A new Quinnipiac poll puts Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders slightly ahead of Clinton in Iowa as his campaign prepares to seize his grassroots momentum.
ast week, we wrote about Bernie Sander’s bipartisan appeal. Critics of his campaign strategy say he may not have enough support within the Democratic party to secure the nomination, but that perception is being re-evaluated after a new Quinnipiac poll put him one point above former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in the crucial battleground state of Iowa. He also enjoys a comfortable nine point lead in New Hampshire, another important state for winning the primaries.
This is welcome news for supporters of the insurgent candidate, whose groundswell of grassroots energy has made him the figurehead of anti-establishment politics nationwide. But for Sanders, securing leads in Iowa and New Hampshire are only one part of his master plan to become the Democratic Party’s most progressive presidential candidate in decades. Phase two involves turning his grassroots support into votes, and using the momentum of early primary victories to propel his campaign forward.
Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, has theorized that Sanders could win Iowa and New Hampshire and lose everywhere else. While this seems counter-intuitive to the notion that these early primary states are vital to securing victory, Silver’s argument’s are built on solid ground. However, the Sanders campaign says they aren’t content to win those states and call it a day. They have a plan to turn that initial victory into one that sweeps the Democratic landscape.
Speaking to Bloomberg‘s Arit John, Sanders’ top adviser Tad Devine revealed plans to convert the Iowa and New Hampshire momentum into victories in other states. “It begins by winning, and not losing,” he said. “If you lose, that’s very different than if you win. The coverage that you get, the way people look at you, the way the press covers you—it’s just a fundamentally different situation.”
He continued: “If we can succeed in New Hampshire, and I think all the polls would suggest right now that we’re on a very successful course there, we can come out of there with tremendous momentum, and I think that, more than any other single other factor, is going to affect what happens.”
Devine compared the 2015 primaries to the 1984 race between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale, noting that Hart beat Mondale in New Hampshire, but didn’t walk away with the nomination. “He did not put in place a mechanism to receive the nomination,” he said. “He put in place a mechanism to gain momentum, but he didn’t put in place a mechanism to take advantage of that momentum. He didn’t satisfy the requirements for ballot access everywhere, the delegate slating process. He didn’t really get people in those later states familiar with him and his story. We’re not going to make that mistake.”
Arit John sums up the plan like this:
“Basically the plan is to focus on the early states, build momentum in the later ones, focus on states where they have a competitive advantage, and then be ready to massively expand the scope of the campaign with the help of donations that could pour in following early victories.”
The plan isn’t completely unique. Every candidate understands the importance of gaining momentum by winning early primary states. But the Sanders’ campaign is not content to falter after those victories. At the very least, they understand they’ll have to work harder than Clinton’s team to convert enthusiasm in the early stages to concrete votes nationwide. So far, the plan is working. The grassroots support for Sanders is unprecedented, and it has helped him secure a narrow lead in Iowa and comfortable lead New Hampshire. The effects of a potential Biden candidacy remain to be seen, but early polling suggests he would pull equally from both Sanders and Clinton. Time will tell if “Phase 2” of Bernie’s master plan is as successful as “Phase 1” has been.
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