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Elizabeth Warren's new 2020 status: Jockeying for second place next to Bernie Sanders

Updated 3:00 PM ET, Wed June 12, 2019

(CNN) - Sen. Elizabeth Warren appears to be jockeying for a new position in the crowded 2020 race for the Democratic nomination for president: Second place.

Two weeks out from the first and highly anticipated Democratic debates, the Massachusetts Democrat has risen in a series of recent polls, breaking out of the single-digits to join her progressive rival -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- in the teens.

Warren's new standing next to Sanders marks a notable ascent for the senator, whose candidacy earlier in the year had at times raised questions about whether she would be able to gain enough traction or raise enough funds. Her rise also underscores a new political reality for Sanders -- that for now, he no longer appears to enjoy the luxury of standing alone in the second-place spot behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

A new Quinnipiac national poll released Tuesday showed Biden still leading the large Democratic field with 30% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, and Sanders and Warren as the only other candidates with double-digits support -- 19% and 15%, respectively.

This trend is mirrored in two state-specific polls: a new Monmouth University poll from Nevada released Wednesday has Biden in the lead with 36% of support among Democrats and likely Democratic caucus-goers; he is trailed by Warren at 19% and Sanders at 13%.

Meanwhile, a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll over the weekend had Biden with 24% support in the critically important state, while Sanders, Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were packed together with 16%, 15% and 14% support, respectively.

One strategy that appears to be paying off for Warren: Her campaign's big bet on prioritizing policy and ideas.

The senator has set herself apart in part by unveiling detailed policy plans at a rapid clip throughout the year, on everything from breaking up big tech companies amd student loan debt cancellation to universal childcare. By the campaign's count, she has rolled out around 20 proposals since New Year's Eve when Warren launched her exploratory committee, and out on the trail, "I have a plan" has become Warren's de facto campaign slogan.

And in April, on the heels of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on the Russia investigation, Warren made headlines by becoming the first major 2020 candidate to call on the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings -- a move deemed by some as politically risky. But since then, many of her Democratic rivals have followed suit, ramping up pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The new proximity of Warren and Sanders in the series of recent polls foreshadows the clash that could come between the two progressives. The senators are ideologically close on many major issues, and as the campaign season intensifies, the pressure will likely grow for both hopefuls to not only set themselves apart from the current frontrunner -- Biden -- but also each other.

And there is one undeniable advantage that Sanders has so far shown to have over Warren: fundraising.

At the end of the first quarter, Sanders had raised a whopping $18.2 million -- three times Warren's $6 million. Both candidates have refused to participate in high-dollar fundraisers, and are emphasizing grassroots, small-dollar contributions.

Speaking to reporters in Waterloo, Iowa, over the weekend, Warren declined to make much of her recent gains in the state.

It's "way too early," the senator said when asked about her standing in the latest CNN poll. "I'm very grateful to the people of Iowa for showing up today and showing up at so many events."


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