Bernie Sanders is aiming to pull off another upset win like last week’s surprising victory in Michigan.
The Sanders campaign would have been close to wrapped up had he lost last week in Michigan, a state where polls showed Clinton ahead by a roughly 20-point margin. But instead Sanders pulled off the upset victory, propelling his campaign forward to critical upcoming votes in Ohio, Florida, and Illinois.
New polls released Sunday show that Bernie Sanders may be close to pulling off another victory in Illinois. Like in Michigan, Hillary Clinton once dominated polling in Illinois, with Real Clear Politics giving her a roughly 32-point advantage.
But much of that polling comes from before Sanders pulled off the Michigan upset, and new data suggests that her lead may have all but evaporated.
A CBS News poll found that Bernie Sanders now leads 48 percent to 46 percent.
A new poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist also shows a very tight race, with Sanders slashing the lead to just six points, trailing Clinton 51 percent to 45 percent.
The contest on Tuesday will now be a test of whether last week’s outcome in Michigan was an outlier or the sign of a shifting race, with the Clinton-friendly states in the south largely over and now Bernie Sanders with a chance to make up ground in the midwest.
Despite his rising polls in Illinois, Bernie Sanders still has much work to do in order to climb back into the race. He trails Clinton by more than 20 points in Florida and Ohio, and will need to outperform his numbers just to keep pace.
But Sanders is hoping that an anti-trade message can work in Ohio and Illinois as it did in Michigan. In appearances across Illinois he has highlighted the number of jobs lost to NAFTA, the hallmark of Bill Clinton’s administration and a major point of attack against Hillary Clinton.
As the New York Times noted, Sanders has been hammering home the anti-trade message.
“Gigantic text blocks highlighting the number of job losses overlay pictures of crumbling factories and empty warehouses: 850,000 jobs to the North American Free Trade Agreement, 3 million jobs to ‘special trade status’ with China and ‘now the Trans-Pacific trade deal could cost 448,000 more jobs,’ a narrator explains. Slow piano music builds in the background.
“Mr. Sanders is shown smiling and shaking hands with voters at a campaign rally as the narrator says, ‘Only one candidate has opposed every disastrous trade deal: Bernie Sanders.’ “
There is already some evidence that Bernie Sanders is seizing the enthusiasm gap. While he still trails by big margins in Florida, Sanders has attracted huge crowds that suggest he could end up much closer to Clinton some election day.
That enthusiasm was on display this week, when Sanders drew 9,000 people to the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, a group that Florida Politics called “a multicultural mix of citizens.” The very same day, Hillary Clinton held her own midday rally in Tampa that drew just 600 people.
“On Tuesday there is going to be a very important primary here in Florida,” Sanders told the huge crowds at Expo Hall. “If there is a large voter turnout, we will win.”
It remains to be seen if Bernie Sanders can seize this voter enthusiasm and his rising polls to victories on Tuesday. With Clinton already holding a significant delegate lead, the time for moral victories is all but gone, and Sanders can scarcely find positives in simply keeping it close. He will likely need outright victories in not only Illinois but likely Ohio, combined with a very close loss in Florida, to have a real chance to climb back into the race.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]