We’ve seen this coming for weeks and now it’s here. A PRRI/Atlantic poll released Thursday shows Bernie Sanders has erased Hillary Clinton’s national lead among Democrats. The results are within the margin of error so this is officially a dead heat, but for bragging rights Sanders actually tops Clinton by one point. This is the 2nd poll released this week to show Sanders edging ahead of Clinton so it’s probably safe to say these are not outliers. The Atlantic reports:
Sanders had the support of 47 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters while Clinton had 46 percent—a narrow gap that fell within the poll’s 2.5 percent margin of error. The national survey was conducted in the days before the Vermont senator handily defeated the former secretary of state in the Wisconsin primary, and it tracks other polls in the last week that found Sanders erasing Clinton’s edge across the country. In a poll that PRRI conducted in January, Clinton had a 20-point lead.
A 20-point lead erased in 3 months. A month ago when an ABC News poll showed Sanders had cut Clinton’s national lead to 7 points I wrote “the national polls, so far, don’t seem to show a party ready to settle. They show a party that appears less and less certain about the front-runner.”
Unfortunately for Sanders, he is peaking too late. Clinton currently has 469 superdelegates supporting her compared to just 31 for Sanders. As the WSJ reported Wednesday, there is little hope those superdelegates will shift sides:
Mr. Sanders’s recent victories in Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Alaska and elsewhere have left some other Democrats defending their decision to back Mrs. Clinton at the party’s convention in Philadelphia this July.
And more could feel the pressure if Mr. Sanders continues to rack up wins. He won the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, notching his seventh win in the last eight nominating contests. Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin including Rep. Gwen Moore and Sen. Tammy Baldwin backed Mrs. Clinton. All Democratic members of Congress are superdelegates.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat who backs Mrs. Clinton, said he has had some “robust conversations” with constituents after Mr. Sanders won the state’s Democratic caucuses on March 26, but doesn’t plan to shift his stance.
But while the national polls and the enthusiasm they represent may not impact the results, they could determine how ugly things get before Clinton finally claims victory this summer. Just last night we saw Sanders lash out at Clinton suggesting she was unqualified to be president. That’s likely a sign of the frustration Sanders and his supporters feel at winning 7 out of the last 8 states and out-fundraising Clinton by $15 million in March and still being stymied by the party bosses.
A McClatchy poll published Wednesday found 25% of Sanders supporters say they will refuse to support Clinton in the general election. Will they be saying the same thing in November if Clinton is facing off against Trump or Cruz? Probably not. But it’s a sign that at this moment, when Hillary should be wrapping things up, a significant number of Democrats feel strongly about not wanting her as their nominee.