Bernie Sanders has been surging in the polls in recent weeks. The Vermont senator’s newfound success is apparently enough that it attracted a high-profile attack from the previous failed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
A new CNN poll out this morning shows a big jump for Sanders over the previous Real Clear Politics average. The new poll gives Sanders a 27 percent share of the Democratic primary vote, which puts him three points ahead of Joe Biden at 24. Sanders has been trending upward since mid-December, but the new poll is a sharp jump from his polling average of 21 percent.
Large, sudden movements in polling often represent inaccurate outliers. Further polling is necessary to determine whether Sanders’ newfound lead is real or illusory.
Regardless, Sanders’ rise in the polls has led other Democrats to focus their attacks on him. The Vermonter traded sharp barbs with Massachusetts senator and fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren last month. The Warren campaign accused Bernie of saying that a woman couldn’t win the election, an accusation that Bernie denied, and the two had an awkward moment after last month’s debate in which each accused the other of lying while they were still wearing hot mics.
Now Hillary Clinton is entering the fray with a statement in a documentary film. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Clinton says in the film, “He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done, He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”
“It’s not only him, it’s the culture around him,” Clinton continued. “It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women.”
Clinton’s attack aims squarely at Bernie’s perceived strength of being an outsider with revolutionary ideas. The #MeToo-style accusation that Sanders is hostile to women would be lethal to most candidates in the progressive party as well.
The problem with Hillary’s plan of attack is that the New Yorker is one of the most unpopular people in politics. Her unpopularity within the Democratic Party almost allowed Sanders to seize the nomination in 2016 and spurred thousands of Bernie Bros to cross the aisles and vote for Trump or stay home on Election Day. In 2020, it’s entirely possible that Hillary’s condemnation of Bernie will galvanize his support.
It’s also possible that Bernie is merely the newest flavor-of-the-month in the Democratic Party. Democratic voters have already considered and then rejected a number of non-Biden candidates, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. Sanders may simply be the next alternative to be examined and then tossed aside.
If this is the case, the Democratic consideration of Bernie comes at an opportune time for Sanders. With the Iowa caucuses on February 3, less than two weeks away, Bernie’s support may be cresting at exactly the right time.
Current polling averages in Iowa show Biden in the lead with 21 percent, but three other candidates, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Warren, also meet the 15 percent threshold to win delegates. In a caucus state, Bernie’s devoted supporters may give him an advantage that could propel him to a surprise victory, although recent polls have shown him slipping there.
Sanders also has a slim lead in the polling average for New Hampshire’s primary. where he currently holds an advantage of about one point over Joe Biden. Hailing from neighboring Vermont, Sanders is the favorite son in the New Hampshire race and needs to do well there to remain viable. The New Hampshire primary is scheduled for February 11.
Sanders has enjoyed a brief surge in the polls. We will find out soon whether it is a real increase or whether Bernie’s popularity will be a flash in the pan. If the senator doesn’t perform well in Iowa and New Hampshire, it is difficult to see a path to the nomination even though he has money to stay in the race to the end.