Bernie Sanders Is “Surging” In New Hampshire, But Don’t Read Too Much Into It

Two new polls show Bernie Sanders rising in the polls in New Hampshire, but they likely don't mean anything in the long term.

Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders

There’s some new polling out of New Hampshire that seems to show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders surging in his race against Hillary Clinton, but it’s much less than meets the eye:

Bernie Sanders is picking up steam in New Hampshire, according to recent polls.

The independent Vermont senator running for the Democratic nomination picked up 31 percent of the vote among likely Granite State Democratic primary voters, compared with 41 percent for Clinton, in a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday.

“Most political observers felt that Hillary Clinton’s large early lead among Democratic voters would eventually [shrink] a bit over time,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “But in New Hampshire right now, the lead has shrunk a lot, and this is a much different Democratic primary race than we are seeing in other states so far.”

The results also suggest a gender gap between Clinton and Sanders that could play out in the primary matchup. Among female voters, 47 percent said they would vote for Clinton, while only 28 percent backed Sanders.

With men, however, Sanders leads, 35 percent to 32 percent. And among those who said that they “know both” of the candidates, Clinton’s advantage over Sanders grows slimmer: 38 percent to 35 percent.

This polls came out a day after another poll that put Clinton at 44% and Sanders at 32% in the Granite state. That poll, however was conducted online and was largely dismissed by most observers. With this new Suffolk poll though, it would seem that New Hampshire voters are giving Sanders some kind of serious attention at the moment, a fact which seems to be confirmed by the fact that he has been drawing larger than expected crowds both in New Hampshire and elsewhere. However, there are several reasons to believe that what we’re seeing here is a temporary phenomenon that is unlikely to be the beginning of any kind of a trend. For one thing, while Sanders seems to be surging in New Hampshire, there is now sign of anything similar in the recent polling in Iowa or South Carolina, or on the national level. This suggests that whatever we’re seeing here is something that’s limited to New Hampshire itself, which makes sense given the fact that Sanders has represented neighboring Vermont in the House and Senate for the past quarter century. New Hampshire Democrats, therefore, are likely well acquainted with Sanders and likely somewhat receptive to his messages. That, combined with the fact that these polls are so early in the process that they don’t mean anything, makes it likely that what we’re seeing here is a temporary phenomenon involving voters who are flirting with Sanders as a candidate but who will end up voting for Clinton next February.

David Axelrod makes basically this same point:

Democratic voters might have a fun and flirty “fling” with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his dark-horse candidacy during the early stages of the presidential primary, but they’ll eventually settle down with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, former Obama aide David Axelrod said.

“People have will have a fling with Bernie. Bernie is like a great fun date because you know he’s not going to be around town too long, and I think you’re going to see people flirt with that,” Axelrod, who also advised former President Clinton, said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

“But I think Hillary’s fundamental approach reflects the mainstream of the Democratic Party. I think she’ll be the nominee of the party.”

Axelrod is likely to be proven correct. If Democratic voters were really looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton, they wouldn’t be rallying behind a septugenarian socialist Senator from Vermont who has no chance of winning, they’d be looking at another candidate or potential candidate who could provide a more realistic alternative. Admittedly, neither Martin O’Malley nor Lincoln Chafee seems likely to fit that bill themselves, but they both have records far more amenable to being a potential candidate than Sanders does. Additionally, it’s possible that other Democrats may still get in the race, particularly former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who has been spending a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire but has yet to officially declare his candidacy. These New Hampshire people rallying behind Sanders at the moment are not dissimilar to the people who rallied behind Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. They know that he can’t win, but he’s fun to listen to and there’s not much harm in telling a pollster that you support him for now. When it come time to vote, the vast majority of them will line up behind Hillary Clinton. So, don’t pay too much attention to those reports about Sanders surging right now, because it most likely won’t last.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    It means something, it means that his message is resonating. That could well play out in the long run. (Just like those annoying drum circle hippies at Occupy encampments ended up meaning something)

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Sanders is a neighbor. New Hampsherites tend to be generous to candidates from neighboring states. Right now Bernie is helping Hillary, not hurting her, by defining the left edge of the field. If Webb gets in he’ll define the right edge. And Hillary will be where she wants to be.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    I see this as a protest vote, an attempt to warn Hillary: “don’t try to triangulate too far.”

    When it comes time to vote here in Illinois, I’ll probably vote for Bernie for the same reason.

  4. Argon says:

    At least Bernie is someone useful to hear in debates. I don’t think the GOP has that going for it.

  5. Tyrell says:

    I would like to see Chuck Robb considered, at least for vp. He is moderate and experienced. Also connected to the Johnsons.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @grumpy realist: I tend to agree with Charles Pierce, HRC laid out some solid policy and, “If she trims or hedges, the country now has her words to measure her by. The speech was long and thick, but there wasn’t a triangle in it.”

  7. stonetools says:

    Frankly, I’d like to see more posting and discussion of the policy laid out by Sanders and Clinton and some comparing and contrasting(hint, hint).I mean, it’s possible Sanders is surging because he actually has something to say, and the people like what they hear…

  8. Anonne says:

    Bernie Sanders’ message does resonate and he doesn’t mince words.

    Last night on Hardball, Chris Matthews was blathering on about Bernie identifying himself as a socialist without looking at Bernie’s substantive policy positions. Bernie uses tough rhetoric but his policies are pragmatic. He’s not some kook, although he adheres more to the ideal. Bernie and Hillary’s latest pronouncements are not that far off policy-wise. He’s calling things green while she is saying it’s blue plus yellow.

  9. Tyrell says:

    I have not seen a whole lot of information about what Sanders would do. Most lf the news channels are portraying him as way out away from the mainstream .

  10. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: They have to because Sanders is making too much sense. THe corporate overlords are not pleased.

  11. Todd says:

    Far be it for me to disagree with David Axelrod, but I think he’s describing what will happen in the General election if/when Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee … people who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary will surely come back to support her over any Republican alternative. I don’t see any reason for that to happen in the primaries though. As others have mentioned, Bernie Sander’s message is what is resonating with supporters. Many people who will vote for Clinton in the general, really do very much wish that there was a different choice though.

    Also, as to the socialist label. This is just a theory of mine, but I think that 6+ year of calling someone such as Barack Obama a “socialist”, when he is clearly far from it, has dulled the impact of using that as a weapon. In other words, even if/when Hillary Clinton is the nominee, the entire right is going to warn against 4 more years of “socialism” … is that warning really going to be any scarier if the Democratic nominee is Bernie Sanders and they try to say “but he’s a REAL socialist”. The boy who cried wolf.

  12. stonetools says:

    @Todd:

    You might be right about ” socialist” Among right wingers, it pretty much is a synonym for “has cooties” now. It doesn’t actually mean anything, and I expect right wingers to start calling Hillary “socialist” shortly.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @stonetools:

    Frankly, I’d like to see more posting and discussion of the policy laid out by Sanders and Clinton and some comparing and contrasting

    What are you, some kind of long-hair pinko egghead kook? This is America.

  14. Tyrell says:

    I read some of Sanders ideas. The one about getting more help to seniors is good. But I don’t know
    where all the money is going to come from. The Chinese are not going to keep paying for all this stuff.

  15. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    But I don’t know where all the money is going to come from. The Chinese are not going to keep paying for all this stuff.

    How are the Chinese paying for any of this “stuff?”

    Any more so than the Scottish or the Liberians or the French?

    We make stuff, we sell stuff, we buy stuff. We really don’t care very much who we trade with as long as they pay their bills.

    We set our national priorities. If our trading partners in China, Scotland, Liberia or France want to affect the policies we enact to keep our poor seniors from eating catfood to prevent imminent starvation, they will bake it into their pricing.

    Yes, China is the largest foreign holder of US debt — though its share is nowhere near one-quarter of the total. But Japan owns an almost identical amount of Treasuries, and its share is growing like a weed.

    Do you know why China and Japan want to own US Treasuries? (Hint – it’s not to prevent Sanders from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.)

  16. de stijl says:

    Where was Obama in the polls at this point in 2007?

    I’m going to whole-heartedly back Sanders. I like Clinton and think she would make a fine President. I thought so in ’93 when I figured out she was smarter and more technocratically (is this a real word?) astute than her hubby.

    Bill is smart, but Hillary is smarter. Her Senate career is too short to really extrapolate, but my gut tells me she is a better horse trader. But she still has that taint of the DNC era and her later AUMF votes.

    I will caucus for, stand up for, and vote for Sanders. In my precinct he very well may win. If he does not, I will vote for Clinton in a second.

    My idealistic self wants Sanders to be the Democratic nominee, but my practical self wants Clinton to be the nominee. I prefer Sanders policy-wise, but he is more likely to lose in the general. I would rather have a Democrat President whom I don’t fully trust over any Republican.

  17. Nikki says:

    @Tyrell:

    But I don’t know where all the money is going to come from.

    No need to keep borrowing from the Chinese. The money will come from raising taxes on the 1%ers who are currently in possession of the vast majority of this nation’s wealth.

  18. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    Where was Obama in the polls at this point in 2007?

    According to RCP’s average in mid-June 2007, Clinton led Obama nationally 36-22%.

    Today, she leads Sanders 58.6-11.6%.

  19. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: I think that Sanders would pick up more support as an independent. There have bee some independents in the past that did very well: Nader, Perot. Both of whom pulled in support from people who were tired of the tweedle dee – tweedle dum look alike, sound alike of the two parties. The people want to see a difference.
    Who ever the Democratic nominee is, they will have to put a lot of distance between themselves and the failed policies of the Obama administration.

  20. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    Thanks! I kinda feel stupid for asking the question that could be easily answered by Googling.

    I think I was trying to imply that Sanders being the nominee is not an impossibility. Highly unlikely, but not impossible. Even if Clinton implodes because of some scandal it would likely be O’Malley.

    Back in 2007 I thought Obama was a pipe dream. I thought he was thoughtful and coolly professorial, and capable of delivering a great speech, but I had latched onto Biden. In hindsight, I probably was thinking that a black man could not win the general election. Thankfully, I was wrong.

    In 2008, I caucused for Biden on the first vote, but it was apparent he was toast from the get go – wasn’t going to make the threshold. Obama was my second. After the first count I moved to another corner and raised my hand for Obama.

    In my precinct Obama creamed HRC (judging by the speeches mostly because of Iraq), but it was an inner city precinct and I assumed that Clinton would win the state. I got home, turned on the TV and “Wow!”

    This time around I am going to caucus for Sanders, but I expect Clinton to win. (Probably Sanders will win my precinct, but barring unexpected events, Clinton will likely win the state.)

    Being an early state voter is weird because you want to do the right thing according to your own principles, but you also want to make sure that that person is electable. It’s surprisingly ethically challenging.

  21. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    I think that Sanders would pick up more support as an independent.

    What is the likelihood that Sanders, as an independent, could win the presidency? What is the likelihood that Sanders, as an independent, would queer the election in an unexpected way?

    Perot prevented Clinton from getting a clear majority and Nader (and the Supreme Court) gave us Bush. Thanks, Florida!

    I would not vote for Sanders as an independent. I would vote for Sanders as a Democrat. But I expect to vote for Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

    I don’t want to go with war with Iran and I think the Supreme Court is biggest issue of this (and of any Presidential election) so I will gladly vote for whomever the Democratic nominee is.

  22. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: Good thoughts. There has actually been talk of a US – Iran coalition to combat ISIS. Not a bad idea. If they can’t beat us they can join us.

  23. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    Iran is a natural partner. We had a political break-up because of the ’78 Revolution. But Iran is our ally in all but name in all areas of our ME endeavors. They have been there for us since in the early days of the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war.

    You may not be aware of this, but Iranian “irregular” forces are fighting ISIS right now. We provide them air support actually.

  24. LWA says:

    If every Democrat who said he wanted to vote for Bernie actually voted for Bernie, he would win.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    In hindsight, I probably was thinking that a black man could not win the general election.

    I thought he was a potential president from the first time I saw him, when he spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention. As far as I can remember, he was the first black politician to ever inspire that thought in my mind.

    The reason I used to think a black president was such a long shot was not so much how he’d do in the general election, but something else I’d noticed, which was that black politicians tended to be preemptively written off as outside the mainstream. This effect was very subtle and wasn’t necessarily due to overt racism. Part of it was institutional: blacks were (and still are to a large degree) wildly underrepresented in the two main offices from which presidential nominees arise: the Senate and governorships. Obama was the fifth black senator in history. And there have only been four black governors.

    It’s also reflected in the way there was a concerted effort by Obama’s opponents–both the Hillary campaign and the Republicans–to paint Obama as a black radical. It didn’t just show up in the whole Rev. Wright fiasco but in the continual efforts to link Obama, rhetorically or otherwise, with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. That’s why people reacted so strongly to Bill Clinton’s attempts to minimize Obama’s win in SC by bringing up Jesse Jackson’s win there in 1988. Whatever Clinton’s intention when he made that remark, it was perceived by many in the party as an attempt to send the message that Obama was a fringe black candidate who lacked broad appeal. Obama, of course, was in reality a thoroughly mainstream Democrat, and most of the electorate figured this out pretty quickly.

    Sanders also has been painted as non-mainstream, and it’s no more fair than it was for Obama. In his case, it all has to do with his self-identification as a “socialist.” If he had never adopted that label, I don’t think he’d be perceived as any more outside the mainstream than Elizabeth Warren. But unlike with Obama’s blackness, I don’t think it’s a surmountable barrier, even if he were running in an election without a powerhouse candidate like Hillary. I do agree with Todd’s theory that the GOP’s overuse of the word “socialist” as a slur against Obama has helped make it seem less intimidating to liberal voters. But its taboo status in American politics is still very much in place, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    Iran is a natural partner. We had a political break-up because of the ’78 Revolution.

    Um, well, yeah. And the whole “assassinated your president to install the Shah” thing. But they’ve probably forgotten that, right?

  27. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    I thought he was a potential president from the first time I saw him, when he spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention. As far as I can remember, he was the first black politician to ever inspire that thought in my mind.

    I saw that speech too and I was blown away. He made his bones with that speech – that and the later 2008 “A More Perfect Union” Jeremiah Wright / race speech.

    He could do it. But I had that cynical hiccup where I thought that America was going to be okay with a serious black candidate, but not with a black President. I underestimated us. I was wrong.

    Side note – God bless Iowa. Without that win, 2008 would have unfolded much differently and we would be looking at the tail end of the Clinton presidency.

    black politicians tended to be preemptively written off as outside the mainstream. This effect was very subtle and wasn’t necessarily due to overt racism.

    I have an over-riding theory that Americans say and say and say they want to rock the boat and be totally radical until it comes the time they actually have to pull the lever and then they want stability and a light hand on the tiller.

    Obama was doubly blessed: he had the mien and demeanor of a steady hand. A bit cool and professorial, but also a little Eisenhoweresque in a way. Obama was a bet with many voters because of his skin and his back story, but he won because he was pretty clear that he was a cool head that wasn’t going to do anything foolish that would harm the country. I think most folks were actually confused that he actually carried through with his campaign promise to address universal healthcare.

    The second blessing was that it was 2008 and the Democrat was always going to win. Bush and Republicans were toxic. My 7 AM BM would have beat McCain. Once he beat Clinton for the nomination and once the thought that Obama was serious enough to be president sank in, he was a lock.

    to paint Obama as a black radical.

    I guess this a perceptual thing, and maybe a visceral Southern thing that I don’t get, but my reaction to liking Obama to black radicals was always laughter. He struck me as a level headed actuary type guy. But it still has resonance; my mother, to this day, is convinced he is a closet Muslim, a Manchurian Candidate, eagerly beavering away to undermine America from within. She is a nice lady who watches way too much FOX News. She is the common clay of the new West, you know?

    I had always liked Bill. He’s never going to be my favorite politician, but he didn’t screw the pooch when he was in the big chair. Obviously, he spikes the charisma meter. But I wanted to kick his onions after those remarks after SC. It was getting uncomfortably close to Southern Strategy rhetoric coming out of a Democrat’s mouth. An ex-Presidents mouth. It still matters. He diminished himself.

    I like Todd’s over usage theory. The party that cried “Socialist!”

    Eff me, I still remember when Grassley, of all people, went hardcore Death Panel kookish. When what’s-her-name, Caribou Barbie, went there, it was sort of a given, but when Grassley piled on I knew that the Republicans were starting to believe their own BS. When Palin is your thought-leader, you’re going down the wrong path. You’ve moved beyond sampling your own supply and have become a full-blown addict.

    I see your point on Sander’s Socialist label. It is probably a bridge too far. Had he chosen “Social Democrat” 40 years ago, it might be different.

    By the way, what do you think will be different in Hillary Derangement Syndrome other the ODS we see today? Just more misogynistic?

  28. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Shh!

    I was trying to be nice.

    Tyrell has been informed about 1953 and Mosaddegh and the US and British involvement in installing Pahlavi about seventeen times in the last year. He always forgets.

    I truly was just trying to be nice to the guy.

    I stand by my theory that Iran is our most natural ally in the ME though. Throw some cash and attention at Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and we’ve covered all the bases.

  29. de stijl says:

    @LWA:

    If every Democrat who said he wanted to vote for Bernie actually voted for Bernie, he would win.

    Sanders might be able to win the nomination, but would he / could he win in the general election?

  30. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    I stand by my theory that Iran is our most natural ally in the ME though.

    Not sayin’ I disagree, either.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    my reaction to liking Obama to black radicals was always laughter.

    In a rational world, that would be the only reaction. I always like to illustrate this point with an analogy: back in 2009, when the RNC elected Michael Steele as its chair, David Duke declared that they’d elected a “radical black racist.” To almost anyone, left or right, that statement sounds so utterly absurd as to elicit anything from chuckles to a blank stare. And I think even a lot of right-wingers would agree that Duke was just using “radical black racist” as a coded form of the N-word. To him, all blacks are radical racists. Yet there’s no more reason to characterize Obama that way than Steele. But that’s exactly what the right has spent the last 8 years doing.

    But it still has resonance; my mother, to this day, is convinced he is a closet Muslim, a Manchurian Candidate, eagerly beavering away to undermine America from within.

    My grandmother is a New York Jew originally from Poland, and a survivor of the Nazi camps. She has also, as far as I’m aware, been a consistent Democrat ever since she came to this country. When Obama first started running for president, she told my mother that she didn’t support him because he “only cares about black people.” After he ended up being nominated, my mother asked her who she’d vote for, him or McCain. She said she had decided to support Obama, even though he’s a Muslim.

    I had to laugh when I heard this story, because knowing my grandmother it was entirely predictable. I knew she was a bit of a racist. I also knew that, to her, the idea of voting for a Republican for president was almost incomprehensible. Her partisan loyalty took priority over her racial prejudices, exactly as I had expected they would.

    By the way, what do you think will be different in Hillary Derangement Syndrome other the ODS we see today? Just more misogynistic?

    That more or less sums it up. I’ve seen a great deal of misogyny on the part of her critics ever since her days as First Lady. And I think there’s a level on which misogynistic statements are more normalized and accepted in our culture than racist remarks. Part of it has to do with the fact that most people, including a lot of racists, have in principle come to accept the idea that race is a social construct. But gender is a real biological category. Many people use that relatively mundane fact as an excuse to engage in broad stereotyping they believe is supported by science but in fact is mostly just rehashed “Men are from Mars”-type pop psychology. As a result, I think people are a lot less cautious about gender stereotypes than they are about racial stereotypes.

  32. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    David Duke declared that they’d elected a “radical black racist.” To almost anyone, left or right, that statement sounds so utterly absurd as to elicit anything from chuckles to a blank stare. And I think even a lot of right-wingers would agree that Duke was just using “radical black racist” as a coded form of the N-word.

    All black people have a very narrow option for acceptance. You cannot be ever, ever be upset. If you want a middle-class or upper middle class job ever in your life you have to swallow four centuries of crap and call it good. Anger is unacceptable. You have to be seen as having moved beyond all that. Only lower class black folks can be angry. You have to separate yourself from them even if they are your family or friends.

    You can never mention the past. You can never mention the now. You can only live in this false bubble where pretend America is a race blind culture.

    And God bless most American Fortune 500 companies that have actively worked to make a race blind culture a reality from 8 to 5. (They also allowed us the rapid rise in gay rights and SSM acceptance.) No fooling, I’m kind of a lefty, but corporate America totally kicks ass on race and orientation issues. Our mixed economy got these one, two things pretty right.

    But life isn’t 8 to 5.

    Actually, all the important stuff happens outside of work hours.

    Also outside of work, black people get pulled over by the cops six times more often than their colleagues. DWB isn’t a joke; it’s a real thing. The reason we even know the acronym is because it happens to our friends and colleagues.

    But don’t mention it. Not that. That would just upset our nice, white friends. They want to be helpful as long as they don’t have to deal with the sordid details. They will try to help. They won’t get the fact that they really don’t get it.

    So step softly. Speak well. Be cool. Hush your mouth. Eyes on the prize.

    It breaks your heart, and guess what, it’s progress over what happened only a few years ago. White America will always want Black America to be grateful and compliant. Even now, that’s just the way it is.