Hillary Clinton has lost her once-commanding lead over Donald Trump in the polls in the last two weeks, and evidence suggests that her inability to win over supporters of Bernie Sanders could cost not only her lead in the race, but her chances of winning in November.
For most of the primary season, Clinton held a mid single-digit lead over Trump in national polling, sometimes reaching a double-digit advantage but often hovering around a 6-point lead. That has evaporated rapidly, however, as Trump ended his primary battle with a resounding win in Indiana and taken measures to bring the Republican Party together.
While Trump has addressed the vocal anti-Trump section of the Republican Party and held meetings with political opponents, Clinton appears to be moving in the opposite direction. As her primary battle drags on and Sanders holds to his vow to stay in the race until the final vote, Clinton has moved backward, driving away more Sanders supporters with a series of missteps.
Nate Cohn of the New York Times noted the backward momentum for Clinton, highlighting a series of polls showing that her support among Sanders supporters has dropped anywhere from 10 to 15 percentage points.
“Exactly what’s driving the shift is hard to say. What’s clear is that Mrs. Clinton’s challenge isn’t totally superficial. Just 20 percent of Mr. Sanders’s supporters have a favorable view of her in the most recent New York Times/CBS News survey, while 47 percent have an unfavorable one.”
Hillary Clinton may not be doing much to help win over those supporters. This week, she turned down a request from Bernie Sanders to hold a debate in May, something she had agreed to in the early days of the Democratic Primary when her camp wanted more early debates to help her performance in New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders immediately seized on her turnaround, saying he was “disappointed but not surprised” that Clinton went back on her word.
“The state of California and the United States face some enormous crises. Democracy, and respect for the voters of California, would suggest that there should be a vigorous debate in which the voters may determine whose ideas they support,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “I hope Secretary Clinton reconsiders her unfortunate decision to back away from her commitment to debate.”
“I also would suggest that Secretary Clinton may want to be not quite so presumptuous about thinking that she is a certain winner. In the last several weeks, the people of Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon have suggested otherwise.”
I am disappointed but not surprised by Secretary Clinton’s unwillingness to debate before the largest primary. https://t.co/tQPIWppgEM— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 24, 2016
Some of the blame falls on Clinton’s allies within the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders and many of his supporters have turned their attention to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair accused of favoring Clinton with this year’s debate schedule. Their power was shown this week when a fundraising email from Sanders mentioning Schultz’s primary opponent netted him $250,000, a giant sum for a congressional primary.
The recent surge from Donald Trump and the inability on Hillary Clinton’s part to bring her own party together has some insiders worried. This includes many in Clinton’s camp, like her former press secretary, Jay Carson. In an Instagram post he sounded off that Donald Trump is a much more formidable foe than many had expected and warned against taking him lightly.
“Here’s the bad news — this guy can win the general election pretty d**n easily,” Carson wrote. “I hear far too many of my liberal friends calling him a ‘joke’ and acting like the general (election) is in the bag which is nuts because he’s dangerous and he has a path to victory.”
Much of the responsibility will now fall on Hillary Clinton to bring her party together, meaning she will likely need a more concerted effort to reach out to Bernie Sanders supporters rather than pushing them away.
[Photo by David Calvert/Getty Images]