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Eye On Candidates
August 12, 2015

Sanders Passes Clinton in N.H. Poll

A new poll in the first primary state of New Hampshire indicates Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has caught up with and passed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, solidifying further his position as the leading challenger to the national Democratic frontrunner. The Boston Herald has the story:

Poll: Bernie Sanders surges ahead of Hillary Clinton in N.H., 44-37

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has rocketed past longtime front-runner Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, a stunning turn in a race once considered a lock for the former secretary of state, a new Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll shows.

Sanders leads Clinton 44-37 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, the first time the heavily favored Clinton has trailed in the 2016 primary campaign, according to the poll of 442 Granite-Staters….

Sanders’ rise has been meteoric. The socialist senator trailed Clinton by a 44-8 margin in a Franklin Pierce/Herald poll in March.

More than half of New Hampshire’s likely Democratic primary voters say they view Sanders “very” favorably, an indication of the excitement the Vermont senator has generated among his mostly liberal supporters.

While Sanders’ surge to the top in the Granite State must have his supporters and campaign team thrilled, there is information in the poll suggesting problems ahead. It turns out that even many of his supporters don’t believe he’s going to be the eventual nominee, and there appears to be a desire on the part of many New Hampshire Democrats for Vice President Joe Biden to get in the race:

But while Sanders has surged ahead in New Hampshire, he does face what appears to be an electability problem, even among his staunch supporters.

Just 11 percent of likely Democratic voters picked him over Clinton to win the nomination, while 65 percent said she would emerge as the party’s general election candidate.

The poll also shows there is some appetite among New Hampshire Democrats for Biden to jump into the field. Forty-six percent of likely primary voters say Biden should launch a White House campaign, while 42 percent say he should stay out. Biden’s favorability numbers have also increased by 14 points since March.

The Vermont senator may still face long odds in getting the Democratic nomination, but he is easily drawing the biggest crowds on the campaign trail, suggesting an enthusiasm for him and his message that could translate into a serious competitive challenge to Clinton. The Washington Post takes a look at the huge attendance Sanders is generating for his events:

The overflow crowds showing up to hear Bernie Sanders these days are a testament not only to his current popularity and the campaign’s social-media savvy but also to the promotional abilities of an alchemy of like-minded interests: progressive activists, labor unions and even Sarah Silverman.

The comedian took to Twitter to let her nearly 6.7 million followers know she would be at a rally for the Democratic presidential hopeful here Monday. That event drew an estimated 27,500 people — about five times as large as any crowd that has turned out for Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton….

All told, Sanders has attracted more than 100,000 people to his rallies in recent weeks, riding a wave of Facebook shares, retweets and old-fashioned word-of-mouth to become by far the biggest draw on the campaign trail….

One question is how and whether the Sanders campaign can use these large events outside of the key early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to bolster their campaign in those states and nationally. While that answer won’t be known for several months, the Sanders campaign is certainly trying:

Sanders is striving to harness the energy to help him in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, where his crowds have been much smaller but still relatively robust. Volunteers hand out donation envelopes to rally attendees and carefully take down their contact information so they can be solicited for money later.

In Los Angeles, anyone who gave on the spot received a Sanders campaign T-shirt. Speakers asked the crowd to text “Bernie” to a five-digit number. In reply, they would receive text messages seeking money and volunteer time.

Other press reports suggest Sanders is building on-the-ground organizations in those early states. The Las Vegas Sun reported recently on some of those organizational efforts:

On a recent weeknight, a crowd of dozens hoisted margaritas at El Dorado Cantina, a Las Vegas Mexican restaurant that refuses to serve genetically modified food. The group wasn’t there for tacos and empanadas. They were listening to a webcast of a speech by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The event was one of several Sanders’ campaign conducted recently across the valley, including a house party billed as “Henderson Non-Billionaires for Bernie.” Campaign officials hope to build on the local momentum Sanders generated after he spoke in July at Treasure Island….

In Las Vegas, Angie Morelli, a volunteer organizer for Sanders’ campaign, said that unlike most of the other candidates, Sanders has no paid staffers in the state. Morelli views that volunteer-driven organization as an asset….

As she spoke, volunteer coordinators took down contact information for people in the crowd.

Crucially, the story concludes with what might be bad news for Sanders, as well as Clinton:

Also paying attention: Vice President Joe Biden, who was rumored this month to be mulling a bid for the Oval Office.

Several weeks ago Clinton campaign insiders began discussing the possibility that she could lose both Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders, but they confidently predicted she would then win the remaining contests. It was a plausible prediction, but the first half of it is looking more probable by the day, and if Sanders can convert his huge audiences into a national campaign, the second half may be more in doubt.