Bernie Sanders is making a major move in national polls, pulling even with Hillary Clinton and starting to move ahead in some recent polls. Now, he could be pulling some superdelegates over to his side.
Sanders still trails Clinton in the pledged delegate count, but has pulled closer after a winning streak that included blowout wins in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, as well as an important win in Wisconsin. As he’s made the push, Sanders has strengthened the case that he is the strongest Democratic candidate in November, and it seems to be working on national voters.
An aggregate of all polling from Pollster shows that Bernie Sanders has slashed Clinton’s lead as the preferred candidate for voters and is now in a statistical tie. Sanders has been within the margin of error in a series of recent polls, and led by a slim margin in an Ipsos/Reuters poll released this week.
Polls that look ahead to the general election are also more kind to Bernie Sanders than his Democratic opponent. He consistently beats Republican challengers by a wider margin than Clinton, including a CBS News poll out this week that showed Sanders would win in November no matter the opponent. Clinton would lose to John Kasich and has a slimmer lead against Donald Trump, the same poll found.
These strengths are a major point of emphasis as Sanders tries to win over the roughly 700 party insiders that make up the superdelegate base. If he were to pull closer to Clinton in the delegate count, these superdelegates will end up deciding the nominee, and Sanders is making a major push to win them over.
The Bernie Sanders campaign has already been making their case to superdelegates privately, and Bernie’s wife has also exerted some public pressure.
“We think the rules are ridiculous,” Jane Sanders said this week. “What it is, is an insurance policy for the establishment to make sure they don’t get somebody they don’t want.”
But, the move to win over superdelegates could be a tricky proposition for the Sanders campaign. While it may take a strong case to get the close to 700 party insiders to back him instead of Clinton, his campaign also risks turning them off with an approach that is too aggressive.
That is the allegation leveled against some Sanders supporters, who have been hounding superdelegates for sticking with Hillary Clinton. One supporter posted an online “superdelegate hit list” that had names, addresses, and phone numbers of those backing Clinton.
Akilah Ensley, one of those on the list, said Sanders supporters posted angry messages on Facebook including one that read, “How in the h*** can you sponsor Hillary over Bernie? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“There’s been some rude names used, there’s been kind of a knock at my character and my intelligence, as to why I would be supporting someone that they see as the establishment,” Ensley told CBS News.
The tactics have already turned off some superdelegates. Shawn Bagley, a California superdelegate, said he received an angry phone call at 2 a.m. from a Sanders supporter hounding him about supporting Hillary Clinton.
“Why is Bernie Sanders letting these people loose on us?” Bagley told the Los Angeles Times, noting that he received more than 200 angry messages online. “He lost my vote at 2 a.m.”
Bernie Sanders himself is taking a more targeted approach, focusing on superdelegates from Western states where he performed better than Hillary Clinton. Superdelegates interviewed by Politico said Bernie didn’t bash Hillary Clinton, but instead sold them on his advantages.
“He just kind of hit me with the notion that I should support him,” Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley said. “But it was very low key. I told him that I was going to wait till after the Idaho Democrats have had their say in the caucus and I was going to make a decision, but I was definitely leaning in his direction. And he let it go after that.”
If Bernie Sanders continues to climb in national polls, it may give more ammunition to his pitch for superdelegates. But much will depend on the upcoming contests, and Sanders would need strong performances in New York and other large states to come to keep the margin as close as possible.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]