In Monday’s Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton blew an initial 50 point lead and ended up in a virtual tie with Senator Bernie Sanders. The latest NBC/Marist poll shows he is ahead by 20 points in New Hampshire. Now, two national polls released Friday show that Clinton’s one-time 36-point lead in national polls has evaporated. She now leads Sanders by two percentage points, well within the margin of error.
Sanders clearly has the momentum on the eve of the nation’s first primary where voting begins at midnight Monday in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Sanders may actually be the real “come-back kid.” Like the lyrics in the Buffalo Springfield song, “something’s happening here.”
The latest Quinnipiac University poll found Hillary Clinton is supported by 44 percent of Democrats but 42 percent prefer Bernie Sanders. Clinton led by 31 points in that same poll a month ago. The Reuters/Ipsos poll, also released Friday, found that Sanders has closed to within one and a half points of Clinton. That poll found Clinton had 44.6 percent to Sanders 43.1 percent. Just a month ago, Clinton led by 21 points in that poll.
The Clinton campaign touts electability as a reason Democrats should nominate her. The polls, however, tell a much different story. In the Quinnipiac poll, Sanders thumps Trump 49 to 39 percent. Clinton leads Trump by only five points 46 to 41 percent. Clinton ties Ted Cruz 45 to 45, but Sanders would beat Cruz 46 to 42 percent. The poll shows that Rubio would beat Clinton in the general election by seven points—48 to 41 percent. Sanders, on the other hand, would tie Rubio with 43 percent for each.
The primary reason Sanders does better against Republican candidates is that among Independent voters, Sanders does better than Clinton. Independent voters prefer Sanders over Trump by 26 points but prefer Clinton by only 14 points. Clinton beats Cruz among Independents by five percent, but Independent voters prefer Sanders over Cruz by 15 percentage points. Rubio leads Clinton among Independent voters by nine points but Sanders actually leads Rubio by three points among those same voters.
One reason for Sanders strength in the polls is that voters have a higher opinion of him. The Quinnipiac poll found that 44 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Sanders while 35 give him a negative rating. This is the highest of any candidate of either Party except for Rubio. On the other hand, 56 percent of voters have a negative opinion of Clinton versus 39 percent who view her favorably. Only Trump has a higher negative rating than Clinton among presidential candidates.
While Clinton leads Sanders nationally among all women voters, he leads Clinton among younger women. Sanders has an overwhelming lead among young voters. He leads Clinton by nearly 70 percent among voters under 29. She leads Sanders among African-American voters by nearly the same margin, however. Sanders’ lead among young voters seems to be offsetting her lead among African-Americans.
A possible reason for Clinton’s slide in the polls is that voters continue to feel she is not honest and trustworthy. She did nothing to counter that perception in Thursday’s Democratic debate. Clinton was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs for speeches. Sanders has raised that as an indication that Clinton is too close to Wall Street. In the debate, moderator Chuck Todd asked Clinton if she would release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs. Instead of an affirmative “yes”, Clinton said she’d “look into it.” Unless the un-redacted transcripts are released, a new cloud of doubt will haunt the former Secretary of State throughout the campaign—particularly the General Election.
It is too early to know if voters are telling pollsters they favor Bernie Sanders simply as a protest against the establishment. It is possible they may change their mind. On the other hand, one does not need a poll to see that Sanders clearly wins the enthusiasm contest. He is far more exciting than Clinton and his rallies prove that. He has a consistent message, whereas Clinton’s message seems to change with the polls.
Nothing begets victory like victory. If Sanders wins in New Hampshire Tuesday, it could be a game-changer. If the Democratic Party establishment stops him, momentum could shift. Bernie Sanders said shortly after he announced “Don’t underestimate me.” So far, that is proving accurate.