Bernie Sanders’ days as a socialist sideshow to the Clinton coronation are over. As of now, the Vermont Senator presents a significant obstacle to Hillary’s quest to secure the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination.
Amid the supernova spectacle of Donald Trump and the epic inaugural GOP debate, Sanders has quietly been having a monster week all his own. The left-wing darling has racked up giant crowds on his West Coast campaign swing — the largest of any candidate of either party to date, with nearly 70,000 supporters swamping arenas in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles and the Sanders campaign swelling its grassroots email and fundraising list in equal measure.
Positioning himself as an uncompromising (and uncompromised) movement candidate, Sanders has now surged in front of Clinton as the top choice of likely Democratic voters in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. Sanders leads Clinton by 7 percent, 44-to-37, outside of the margin of error, according to a Franklin Pierce University poll conducted for the Boston Herald released late Tuesday.
New Hampshire’s proximity to Vermont may favor Sanders, but geography alone does not explain Sanders’ momentum; the same poll in March found Bernie with only 8 percent support.
The enthusiasm gap between Sanders and Clinton is striking: 54 percent of likely Democratic primary voters view Sanders “very” favorably, compared to just 36 percent for Clinton. According to the poll, a full 51 percent of New Hampshire Democrats agreed that this statement describes their view of Clinton: “You could support her, but you’re not enthusiastic about her candidacy.”
But if Sanders has captured hearts in the Granite State, the minds of New Hampshire voters remain with the former secretary of state: 65 percent think Clinton will emerge as the Democratic nominee, compared to just 11 percent for Sanders.
Doubts about electability continue to dog the self-described “democratic socialist.” More than a third of state Democrats agree with this assessment of Sanders’ run: “You support some of his ideas, but you don’t think he could win a general election against the Republican nominee 36%.”