Bernie Sanders is surging in polls from South Carolina, with new polling showing that he is making critical gains in an area that had been one of the biggest strengths for Hillary Clinton.
Though South Carolina had become something of a political afterthought with the smaller but more influential Iowa and New Hampshire ahead it of it, new polling indicates that the state once solidly in Clinton’s favor could be coming into play. In the late fall, Clinton led South Carolina polls by a margin of more than 40 points, but a CBS News/YouGov released this week shows that Bernie Sanders cut the gap to 22 points.
How he did it may be even more significant. In polling from November, Clinton led among black voters by a margin of 82 percent to 14 percent for Sanders. In the latest she still held a lead, but the margin was smaller — 76 percent to 22 percent.
Bernie Sanders will still likely lose in South Carolina, but the strengthening position among black voters could give him stronger position to compete with Hillary Clinton beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, two heavily white states.
“The point is not to argue that Sanders will win South Carolina, but that there is a surge happening in his direction right now,” the Daily Kos noted. “He does seem to be winning over some African American voters. We will have to wait for more polls to see if this continues.”
— Teabar.com (@MAHAMOSA) January 31, 2016
It all starts with Iowa…if you have friends/family living in Iowa please get them to go out and caucus for… https://t.co/TN3wOOfHfU
— London for Bernie (@London4Bernie) January 29, 2016
As the Washington Post noted, one of the major weaknesses of the Sanders campaign has been his appeal to minority voters. But wins in the first two primaries could go a long way to changing that, the report noted.
“Sanders would need to win in Iowa and earn a decisive victory in New Hampshire (where the Clinton camp will argue he essentially has home state advantage) to have enough momentum to even come close to winning over nonwhite voters in the West and South. Polls consistently show Clinton way ahead in the category of nonwhite voters — leading Sanders nationally by 45 points, according to a national Fox News November poll.”
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has an in-depth analysis of what it would might happen if Bernie Sanders turned in decisive victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. He determined that Sanders would still have an uphill battle, with Clinton still holding advantages among more moderate voters as well as the support of the Democratic establishment, but early victories could tilt the narrative in Sanders’ favor.
“But Sanders would have an avalanche of momentum going for him after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Silver noted. “The national press corps, which spins even minor stories into crises for Clinton, would portray Clinton’s campaign as being in a meltdown. Momentum usually matters in the primaries — and sometimes it matters a lot — but exactly how many Democrats would change their votes as a result is hard to say. The wave of negative coverage might be especially bad for Clinton, but it’s also possible that, because the media has sounded false alarms on Clinton before, she’d be relatively immune to the effects of another round of bad press.”
There are still a lot of variables involved, but polls show that Bernie Sanders is taking care of the first part of the equation. He maintains a large lead in New Hampshire, and is now consistently polling ahead of Clinton in Iowa, as well.
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