Sanders (I-Vt.) was the preferred candidate of 29 percent of the registered voters surveyed by Emerson College on April 4–11.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had led every one of the 35 early polls to date, fell to second place for the first time, trailing Sanders by five percentage points. Biden still leads the Democratic field by almost 10 points in an average of polling data aggregated by Real Clear Politics.
“Biden has seen his support drop. In February, he led Sanders 27 percent to 17 percent, and in March, the two were tied at 26 percent. Now, Sanders has a five-point lead,” Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson Polling, said in a statement.
The Emerson poll showed Biden performing best in a head-to-head contest with President Donald Trump, with 53 percent of the respondents picking Biden and 47 percent favoring Trump.
Sanders leads the crowded Democratic field in fundraising. The self-proclaimed socialist raised $18 million in the first quarter of 2019. Biden didn’t file a fundraising report since he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for president.
Sanders leads Democrats in contributions from small donors, with 84 percent of his haul coming from donations of $200 or less. While Democrats often tout support from small donors, Trump beat the entire Democratic field in the ratio of small-donor contributions, with almost 99 percent of the donations to his campaign coming from supporters who gave $200 or less.
Trump’s re-election campaign reported raising $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, the same amount as the two top fundraising Democrats combined. The Republican National Committee, which is raising funds for the re-election alongside Trump, raised an additional $45.8 million, the most it ever raised in a nonelection year.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg took the lead among second-tier candidates, at 9 percent in the poll, beating several prominent Democrats, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Buttigieg officially declared his candidacy on April 14.
Eighteen Democrats are now vying to win the party’s nomination to challenge Trump in November 2020.
According to the poll, if Biden chooses not to run, Sanders would be the beneficiary, picking up 31 percent of Biden’s voters.
The surge by Sanders is indicative of a hard-left shift within the Democratic Party. Six years ago, Sanders’s socialist “Medicare for All” bill had no co-sponsors in Congress. The bill is now supported by one-third of Senate Democrats and two-thirds of House Democrats.
If implemented, Medicare for All would hand the federal government a monopoly over the health care industry and cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $32 trillion during the first 10 years. In comparison, the total projected spending by the federal government over the next decade is $60 trillion.
“We thought that debate ended in the 1980s. We thought it ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but here we are today, with Democrats wanting to take us the way of Venezuela,” Kayleigh McEnany, press secretary for the Trump 2020 campaign, told The Epoch Times earlier this month.
“So we’re all very keenly focused on socialism—every single one of us in the campaign.”
Reuters contributed to this report.