For months now, Hillary Rodham Clinton has struggled to fend off an aggressive challenge by Sen. Bernie Sanders among Democratic voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other crucial early battleground states. At the same time, she and her advisers have insisted that Clinton would be her party’s strongest standard-bearer in going up against the eventual GOP nominee in the 2016 general election campaign.
But new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire show that Sanders, the self-styled Democratic socialist from Vermont, is viewed more positively than Clinton by registered voters across the board and that he would attract stronger support in the general election in hypothetical matchups against several potential GOP nominees.
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In Iowa, for example, Clinton trails former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in a hypothetical general election matchup by a startling 14 points, 52 percent to 38 percent; trails former Florida governor Jeb Bush by 11 points, 50 percent to 39 percent, and finishes five points behind billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the current GOP presidential frontrunner, 48 percent to 43 percent.
Sanders, meanwhile, topped Trump in a hypothetical matchup in Iowa, trailed Bush by two percentage points and lost to Fiorina by three points.
The situation was only slightly better for Clinton in New Hampshire, where she topped Trump by three points, but trailed Bush by seven points and Fiorina by eight points. By comparison, Sanders led Trump by 10 points, tied Bush and narrowly defeated Fiorina.
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For all her political problems including the controversy surrounding her handling of emails while running the State Department, Clinton remains highly regarded within her party in both Iowa and New Hampshire, with nearly three-fourths of the likely Democratic electorate viewing her favorably, according to the new polls. And her national polling numbers are far more impressive than her showings for now in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But the latest surveys further undercut the notion that she is the inevitable Democratic nominee and would be the strongest candidate to lead her party into battle next fall.