But Sanders would have an avalanche of momentum going for him after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. The national press corps, which spins even minor stories into crises for Clinton, would portray Clinton’s campaign as being in a meltdown. Momentum usually matters in the primaries — and sometimes it matters a lot — but exactly how many Democrats would change their votes as a result is hard to say. The wave of negative coverage might be especially bad for Clinton, but it’s also possible that, because the media has sounded false alarms on Clinton before, she’d be relatively immune to the effects of another round of bad press. One factor helping Sanders: Voters who had been attracted to his message before, but who weren’t sure he could win, would mostly have their doubts removed after he beat Clinton twice.
It’s also possible that Democratic party elites would panic. A good indicator for this will be whether there would be renewed efforts to draft Joe Biden, or some other candidate, such as John Kerry, into the race. That would probably constitute a misreading of the situation. Sanders’s support reflects support for Sanders more than it does an anti-Clinton vote, whereas there’s never been much of a market for Biden. The more calls you hear to “draft Biden,” the more likely it is that Clinton’s support will be undercut when it’s far too late for party elites to come up with a viable alternative and that Sanders wins the nomination.