to the poll tracking website RealClearPolitics, he’s now within about six points of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but still nearly 20 points behind Joe Biden.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor had polled at around five percent support for much of the summer, but his numbers began climbing in mid-October, and the most recent rise seems to have occurred in the last few days.
Meanwhile, Warren’s support has fallen dramatically after peaking at 26.8 percent in poll averages during October. She’s now at 16.7 percent.
Most voters are still undecided, though, with just a third saying they have a preferred candidate.
It’s impossible to draw any conclusions about what this could mean for the candidates. The first primaries aren’t until February 2020, and candidates experience numerous fluctuations in polling throughout a campaign. Biden’s polling has wavered between the mid-20s and low-30s for months, while Kamala Harris saw a jump in support of around 10 points back in June before her numbers steadily declined. She’s currently well below Buttigieg, pulling in 3.8 percent.
Thus, Buttigieg’s latest surge could either be a statistical anomaly with little discernible bearing on the outcome of the race or a sign that he’s becoming a credible threat for the Democratic nomination.
An analysis by the data tracking website FiveThirtyEight, however, remains somewhat skeptical that the Buttigieg Surge is illustrative of growing support for his campaign. Its research suggests that Buttigieg’s post-debate bump is likely from demographic groups where he already enjoys support, like elderly voters and college-educated white people. He saw far less of a gain in support from people of color, for instance.
What’s more, in states with early voting on the candidates — such as South Carolina and Nevada — Buttigieg remains well behind the pack. Betting markets give him a 15 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
Buttigieg’s team recently launched a $2 million ad campaign in South Carolina, highlighting his plan "to tackle systemic racism wherever we find it, until your race in this country has no bearing on your health, or your wealth, your life expectancy or your relationship with law enforcement."
The campaign has also hired 40 full-time staffers in the state.
The candidate ran into some controversy this week when it was revealed that he accepted contributions from two lawyers who represented Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — who was accused of sexual assault by multiple women — during his extrely contentious confirmation hearing. Alexandra Walsh and Beth Wilkinson gave a combined $10,000 to Buttigieg.
When informed of the donation, the campaign said it would return the money, issuing a statement that read: “We believe the women who have courageously spoken out about Brett Kavanaugh’s assault and misconduct.”
Meanwhile, Buttigieg has been touting various proposals, such as a government-backed long-term investment program that could serve as an alternative to Social Security. He also released several years of tax returns, showing that in some years he took in over $100,000 while working in the private sector.