Bernie Sanders Is Beating Hillary Clinton In New Hampshire & Could Soon Take These States, Too
Don't look now, ladies and gentlemen, but it looks like we've got a race on our hands. In a major victory and public relations coup for Bernie 2016, a new Franklin Pierce University / Boston Herald poll shows Sanders beating Clinton in New Hampshire, 44 percent to her 37 percent. It's a huge milestone in what's been, quite frankly, a dramatic rise in profile and power for the Vermont senator and self-avowed socialist. And New Hampshire's not the only place where things are getting interesting. Just how many more states could fall within his striking distance?
As recently as four months ago, back when Sanders' numbers were a pale shadow of what they are now, it seemed easy to credit Clinton's largely hands-off approach to the primary — why add fuel to such a longshot candidate's fire by acknowledging and addressing him directly?
Now, however, with at least one poll of nearly 500 New Hampshire voters choosing Sanders instead of her, and his numbers looking robust in a number of other battleground states, it's hard not to wonder whether history is repeating itself. Could Clinton actually be in for another bitter primary struggle against a grassroots Democratic opponent? Here are a trio of states in which Clinton might want to glance over her shoulder now and then. While she's still got considerable margins to play with, New Hampshire is as good an indication as any that no lead is safe.
Ah, Iowa, that first-in-the-nation contest. Sanders has a lot of work to do there to make a dent, and given his gains in New Hampshire, it's possible he'll prioritize that at the cost of getting drubbed in the caucuses. But it's hard to count out his blunt, undeniably unvarnished style, especially as compared to Clinton, who's contending with a number of very troubling metrics. While she's widely considered an ironclad frontrunner, she also leads the Democratic field in that she's seen as the least honest, least trustworthy candidate.
At present, Clinton enjoys a big lead over Sanders in the Hawkeye State. An average of the last three major polls of Iowa voters shows her with a healthy 26-point lead. But just as in New Hampshire — as in everywhere, really, as his name recognition and profile have surged — Sanders has been mounting a push for months. In April, he was polling below 10 percent in Iowa, but now he's up to nearly 25 percent, with Clinton hovering around 50. It'll be interesting to see whether Sanders prioritizes an Iowa push in the coming months, considering his strong opportunity in New Hampshire — he's similarly rocketed into contention there in just four months, starting from a single-digit position.
And obviously, it's hard to forget that Iowa was the site of Clinton's first, disastrous failing in 2008, when underdog Senator Barack Obama drew first blood in the 2008 campaign.
The Sunshine State also looms large in electoral politics, and it seems like a solidly strong race in Clinton's favor. She currently leads there by a recent polling average of 46 points, which is exactly the sort of dominant cakewalk that everyone's been predicting. Indeed, Sanders' rise in the polls hasn't been as robust as you move southward through the states, and Florida is a good example of that. But nonetheless, you can see a slight slippage in Clinton's lead as the months tick by. Until February, she'd never polled below a 50-point lead over Sanders, and two of the last three polls of Florida registered voters showed that lead trimmed to the 40s.
That's not good news for Sanders, obviously — that kind of distance is a mind-blowing climb. But it's not beyond the realm of possibility, especially if he manages to solidify and make good on these promising New Hampshire trends. Simply put, Sanders is battling perception as well as the Democratic establishment. If he actually wins the New Hampshire primary and Democratic voters get to see him as a winner and a viable alternative to Clinton, then leads like this could start dwindling all over the country, easing into narrower, more competitive margins.
As Public Policy Polling notes, it's not surprising that Sanders would rise in numbers in Minnesota. After all, his biggest problems in polling against Clinton are with black and Latino voters, and Minnesota is a very white state. That's not to say that he's conceding the minority vote, however. His recent encounters with Black Lives Matter protesters have spurred him to embrace much more vocal, determined rhetoric on institutional racism and police brutality.
But it's looking like things could get very competitive in Minnesota, considering how far out from election day we still are. The most recent numbers there show Clinton holding an 18-point lead over Sanders; 50 to 32 percent. That is by no means a safe lead for her at this early date, especially considering that Sanders is taking the aggressor's role, campaigning hard at public rallies, while Clinton opts for a lower-key approach. Basically, it's worth keeping an eye on Minnesota going forward.