Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Clinton vs. Sanders: New poll results and how Sanders' wins could help Clinton

Bernie could very well take both Iowa and New Hampshire according to a new poll.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) reports the poll and then peeks at a possible future.

The smart Beltway money has suddenly decided, based on a handful of polls, that we’ve got ourselves a real race on the Democratic side. A new Monmouth University poll finds Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire among likely Democratic primary voters by 53-39. Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll finds Sanders leading Clinton in Iowa by 49-44 among likely Democratic caucus-goers. A new Public Policy Polling survey puts Clinton up in Iowa by 46-40, but that’s a tightening, and the polling averages clearly suggest a tightening in Iowa as well.

So Sanders may well be surging. We’ll know more tomorrow, when the Des Moines Register poll — the gold standard in Iowa polling — is set to drop.

But in the event that the Sanders surge continues, but doesn’t take down Clinton — and a Clinton loss by no means can be ruled out — it could prove a good thing for her candidacy.

If Clinton had wrapped up the nomination with little challenge, it might have spared the Clinton campaign and top Democrats who support her some tense moments. But a serious battle for the nomination could end up offering more upside than downside. As one senior Democrat remarked to me earlier today, daily political combat hones campaigns. It forces them to respond and innovate and deal with crises. It pushes them out of their comfort zones. It forces candidates to make arguments and to grow.

Just look at what we’re seeing now. The Clinton campaign — nervous about the growing Sanders threat — is kicking things into high gear. It has been aggressively challenging Sanders’ record on guns. It released the first piece of her tax plan yesterday, a proposal to hit those who earn over $5 million per year with a tax surcharge. Per reporting from Jennifer Epstein and Jonathan Cohn, the Clinton camp today rolled out two more pieces of this plan, a call for expanding the estate tax and a call to close various loopholes employed by the wealthy.

This is a campaign that’s fighting hard. That’s a good thing for it.

But consider this. The "daily political combat" doesn't always work in favor of a candidate. Consider that Jeb Bush is still at the bottom of the pack after a year on the campaign trail, often coming under fire, and millions of dollars spent. Steve Benen (MaddowBlog) reports how Republicans still don't like Jeb.

Afterthought: Yes, I am hedging my bets on this one. I do not pretend to know whether a double Iowa-New Hampshire win will propel Sanders or will just energize Clinton supporters in southern states. See Sargent's Plum Line post for more along these lines.

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