The 2008 Democrat nomination was permanently reshuffled when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Caucus. Obama’s win surprised pundits at the time, but a new poll from Bloomberg/Des Moines Register suggests another Hillary defeat is possible. This potential upset is being broadcast five months early.
In the new survey, Hillary has the support of just 37 percent of likely Democrat caucus voters. Sanders has nearly doubled his support, garnering 30 percent in the poll. Vice President Joe Biden, who is not a candidate, earns 14 percent support.
Without Biden in the race, his supporters break a little more than evenly for Hillary, putting her just 8 points ahead of Sanders, 43-35 percent. In May, Hillary had just under 60% of the vote, while Sanders had just 16 percent.
“It looks like what people call the era of inevitability is over,” Ann Selzer, whose firm conducted the poll. “She has lost a third of the support that she had in May, so any time you lose that much that quickly, it’s a wake-up call.”
Seltzer has been polling Iowa caucus-goers for decades and has one of the best records of predicting the outcome of the vote.
It should be noted that this survey comes after Hillary has blanketed the Hawkeye State with an expensive ad buy highlighting her biography and her political record. Hillary’s drop in the poll reflects a challenge for candidates as well known as Clinton. Voters already have pretty firm perceptions of Hillary and are somewhat immune from the impact of extensive ad buys.
No other Democrat candidates have been advertising in Iowa and Hillary’s ad buy was more than all the Republican candidates combined. It has to worry Democrat observers that a nearly saturating ad buy can’t stem defections from Hillary.
Sanders, a quirky, aging socialist from New England isn’t, on paper, the kind of candidate who would ignite the more resonant voters in Iowa. Seltzer observed, however, that Sanders makes voters “feel good about being a Democrat.”
In many ways, the rise of Sanders is a mirror reflection of the Republican voters’ dissatisfaction that is propelling Donald Trump in the GOP nomination contest. The entire voting public, at both ends of the political spectrum, are rebelling against the national parties’ candidates.
In an age of great anxiety, status quo is anathema to voters.
The Sanders threat for Hillary is also beginning to look like a replay of 2008. In that election, Obama overwhelmed Hillary with support of young, liberal voters who participated in their first caucus. Sanders trounces Hillary, 50-27%, among caucus-goers under 45. He leads self-described liberals by 5 points and beats Hillary by 12 points among Democrats who plan to participate in the caucuses for the first time.
There is a glimmer of hope for Hillary, though. Just over 60 percent of potential Democrat caucus-goers don’t think the email scandal surrounding Hillary is important. That said, she still only gets 37 percent support.
If Democrats start worrying about the email scandal, the floor could drop out from under Hillary very quickly.