Bernie Sanders has surged ahead in Iowa polls, and with around one week until voting starts there is a growing belief that the surge to overtake Hillary Clinton is very real and very sustained.
In a new CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, Sanders opened up an eight-point lead over Clinton in Iowa, now leading 51 percent to 43 percent. This is a dramatic turnaround from back in December, when Clinton led the same poll by a margin of 54 percent to 36 percent.
Sanders held many key strengths. Democratic voters thought Sanders was better on the economy, holding a 22-point lead over Clinton. A full 67 percent thought he would do more to help the middle class, while 30 percent picked Clinton.
Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders hold solid leads in Iowa, CNN/ORC poll finds https://t.co/CRg6IayOhA
— Jan Nikkel (@jannikkel6) January 21, 2016
— People For Bernie (@People4Bernie) January 21, 2016
The lead comes after polls in New Hampshire show Bernie Sanders opening up a large lead, as high as 30 points in some polls. Many political experts believe that Sanders needed a win in both of the first two states in order to build momentum toward the upcoming stretch of more moderate states, which lean more toward Clinton.
Bernie Sanders had pulled close in the polls once already, with a late-summer surge that brought him to within a stone’s throw of Clinton’s lead. But Hillary slowly regained control over the course of the fall and early winter, keeping her national support well above 50 percent and growing her lead to 25 points or higher.
But there is evidence that this surge is more sustainable. As the first primary voting grows close — and now a little more than a week away — voters are starting to pay more attention and it seems that Sanders is taking a large share of the previously undecided voters.
As New York Magazine writer Frank Rich noted, Bernie Sanders has Clinton her heels, withstanding attacks from proxies on his health and his government health care plans.
“If Clinton continues to lose altitude through self-inflicted wounds, through Sanders’s ability to sell himself to a wider electorate, or through further revelations about her and Bill Clinton’s dubious buck-raking from Wall Street, corporate America, and foreign governments, the Democrats are left with only one plan B: Bernie Sanders. The party’s elites better start reconciling themselves to that, because if we’ve learned anything over the past year, anything is possible. Who would have imagined that an election that was destined to be Bush versus Clinton stands at least a small chance of yielding Sanders versus Trump, with possibly a third-party candidate (or so Bloomberg enthusiasts believe) to scramble the odds further?”
Bernie Sanders has pulled back closer nationally as well. The latest New York Times/CBS News national poll showed that Sanders had support of 41 percent of Democratic primary voters compared with 48 percent for Clinton, much tighter than previous polls.
But perhaps most importantly, polls show that Bernie Sanders has begun to pick up support among key demographics that he will need beyond initial voting. Clinton had held reliable leads among women and minority voters, and many noted that both New Hampshire and Iowa were heavy with white voters. Winning in South Carolina and beyond would mean Sanders would have to cut into Clinton’s lead in these groups.
That appears to be happening. The New York Times noted that in the past few weeks, Sanders’ support among women rose from 29 percent to 39 percent.
“Even among nonwhite voters, Mrs. Clinton’s advantage narrowed significantly in the January poll,” the report noted. “She still led among nonwhite voters by more than two to one, 59 percent to 27 percent, but she was more dominant in December, when she was ahead by four to one.”
Much will depend on the next two weeks. If Bernie Sanders can pull out victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, then he could win over more on-the-fence voters and polls in South Carolina and later states could tip more in his favor.
[Picture by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]