The headlines coming off a new poll in Iowa -- sponsored by CNN and the Des Moines Register -- largely focus on the fact that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is now at the top tier of the 2020 field in the crucial Iowa caucuses. That notion drastically undersells how strong a position Warren is actually in.
Yes, Warren tops the field in the CNN-DMR poll with 22% support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 20% (the poll has a four-point margin of error, putting the two essentially in a tie). Warren and Biden are followed distantly by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 11%.
But that doesn't tell the whole story: The topline numbers are actually the least good thing for Warren in the poll.
* Warren gained 7 points from the June DMR/CNN poll and has almost tripled her support in the state from a December 2018 poll. Biden, meanwhile, has lost support in each of the four DMR/CNN polls between December 2018 and now. And Sanders dropped 5 points from just June until now.
* Her favorable numbers in the poll also make clear how much energy and passion is behind her candidacy presently. Three-quarters of those polled had a favorable view of her, including a whopping 44% who had a "very favorable" opinion. That compares very favorably to the 29% who view Biden very favorably and the 26% who feel that same way about Sanders.
* Warren is the first or second choice of 42% of those polled. That's well in front of Biden (30% first/second combined), Sanders (21%), South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (18%) and California Sen. Kamala Harris (16%).
Any one of those three data points would suggest that this poll may have only caught the start of Warren's rise in Iowa. All three together suggest she is well positioned to take off like a rocket ship in the state. Not only does she already have a broad-base of support in the state (as evidence by the topline numbers) but she also has significant passion among those who are for her and remains well-liked -- and a possible voting option -- for those who say she is their second choice at the moment.
That's not even taking into account Warren's grassroots operation, which is widely regarded as the best -- by a lot -- of any campaign in Iowa. Wrote the Des Moines Register on Sunday:
"Elizabeth Warren's slow but steady rise in the first-in-the-nation caucus state is as much a result of her robust organizational presence here as it is a response to the Massachusetts senator's many plans and policies, Iowa experts say ... the (poll) results were not surprising, said several Iowa Democrats who have watched Warren build out a team that is widely credited with having the most sophisticated organizational presence in the state."
Add it all up and you get this: With 133 days left before the February 3 caucuses, Warren is the clear Iowa front-runner. There's simply no one else who can make anywhere near as strong a case -- either by polling or staff or both -- as Warren in the state.
Now, OF COURSE, 133 days is a long time in politics. Things can change. If past is prologue, there will be a handful of up and downs within the top tier between now and February 3. But it's very clear from the polling trends that Iowa is now Warren's to lose.
If she does win it, then Warren would be in a great position heading into New Hampshire, where she is running just behind both Biden and Sanders at the moment. And if Warren wins both of the first two voting states, the field of remaining challengers is going to shrink. Rapidly.