Updates just this week confirm a shocking, if likely quite welcome in the spirit of competition, development: Bernie Sanders edging out Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire1. Specifically, the figures cited are courtesy of a Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald Poll, but reveal incredible gains for Sanders. Sanders was previously polling significantly lower than Clinton, with Clinton enjoying a lead of over thirty points according to the cited material. The Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald Poll shows Sanders now leading Clinton by 44% to her 37% in New Hampshire.
The easy thing to attribute this to is that Sanders has engaged in a passionate and effective grassroots campaign. This is true and Sanders has, indeed, benefited from this greatly, but I suspect rationale behind the significant change in Sanders’ polling numbers reflects more nuanced changes across the political spectrum. During the initial Republican Debates, for example – a common theme of unity was the need for the eventual candidate to remain unbloodied and defeat Clinton. While this message serves as an expected fanfare for the political minds in attendance, I suspect that the same message may also be causing liberals to reexamine their previous thoughts on both Clinton and Sanders.
First, I imagine that questions must be raised of the effectiveness of a Hillary Clinton administration. I don’t doubt in the least Clinton’s ability to lead or to manage her affairs as a head of state, but I do wonder about the debts her Presidency would carry. While Sanders has run a largely positive campaign that has avoided attacking Clinton, Sanders’ allies have drawn questions about the obligations Clinton is taking on with donations from powerful businesses.
What makes matters a bit more confounding, though, is that Hillary Clinton’s political leanings and philosophy appear to be those of a moderate with leftist leanings. While this is certainly fine, she is vilified by the Right as a far more liberally-minded candidate than her record shows her to be. This has led some liberals to wonder if, given the conservative insistence on exaggerating Clinton’s liberal credentials, this may very well be the perfect opportunity to run a truly liberal candidate: Sanders.
It comes together as something of the perfect storm, I think. Liberals are wondering which interests and lobbying groups Hillary will be beholden to in light of the donations she is readily accepting presently. Conservatives insist Hillary’s views are far more liberal than they actually are, leading many to wonder if a hyper-liberal candidate might just stand an equal chance compared to the more moderate Clinton. And, as all these thoughts permeate the minds of liberals nationwide: Sanders continues to engage in a grassroots effort that catches their interest and hopes at just the right moment.
Sanders still stands quite some distance away from securing the Democratic nomination, but the most recent polling figures and his linked surge in popularity have confirmed that the Democratic ticket is anything but settled. Hillary supporters may be fumbling and nervous, but fans of Sanders are nearly giddy to find their favorite long-shot has suddenly become a balanced contender.