Joe Biden
Democratic 2020 US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign stop at the IBEW Local 490 in Concord, New Hampshire, June 4, 2019. Image Credit: REUTERS

CRESCO, Iowa: Former US Vice-President Joe Biden retains a lead among likely Iowa caucusgoers, but both he and Sen Bernie Sanders, have lost ground over the past three months while Sen Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, have made clear gains, according to a new poll from The Des Moines Register and CNN.

The poll showed that Biden is the first choice for 24 per cent of would-be Democratic caucusgoers, compared with 16 per cent for Sanders, 15 per cent for Warren and 15 per cent for Buttigieg.

In March, before Biden formally entered the race, he and Sanders held a commanding lead, with 27 and 25 per cen support according to The Register’s polling, which has long been judged by campaigns as the best in the state. At the time, Warren was polling at 9 per cent and Buttigieg at 1 per cent.

Sen Kamala Harris, Democrat-California, was at 7 per cent support in both surveys.

The latest poll results reflect an enormous and unsettled field in which just a handful of candidates seem to be breaking through to voters. Just five of the 23 candidates in the race registered more than 2 per cent support while eight candidates — including Sen Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City — registered zero per cent support.

Buttigieg, speaking before an event for northeastern Iowa Democrats in Cresco, said the poll validates his campaign strategy to date.

“It shows that campaigning works,” he said. “We’ve invested a lot of time and a lot of effort, not just nationally but getting to be known in Iowa and obviously that’s led to some growth.”

The poll comes on the eve of Iowa’s first major political event of the summer campaign season — a state Democratic Party gathering Sunday in Cedar Rapids that 19 of the 23 presidential candidates are expected to attend.

Biden is skipping the event, electing to remain in Washington before a two-day Iowa swing beginning Tuesday, when President Donald Trump will also be in the state. Biden’s campaign is emerging from a rocky stretch in which he reversed a long-held position against federal funding for abortions after facing intense pressure from fellow Democrats and within his own campaign.

For months, Democratic officials in Iowa have said Biden’s support in polls over-represents the level of organisation or excitement for his candidacy among the party’s most committed activists.