A new NBC/Marist poll, released Sunday, shows that Senator Bernie Sanders still leads Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and he is closing in on her in Iowa. More importantly, the poll shows that Sanders outperforms Clinton in hypothetical general-election matchups in these two presidential battleground states—something other polls have shown, too.
In New Hampshire, Sanders has the support of 50 percent of Democratic voters compared to Clinton’s 46 percent. This is within the margin of error. Previous polls have given him a larger margin, but this is the first time Sanders has hit 50 percent. It is not surprising the margin has tightened given the time Clinton spends in the Granite State. Also, she pulled out her secret weapon—Bill Clinton—recently.
In Iowa, Clinton holds just a three-point lead among likely voters over Sanders, 48 percent to 45 percent, while Martin O’Malley gets 5 percent. Clinton’s lead is within the margin of error for the first time. She has led by double digits since the campaign began last spring. With the caucuses just three weeks away, Sanders may be peaking at the right time. Hillary Clinton lost Iowa to Barack Obama in 2008 after leading in the polls. President Clinton has been campaigning in Iowa as well.
There is a message to Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire in this poll regarding the issue of electability. Clinton supporters claim she is electable and Senator Sanders is not. In this anti-establishment election, that claim is not a given. This poll shows that Bernie Sanders may be more electable in these two key battleground states.
In head to head matchups in Iowa, Clinton leads Trump by eight points among registered voters (48 percent to 40 percent), but Sanders beats him by 13 points (51 percent to 38 percent); Cruz beats Clinton by four points (47 percent to 43 percent), but Sanders actually beats him 47 percent to 42 percent; and Rubio beats Clinton by 5 points (47 percent to 42 percent), but he only ties Sanders 44 percent to 44 percent.
In New Hampshire, Clinton is ahead of Trump by just one point (45 percent to 44 percent), but Sanders tops him by a whopping 19 points (56 percent to 37 percent); Cruz beats Clinton by four points (48 percent to 44 percent), but Sanders beats Cruz by 19 points (55 percent to 36 percent); and Rubio bests Clinton by 12 points (52 percent to 40 percent), while Sanders beats Rubio by nine points (50 percent to 41 percent).
The reason Sanders does better than Clinton is that he out performs her among Independent voters. No candidate can win the White House without doing well with Independent voters. They are the balance of power, and their strength at the polls is increasing, particularly since younger voters generally do not affiliate with either Party, but tend to vote Democratic. Bernie Sanders leads Clinton by double digits among young voters. If they turn out in Iowa, it may be 2008 all over again.
On the Republican side, the anti-establishment candidates still lead. In Iowa, Ted Cruz leads Trump by four points among likely caucus-goers, 28 percent to 24 percent. However, among all Republicans, Trump actually leads Cruz by two points, 26 percent to 24 percent, suggesting that a larger turnout could benefit Trump in the state.
In New Hampshire, Trump continues to lead with 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters, twice as many as Marco Rubio at 14 percent. Chris, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Jeb Bush are essentially tied within the margin of error. The four Republicans in the establishment lane of the GOP contest – Rubio, Christie, Kasich and Bush – are dividing up 44 percent of the total vote. The anti-establishment candidates have the support of over half of the state’s Republicans.
Clinton brushed off the new polls in an interview broadcast Sunday. “You know, these polls go up, they go down,” Clinton said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Sanders, meanwhile, said on ABC that he is “gaining steam,” and that the polls show he is best positioned to win a general election against the Republican nominee.
Pundits have been consistently wrong this election cycle because they continue to view this election through the prism of previous elections. They are living in a Washington bubble, and are not in touch with the sentiment of voters in either Party. Money buys nearly every election, but it may not buy this one. Trump and Sanders are the only two candidates without a PAC, and the only ones not raising special interest money. Perhaps the polls are sending a message.