The good news: The Clintons are being humiliated. The bad news: Are we sure we’d rather face Bernie Sanders in the general election? Think carefully. Has the GOP proved itself adept at attacking Democratic nominees as dangerously left-wing in recent elections?
While we debate that, I continue to admire Hillary’s persistence in running despite endless signals from her own party that they don’t want her. Ace is correct that this makes twice in eight years that a Democrat challenged her fully expecting to lose and then somehow found himself ahead. (“That’s how easy it is to beat Hillary. You can do it by accident.”) As a Twitter pal said this morning, she really is the Jeb Bush of the Democratic primary — plus about 40 extra percent in the polls. New from Iowa: Sanders 49, Clinton 44. A month ago, Quinnipiac had Hillary leading 51/40. This isn’t the only recent poll of the state showing him ahead, either. A few days ago, ARG had Sanders up three, 47/44.
The man simply could not be more popular among Democrats there:
Hillary’s own numbers are strong, 66/29 on honesty(!) and 76/21 on caring about the problems of people like you, but Sanders’s are stratospheric. Even among moderate/conservative Democrats, Sanders scores higher on whether he “shares your values” (83/10) than Hillary does (68/28). Overall, her favorable rating is 74/21, which only Ted Cruz approaches at the moment among Republicans, but Sanders’s rating is … 87/3. Give the old socialist credit. With numbers like this, Berniemania is more easily explained as genuine excitement for him than as rejection of Clinton. And while he trails her badly on foreign policy and terrorism, he leads her by 12 points when Iowa Democrats are asked which candidate would be better for the economy. Remember that the next time the media tells you how far towards the fringe *Republicans* have moved.
Same deal in New Hampshire, where Sanders now leads 53/39 if you can believe it. That’s not a wild outlier either: Three polls taken in the state over the last month have had him up by 13 or 14 points (although several others have had him leading or trailing narrowly). Granted, New Hampshire is his backyard, but the numbers there aren’t much different from Iowa. The man is simply phenomenally popular within his own party.
If Sanders is polling this well, imagine how a younger, more prominent Democrat like Elizabeth Warren running the same share-the-wealth campaign would be doing right now. Two of Sanders’s few weak points against Clinton are his deficit with women voters and his perceived unelectability. He actually leads among women in New Hampshire, per Monmouth, but in Iowa he trails by 16 points among that group. (He leads overwhelmingly among men there, 61/30.) In terms of electability, despite being fantastically popular among Iowa Dems, just 68 percent think Sanders would have a good chance of winning the general election versus 85 percent who think so of Hillary. My hunch is that Warren, by dint of her age, her stature among progressives, and her ability to neutralize Hillary’s “first woman president” shtick, would actually be running ahead of Sanders if she had jumped in early to fill the role of far-left challenger to the Clintons. We’ll never know. But if Hillary does end up winning this race, that’s something to consider. Looking at today’s numbers, she really could have gotten Obama’d again this cycle, possibly worse than she did in 2008.
Here’s Sanders addressing the electability issue a few days ago. By the way, Hillary is momentarily way, way, way ahead in South Carolina, which she’s hoping will be her firewall if things go sideways in Iowa and New Hampshire. That stands to reason: Iowa is a caucus state, where passionate activists like the ones backing Sanders have more influence, and New Hampshire is next door to Sanders’s home state, so South Carolina is well positioned for a Hillary comeback. But we’ll see. Those SC polls will tighten a lot if Sanders wins the first two states. If he can figure out a way to get black voters on his side, he’ll have a shot.