If everyone except for Bernie and Buttigieg dropped out of the 2020 Democratic race, Bernie would mop the floor

Sanders and Buttigieg

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

  • Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are both surging in the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
  • We ran a polling model that tells us what would happen if everyone except for them dropped out.
  • The results show that Bernie would be the clear winner.
  • But at the same time, Buttigieg has some room to win Bernie's supporters over.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

There are still a lot of delegates to go. But with New Hampshire and Iowa behind us, it's clear that the 2020 Democratic race now has two frontrunners.

In the lead is Senator Bernie Sanders, with a New Hampshire win and 21 delegates. Close behind is former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who ran close to him in both states and has even more delegates, at 23.Advertisement

Buttigieg is a centrist, alongside candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. And Bernie is at the vanguard of the more progressive wing of the party, closer to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But all those other candidates are crowding out the polls, which makes it harder to tell whether Bernie or Buttigieg are ultimately garnering more support across the party.

So what if we just got rid of them?

bernie sanders

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders.


Using that model, we ran an analysis that would show what it would be like if Bernie and Buttigieg went head-to-head.

To be fair, this is a totally unfair exercise. Biden - though his supporters are panicking about his campaign - is second only to Bernie in national polling averages. Warren and Bloomberg also remain formidable nationally, even polling above Buttigieg.

But the analysis still tells an important story. While an analysis we ran earlier in February shows that Biden and Bernie would split the party nearly down the middle if they were running head-to-head, the story is different with Buttigieg.Advertisement

As the numbers show, Bernie would rip him apart.

Bernie's supporters are much more loyal

If every candidate except for Bernie and Buttigieg dropped out today - meaning Biden, Bloomberg, Warren, Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and plutocrat Tom Steyer - here's how the support of the Democratic electorate would shake out:

  • 1/3 of voters would be happy with Bernie as the nominee, but would not support Buttigieg.
  • 1/6 would be happy with Buttigieg, but not Bernie.
  • 1/3 haven't indicated they're satisfied with either of them.
  • 1/6 have said they like both Bernie and Buttigieg, and would still need to choose between them.
If you poll Bernie supporters' opinions about Buttigieg - and vice versa - it's clear that Bernie remains in a stronger position.Advertisement

Bernie Sanders Feb 11

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However, the silver lining from Buttigieg is that he has some room to amass support from Bernie's fans.Advertisement

Only 16% of them specifically said they would be unsatisfied with Buttigieg as the nominee, compared to the 27% of Buttigieg fans who would be unsatisfied with Bernie. And 50% of Bernie's fans still haven't formed an opinion on Buttigieg, compared to the 80% of Buttigieg fans whose minds are made up on Bernie, who ran against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary.

Pete Buttigieg Feb 11

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Worth noting is the third of Democrats who would no longer have a candidate preference if the race would be down to these two men alone.

As it stands with eight candidates in the race, 8% of respondents were not satisfied with any of the candidates. Removing all but Warren, Biden, Buttigieg, and Sanders increases that by mere six percentage points, indicating that about 20% of Democrats are satisfied with Warren or Biden but not Buttigieg or Sanders.

In this exercise, those Democrats would have considerable sway over the eventual nominee. Advertisement

Walt Hickey contributed reporting.

You can download every poll here, down to the individual respondent data. (Read more about how the Insider Democratic primary tracker works here).

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet.Advertisement