With the unkempt look of a college professor and his relentless attacks on Wall Street and the country’s wealthy elite, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been drawing huge crowds across the country in his long-shot pursuit of the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
On Wednesday night, the 73-year-old darling of the left drew his largest crowd yet in Madison, Wisconsin. Roughly 10,000 admirers turned out in the liberal college town to cheer Sanders on as he touted his progressive agenda of tuition-free college, a higher minimum wage, the breakup of big banks and economic equality for the middle class.
The Washington Post reported that the rally was one in a series of events that the Sanders’ campaign has hosted in states with large numbers of progressive voters but that are not key to winning the Democratic nomination.
Even so, a new Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic caucus goers in critically important Iowa shows that Sanders is moving up on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton and now trails her 52 percent to 33 percent. This compares to Clinton’s 60 percent to 15 percent lead over the self-described Democratic socialist in a May 7 survey of likely Democratic caucus goers.
Clinton, the former Secretary of State whose campaign raised a record $45 million in political contributions since formally entering the race in April, has been counting on a strong showing in Iowa, home to the first presidential caucus of the political season.
But Sanders has demonstrated drawing power in Iowa as well as in New Hampshire – home to the first in the nation presidential primary -- where Clinton’s once sizable lead has been reduced to single digits.
According to a recent CNN/WMUR poll, Clinton holds an eight-point lead over Sanders in New Hampshire, with 43 percent backing Clinton and 35 percent behind Sanders. Vice President Joe Biden weighed in with just eight percent, while two percent or less supported former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and former senators Jim Webb of Virginia and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
Clinton “should not be biting her fingernails over her situation in Iowa,” noted Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, but Sanders is clearly making headway in his campaign and has more than doubled his support in a relatively short time.
“He certainly can’t be ignored, especially with seven months until the actual voting,” Brown said in a statement. “Iowa Democratic caucus-goers are generally considered more liberal than primary voters in most other states, a demographic that helps his insurgency against Secretary Clinton who is the choice of virtually the entire Democratic establishment.”
47 percent of Democratic caucus participants who consider themselves to be as “very liberal” support Sanders, compared to 43 percent for Clinton, according to the new poll. Meanwhile, Clinton takes 54 percent of the vote versus 36 percent among voters who consider themselves to be “somewhat liberal,” and 60 percent to 17 percent among “moderate” or “conservative” Democratic caucus participants.
Clinton is blessed with most of the advantages of a front-runner that should catapult her to the Democratic presidential nomination next year: a mega political name and reputation, a huge campaign war chest, a sophisticated national campaign apparatus and broad-based support among party regulars.
Yet she has been dogged by controversy, including the fundraising practices of the Clinton family’s global foundation, her own personal finances and nagging questions about why she used her personal email server for official business during her four years as secretary of state.
National polls have repeatedly showed that many voters harbor suspicions about her integrity and honesty, while Sanders is perceived as more genuine and honest in stating his positions.
In Iowa, 75 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers think Clinton is trustworthy while 18 percent say she is not. By comparison, 71 percent believe Sanders is honest but only five percent say he is not. However, nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they had no opinion on Sanders’ integrity.
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