Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders signs an autograph during the opening of his Cedar Rapids, Iowa, field headquarters. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)
The Democratic primary race might finally be starting to heat up.
Bernie Sanders is gaining ground on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, which shows support for the Vermont senator has grown 10 points since July.
Sanders’s surge coincides with a nine-point drop in support for the former secretary of state, bringing Clinton’s favorability among likely Democratic voters below 50 percent for the first time since she entered the race.
While still leading the Democratic pack with 47 percent of support, Clinton’s road to the primaries has been a bumpy one. The controversy over Clinton’s email has continued to escalate, prompting an FBI probe into whether Clinton compromised national security by using her personal email server to discuss official state matters.
Earlier this month, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggested that Clinton’s controversies were having a negative impact on her favorability among voters — particularly white female voters, the percentage of whom viewed Clinton positively dropped from 44 to 34 between June and July.
While Clinton has been busy defending her email practices, Sanders has been touring the country like a 73-year-old liberal rock star, drawing tens of thousands of people to campaign rallies whose attendance rivals those of Barack Obama in 2007. After he addressed a large crowd at last week’s Iowa State Fair — where Clinton chose not to speak — an informal poll of fairgoers saw Sanders surpassed Clinton as their preferred Democratic candidate.
But whether Sanders stands to pose a real challenge for Clinton remains to be seen. Political statistician Nate Silver points out that, since 1972, of all the non-incumbent candidates whose nomination — by either party — was deemed “inevitable,” Al Gore was the only one to go undefeated in the primaries. And given the Clinton family’s years of experience with public scrutiny, Silver predicts it would take a scandal much bigger than the current email debacle to seriously hurt Hillary’s chances at the nomination.
A last-minute Joe Biden campaign, on the other hand, is different story. The vice president has reportedly been meeting with advisers and mulling another presidential run, which Silver and other pundits have predicted could actually change the course of Clinton’s candidacy. Still, according to the recent CNN/ORC poll, Democratic voters say they trust Clinton more than any other candidate — including Biden — on issues of foreign policy, the economy and race relations.
For now, Clinton still leads the Democratic pack with 47 percent in support and plenty of room between her and Sanders, now holding second place with 29 percent. But the Iowa caucuses are still more than five months away, which is plenty of time for things to get at least a bit more interesting.