How bad has the 2016 campaign gone for Hillary Clinton? The New York Times takes note of the fact that the presumed coronation candidate now runs the risk of losing both opening contests in the Democratic primary season. Team Hillary laid down as much as 90% of their resources on winning Iowa, a state that stunned her with a loss in 2008. Get ready for another stunning loss, and perhaps a long slog to the nomination for the entire party:
Facing a tougher than expected challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is preparing for a primary fight that could stretch into late April or early May and require a sprawling field operation in states and territories from Pennsylvania to Guam.
With the Iowa caucuses in two weeks and Mr. Sanders’s insurgent candidacy chipping away at Mrs. Clinton’s once formidable lead there, Clinton aides are acknowledging that the road to the party’s July convention could be an expensive slog. “Remember, I campaigned all the way into June last time,” Mrs. Clinton told CNN last week.
Even though the Clinton team has sought to convey that it has built a national operation, the campaign has invested much of its resources in the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, hoping that a victory there could marginalize Mr. Sanders and set Mrs. Clinton on the path to the nomination. As much as 90 percent of the campaign’s resources are now split between Iowa and the Brooklyn headquarters, according to an estimate provided by a person with direct knowledge of the spending. The campaign denied that figure. …
The focus on Iowa, which still haunts Mrs. Clinton after the stinging upset by Barack Obama there in 2008, has been so intense that even organizers in New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Feb. 9, have complained to the campaign’s leadership that they feel neglected.
Right now, the latest Des Moines Register poll — usually considered to be the gold standard in Iowa — shows Hillary in a virtual tie with Sanders, 42/40. Previous polling in the DMR series over the last few months showed Hillary’s lead to be much less than in other polling, but still outside the margin of error. The RCP overall average for the last month gives Clinton a 4-point lead, but that includes an eye-popping outlier from Gravis that shows Hillary with a 21-point edge. Take that out of the equation, and it shows Sanders closing the gap over the past three months to move into a tie with Hillary.
This matters because Hillary is tailing off in New Hampshire, a state she did win in 2008. Sanders is more of a local favorite from neighboring Vermont anyway, but the RCP average shows Sanders up by 6.7 points in the Granite State. Fox and Monmouth put his lead in double digits this month, with PPP the only polling outfit this month showing a Hillary lead — and that only by three points. Barack Obama won one of the first two states and went on to defeat Hillary in a drawn-out fight. What happens if another progressive populist wins both Iowa and New Hampshire?
NBC declares Iowa a must-win state for Hillary. If not, Sanders might not be the only competition:
But if she loses Iowa, then, yes, a highly competitive Democratic race will extend into April and May. And that’s not all — panicky Democrats will become even more nervous, Joe Biden’s phone will ring, Michael Bloomberg’s phone will ring, too. Make no mistake, Bernie Sanders isn’t going away. But if you assume, one way or another, that Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Iowa will determine whether she gets it the easy way or the hard way. So on the Democratic side, no contest will be more impactful than the Iowa caucuses, which are now less than two weeks away.
Of these, Bloomberg is the biggest potential threat to Hillary. Biden, while still on the short list for Democrats, occupies much the same space as Hillary does in the Democratic Party, especially his status as defender of the Obama status quo and the patron of the financial industry. Bloomberg has the latter, too, but he’s got the money to organize on his own and potentially curb the influence of the grassroots.
The arrival of either or both would tend to dilute Hillary’s traction, not Sanders. And if it encourages Bloomberg to pursue an independent bid, then Democrats will have a real problem on their hands.