Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is increasingly looking like the favorite to win in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. Reflecting a broader trend, the latest New York Times/Siena College poll released Saturday showed Sanders with a seven-point lead over his closest competitor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The senator is leading the once-crowded Democratic field in the early state of New Hampshire as well, where he has maintained a double-digit lead, latest polls suggest. Sanders is, it seems, surging at the right moment. According to a new report from The Hill, Democratic insiders are realizing that he is now the frontrunner.
A Democrat who raised money for former Vice President Joe Biden simply said that the primary is now “Bernie’s race to lose.”
The Democratic establishment has signaled that it will not let the senator coast to the nomination, however. According to a fundraiser who talked to The Hill, Sanders can expect a barrage of attacks in the coming days.
“The floodgates are about to open and every establishment Democrat is going to be warning that Bernie will get killed in the general election,” the fundraiser said.
As the publication notes, Sanders is already being relentlessly attacked by some of the most prominent figures in Democratic politics. Former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, recently characterized the senator as unlikable, saying that his supporters “got sucked into” backing him.
Jim Messina, former President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, went on MSNBC to declare Sanders unelectable, stating that the senator is “not the candidate we need to beat Donald Trump in November.”
Polling appears to contradict this sentiment, given that Sanders is beating Trump in nearly every single head-to-head match-up poll listed on RealClearPolitics.
As Democratic strategist Michael Gordon, the head of Gordon Group, pointed out, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s decision to move to the right on issues such as health care appears to have created an opening for Sanders to surge, allowing him to solidify support among liberal and progressive voters.
Warren, he said, “didn’t think health care through and she’s paid the price for it ever since,” with progressives rallying behind Sanders, who has “been out there longer and people believe what [he] says.”
Sanders has also landed endorsements from prominent progressive organizations and advocacy groups, as well as labor unions. Furthermore, Sanders has an exceptionally high favorability rating among Democrats — 74 percent — and he appears to have managed to build a multi-racial, working class coalition.
According to Gordon, if the Democratic establishment does not attack Sanders soon, he will run away with the nomination.
“If [the anti-Sanders crowd] doesn’t go after him soon it’ll be too late,” the strategist said. “So do it now or else get in line and support him enthusiastically if he’s [the] candidate,” he added.