Iowa Poll: Underdogs Sanders and O’Malley’s Path to Victory Leads Through Clinton Cash

Bernie Sanders
AP Photos

Roughly 66 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers say one of the scandals looming over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign could hurt her if she were to become the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2016 general election.

That’s according to a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll of 437 likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa conducted by Selzer & Company from May 25 to May 29, with a margin of error of 4.7 percent.

That 66 percent number—if used effectively by just-declared former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont—could prove catastrophic for the ex-First Lady, former U.S. Senator, and the nation’s former top diplomat. Or it could be just a flash in the pan, as the poll also found that roughly 70 percent of possible Democratic Iowa caucus voters “Say they aren’t bothered by any one of three issues that Clinton opponents have pushed as controversies,” according to the The Des Moines Register‘s Tony Leys.

The scandals – Benghazi, her private email server, and Clinton Cash revelations – loom over Clinton as she has resisted addressing the scandals, repeatedly dodging questions from the media.

“Among likely Democratic caucusgoers, 71 percent say they think the controversies around the Clintons are “just a bad rap.” But among likely Republican caucusgoers, 84 percent believe the controversies show a pattern of unethical behavior by the Clintons,” notes The Des Moines Register.

Roughly 72 percent said Clinton is their first choice for president, leaving the other two official Democratic candidates – Sanders and O’Malley – as underdogs.

Of course, while Democrats aren’t bothered by the scandals personally, their concerns about the political effects could be exploited, as O’Malley and Sanders both seek to outflank Clinton on the left.

In a piece that’s gotten quite a bit of attention on Sunday and Monday, Radio Iowa notes both Sanders and O’Malley are drawing crowds as they travel Iowa.

Sanders has increased support by five percent since an earlier poll taken in January. The Des Moines Register suggested he is the top pick among 16 percent of those polled.

Sanders came in as a second choice, followed by Vice President Joe Biden, who came in as a third.

O’Malley – who formally announced his White House bid over the weekend – came in as a fifth choice.

“Sanders attracted overflow crowds in Ames and Davenport, then Sanders capped his three-day trip with a Saturday night stop in Kensett, where more than 300 people greeted him,” Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson wrote.

Fox News’ White House reporter Ed Henry said that is more attendees than he has seen at Clinton events – but that could be because Clinton has opted for small scripted round tables with preselected voters.

“People are extremely frustrated with status quo economics, the greed of the top one percent, establishment politics,” Sanders said to reporters. “…People want a movement, to be part of a movement that takes on the billionaire class. Let me be as blunt as I can be: you have a handful of people in this country with enormous economic and political power who are getting it all.”

Iowa Radio reported that voters said they want Sanders to “yank” Clinton to the left; however, other voters are opting to support O’Malley, saying they have “Clinton fatigue.”

Although O’Malley is the first choice of only three percent of Iowa caucus goers, he has embraced the underdog role.

“I”m most comfortable actually as an underdog,” O’Malley said . “When I ran for mayor, my two opponents both had name recognition north of 80 percent and I was the first choice of a whopping seven percent of my neighbors.”

O’Malley hammered the political class, just like Sanders is doing, in his announcement speech in Baltimore over the weekend.

“Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton,” O’Malley said. “I bet he would. Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street, the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families. It is a sacred trust, to be earned from the American people, and exercised on behalf of the people of these United States.”

While neither O’Malley nor Sanders has zoned in yet on “Clinton Cash,” the narrative put forward by Peter Schweizer of the Government Accountability Institute and Breitbart News in his book, it’s clear that 66 percent of Democrats in Iowa are worried Clinton can’t bounce back in a general election from these concerns about her finances, her husband’s finances, and those of the Clinton Foundation.

Such resounding polling numbers and enthusiastic crowds might push ambitious politicians — just a stone’s throw from the top — to do things they previously thought they couldn’t. Only the future will tell if O’Malley, Sanders, both, or someone else takes the plunge and moves Clinton out of the way with questions about the cash. The pathway is there.


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