Hillary Clinton has seemingly had the nomination locked up for weeks, holding off a late-summer push from Bernie Sanders and his internet-friendly horde of young voters and extending her national lead to high double digits.
But something very different has been happening in the past few weeks. As the first primaries get closer and closer, Clinton has been showing increasing signs of weakness and Sanders is showing more strength.
In shades of 2008, when Clinton’s lead dissolved as soon as voting started and the young and charismatic Barack Obama won over voters, Clinton’s camp is starting to show growing signs of fear.
Liz Kreutz of ABC News explained some of the signs of stress from the Clinton camp.
“The most blatant sign came earlier this week when Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook sent a fundraising email to supporters with the subject line ‘nervous.'”
“There’s a situation developing in Iowa and New Hampshire that could change the course of this election,” Mook wrote in the e-mail, noting that Sanders’ campaign is outspending Clinton in TV ads in the two early states.”
“Two days later, the campaign sent another fundraising email mentioning the “(seriously!) tight” polls in New Hampshire.”
Some of the unease in Clinton’s camp may be coming from Sanders’ growing presence in Iowa. Over the past few months, his team has been quietly building up a strong ground game in the state, home to the first caucus of the voting season.
And, as the New York Times noted, Sanders has grown his team to 100 paid staffers with volunteer leaders for each of the state’s 1,681 precincts.
“The field team is meant to be the engine for a Sanders upset in the caucuses on February 1 — the vehicle to turn out the tens of thousands of grass-roots supporters who show up for Mr. Sanders’s rallies, even if they no longer earn him headlines,” the report noted.
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While Clinton still has her own massive get out the vote machine in Iowa, many believe Sanders has the momentum and could continue to pick up support as voting day nears. He has been unveiling more of his tax plan ahead of the February caucus, including details on how he would pay for universal health care, improvements to infrastructure, and a free college plan.
That is not the only sign of vulnerability for Clinton. Sanders has also been increasing his strength in national polls, and now appears to be the stronger Democratic candidate for the general election. New polls show that Sanders would defeat Donald Trump by 13 points in a hypothetical matchup, which destroys the narrative that Clinton is the most electable candidate.
As columnist H.A. Goodman wrote for the Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders might actually be the only candidate who can beat Trump head-to-head.
“If voters want a conservative on war, foreign policy, and Wall Street, they’ll vote for a Republican, not a “moderate” Democrat with neoconservative advisers. This isn’t the 90’s and progressive values aren’t a liability to the Democratic Party. Ending mass incarceration and wealth inequality are mainstream issues, and gay marriage is a right, despite the convenient evolution (Clinton opposed gay marriage up until 2013) of certain Democrats.”
Despite the signs of fear in Hillary Clinton’s camp, there is still something of a mountain for Bernie Sanders to climb if he wants to reach the Democratic nomination. He still trails by double digits in nearly all national polls, and after New Hampshire there are very few states where he might be favored to win. If Clinton can maintain a lead through the moderate states that follow not long after Iowa and New Hampshire, she may just be able to run out the clock on Sanders.
[Picture by Alex Wong/Getty Images]