A new Fox News poll of the Democrat primary race shows socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders edging past Hillary Clinton for the first time — and at a faster rate than Barack Obama outpaced Clinton in 2008.
The national poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday, shows Sanders with 47 percent support, 3 points higher than Clinton, with 44 percent support.
Just one month ago, Clinton led Sanders by 12 points in the Fox poll. The change in fortunes is due, in part, to Sanders’ landslide victory in New Hampshire and his almost-level outcome in the Iowa caucus.
The most interesting thing about this latest national poll, however, is how quickly Sanders has edged Clinton. In 2008, Barack Obama did not lead a national poll against Clinton until after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina AND Florida and Michigan had voted.
The first time Obama led a national poll against Clinton was on the eve of Super Tuesday voting in 2008.
In 2008, Super Tuesday was held on February 5th. Twenty-two states and an American territory voted on Super Tuesday. Obama won 12 states, while Clinton captured two and America Samoa.
For the next two weeks, Obama and Clinton traded leads in national polling. After March, Clinton would only recapture the lead in national polling a handful of times.
When Obama first took the lead in national polling in 2008, he had won Iowa and South Carolina. Clinton had won New Hampshire, Nevada and claimed victories in Michigan and Florida. (Because of a dispute over DNC rules, neither candidate campaigned in Michigan or Florida.)
The Clinton and Obama campaigns had also been furiously campaigning ahead of Super Tuesday in 22 states. Again, it was only on the eve of voting in these 22 states, where Obama was poised for victory in a dozen, did he take a lead in a national poll.
The Clinton campaign has tried to argue that the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary aren’t representative of the nation, and Democrat electorate, at large. It has argued that, while Sanders has done well in these early states, Clinton still has the edge for the nomination as voting moves to other contests.
The risk of that argument is that past performance can in fact influence future results. Sanders’ wins, or in the case of Iowa, near win, have made him a more plausible contender for the White House. This is most clear in recent polls in Nevada, which votes on Saturday. In the last few days, Sanders has surged in the Silver State into a tie with Clinton.
Sanders surge to the top of a national poll at this time, then, is simply extraordinary. Nevada and South Carolina haven’t even voted yet and Super Tuesday is still seeks away.
Sanders is simply doing far better than even Barack Obama in 2008. Of course, it could equally be the case that Hillary Clinton is simply that much weaker than she was 8 years ago.
It is certainly fitting to quote Karl Marx here. “History repeats itself,” Marx said. “First as tragedy, second as farce.”