Bernie Sanders is losing ground in the polls, but even as Hillary Clinton blunts his summer surge and begins to establish herself as the clear front runner for Democrats in 2016, there may be some signs of hope for Sanders and his supporters.
Sanders has played the Barack Obama role in this year’s election, the outsider riding a wave of grassroots support in an attempt to topple the presumed front runner, Hillary Clinton. And for several months it appears as if he might be able to do it, chipping away at her lead over the course of several weeks over the summer and early fall.
Now Clinton has regained her footing. In new polls from CNN/ORC and Quinnipiac University she has opened up big leads — a margin of 28 points in the CNN/ORC poll and a nearly identical margin in Quinnipiac, via ABC News.
But even as Hillary Clinton solidifies her lead in the polls, Bernie Sanders may have another advantage that could be huge come primary time. The Quinnipiac poll shows that Sanders is the most electable candidate — from either party.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 6, 2015
The poll found that Sanders would beat Donald Trump by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup, while Clinton would win by only 6 points, which is close to the poll’s margin of error. Sanders would also defeat Republican Ben Carson by 6 points and Ted Cruz by 10 points. There would be one close matchup for either Clinton or Sanders — against Republican Senator Marco Rubio. The poll showed the each Democratic candidate would defeat him, but each by only one point.
The Observer News dug a bit deeper into the poll numbers, suggesting that Bernie Sanders would be the strongest candidate of the entire field, Democrat or Republican. Writer Brent Budowsky suggested that Sanders’ advantage in the general election could end up whittling down Hillary’s poll numbers, winning over independent voters and the still-undecided.
“First, Mr. Sanders has very high ratings for integrity, trust and authenticity in an election year where large numbers of voters feel strong distrust for major political figures and media institutions. Second, Mr. Sanders embodies a pure play candidate for a progressive populist agenda that has powerful and, I would argue, majority support from American voters.”
There could be other factors in Bernie’s favor. The Quinnipiac poll found that 23 percent of Democratic voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton, with only 11 percent saying the same of Sanders. That likely creates a firewall for Clinton, nearly one-quarter of the voters she won’t be able to win over.
Much will likely depend on the upcoming Democratic debates. Sanders has turned in some good showings in previous debates but will need to do more to win over voters in the middle. And he has already taken some important steps, especially related to his self-identification as a Democratic socialist. Sanders gave a speech defining the concept, and also setting his beliefs apart from the socialism many Americans know from the U.S.S.R. He has also taken on a number of big targets, advocating for campaign finance reform and taking on big-money interests, even Wal Mart.
— The Progressive Mind (@Libertea2012) December 6, 2015
Sander could still have room to grow as well. The poll found that 11 percent of voters still don’t know enough about the Vermont Senator to make a judgement on whether they would vote for him. If Sanders can continue delivering his populist message, speaking for the average American against big corporate interests, he could have a good chance to win over at least some of that group and make up even more ground in the polls.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]