Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has done what many thought was the impossible just months ago; he is now the frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. Sanders topped his first national poll of the campaign on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016; the Fox News poll gave Sanders a three-point lead over Clinton. Although the lead is within the poll’s margin of error, it is significant, because it is the first time since 2014 that Clinton does not top a national poll, showing a shift in the Democratic race’s direction. Clinton is not letting the polls or the voters get in her way from winning the nomination, as the ultimate establishment insider Clinton is collecting superdelegates, even before votes are cast in the primaries.
According to the new Fox News poll, Sanders is now leading Clinton 47 to 44 percent. Sanders gained 10 points since Fox News last released their poll of the Democratic field. In the same poll last summer, Clinton led Sanders by thirty points at her highest, but in the months since Clinton’s numbers have been shrinking while Sanders has been gaining popularity among voters.
Until this point, Clinton’s worst national poll showing was the last two Quinnipiac University tracking polls where Clinton lead Sanders by just two points. The Quinnipiac and Fox News polls might be the exception, Clinton still has double-digit leads in other poll published this month.
Clinton’s poor poll numbers come after disappointing showings in the first nominating contests. In Iowa, she won by a sliver over Sanders, by the closest margin in the history of the Democratic Iowa caucuses. In New Hampshire Sanders won over Clinton by a whopping margin of over 20 percent, the largest victory margin in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
The race for the Nevada caucuses is a virtual tie. In the latest CNN/ORC Poll released on Wednesday, Feb. 17, Clinton barely holds on to lead with 48 percent of likely voters planning to support her, while 47 percent intend to support Sanders on Saturday, Feb. 20.
In South Carolina, it is a different story with Clinton retaining a lead of 22 point in the latest poll conducted by Bloomberg Politics and released on Thursday, Feb. 18. In the poll, Clinton has 53 percent support and Sanders 31 percent support of voters for the Feb. 27 primary mostly because Clinton has an advantage with black voters. Still the race in South Carolina is tightening, Clinton’s poll numbers seem less stellar looking back in January at the NBC, The Wall Street Journal and Marist poll where Clinton had a 33-point lead over Sanders.
Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who assisted in conducted the Fox News poll, commented on the results. Anderson pointed out, “One thing that is clear from our poll – and others – is that Clinton has been losing support, and Sanders has been gaining. And this process appears to have accelerated since the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
Clinton long campaigned on her electability, as the only possible Democrat to win the White House. Voters no longer share Clinton’s opinion. According to the Fox News poll, 72 percent of Democrats think Sanders is “realistic enough” to become president, while “30 percent of all voters” would be satisfied with President Sanders.
Clinton’s camp is in a panic. A former aide told The Hill, “I don’t get it. I don’t think anyone expected this race to look like this. A big loss in New Hampshire, basically a tie going into Nevada. You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s next?’ It’s hard to feel confident about South Carolina if you lose Nevada.” The Clinton campaign is worried that if Clinton’s loses Nevada or if it is a tie there will be a “domino effect” and the South Carolina lead will entirely fade.
If all fails, Clinton can still steal the Democratic nomination, bypassing the voters and relying on party leaders acting as superdelegates. So far Clinton has a total of 481 delegates to Sanders 55, a majority which is superdelegates. Clinton, the ultimate insider, amassed 87 superdelegates just since her crushing loss in New Hampshire, Sanders only gained the support of 11 superdelegates in that time.
Clinton also leads in superdelegates in Nevada and South Carolina, with the backing of three from Nevada and three from South Carolina, while Sanders only amassed one superdelegate from Nevada. The only good thing about superdelegates is that their support is not binding, and they can change their mind before the Democratic convention.
Sanders’ supporters and his campaign are relying on this fact. Sanders’s top aide Tad Devine, believes the delegates will change their minds as Sanders wins the nominating contests. Devine said, “It is hardly an insurmountable lead and it can change overnight. We are confident that superdelegates want to be behind the strongest candidates in a general election and have a nominee to help candidates win up and down the ballot.” Sanders’ supporters, however, are getting proactive initiating a moveon.org petition asking the superdelegates to back the candidate winning “the popular vote.”