Hillary Clinton may have narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in Iowa by a fraction of a percent, but it certainly wasn’t a win for her campaign.
In May of 2015, right after an unofficial announcement revealed Sanders’ plans to run for president, he was polling at a mere 15 percent in Iowa. This was far behind Clinton, who had 60 percent of the vote, according to a survey done by Quinnipiac University. The survey report itself states that Sanders may have gotten a higher percentage than he actually should have because the “news that he was going to make the race… occurred while this poll was being taken.”
Needless to say, things weren’t looking good for Bernie Sanders. He was the socialist, the independent, the underdog.
Hillary Clinton had name recognition. Her husband is credited with getting the United States out of crippling debt in the 90s. (The $19 trillion debt we know now is largely a result of post-9/11 George Bush’s military and security actions.) She led a successful career as an attorney and a United States Senator from New York. She ran for president in 2008 and upon her loss against another “underdog,” (a new, young, African American, US senator) worked under the Obama administration as Secretary of State.
So what happened between then and now? Why did a grumpy, Jewish, white guy with a New York accent capture the hearts of millions of Democrats crying for change? If you had asked a Bernie Sanders supporter two years ago if they wanted another old white guy in the White House, you would have been told “no” immediately. And yet, despite the chance of Hillary Clinton being the first female president, young Democrats flocked towards the outsider.
Sanders is running a brilliantly different campaign. He does not accept donations from Super PACs; Clinton does. He is almost exclusively funded by donations from average Americans – as he himself often says, the average donation to his campaign is just $27.
Young people turned to Sanders because he was angry. He spoke of revolution, of true change, of real justice – something many 30-somethings and older, jaded by years of watching the government solve problems only to cause them again, are far too cynical to believe in. A few ‘out-there’ students told their friends, started blogging, and so it began.
As soon as Sanders began to garner attention on millennial websites like Tumblr and Reddit, Sanders’ campaign staff flocked to social media. They created Snapchat filters and Subreddits where supporters could organize. They took hold of a slogan created by fans, “Feel the Bern,” and put it on t-shirts and mugs, chanted it at rallies.
The Sanders campaign took the few young people it had behind it to create a movement of millions across the country.
The same cannot be said for the Clinton campaign.
In 2008, Clinton lost the Iowa caucus to Barack Obama (by 8 percent) and John Edwards, two younger, less experienced, less famous politicians who she thought she should have won against. So this time around, she focused on women.
Hillary drove home the work she did for women as a member of the American Bar Association and as a US Senator. Her team created #ImWithHer, which emphasizes her gender and motherhood as a key component of her campaign.
Yet, in New Hampshire’s primary last Tuesday, Sanders took the female vote by 11 points.
Quinnipiac University, the same group that executed the May 2015 poll in Iowa, released new national polling results on February 5. The results indicated Clinton had a narrow two percent lead over Sanders (44 to 42) – a number well within the margin of error that the university itself referred to it as a tie.
This data also puts Sanders ahead in the general election. By percentage of the vote, Sanders’ topped Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and tied with Marco Rubio. Based on percentage, Clinton only won over Trump. She tied with Cruz.
Other nationwide polls have Clinton anywhere between 12 and 21 percent above Sanders. That is still a shockingly close race, considering Sanders jumped almost 35 percent from initial Iowa polls to caucus night, and Clinton’s initial polls put her ten percent above her official Iowa results.
Clinton may have a narrow lead over Sanders nationally, but that rapidly diminishing lead speaks wonders about her campaign strategies. Her career, endorsements, and 2008 campaign – not to mention her witness to her husband’s successful presidential bids – should have made her a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. But her old-fashioned campaign finance, awkward presence on social media, (the “Hill Yes” campaign came shortly after the success of “Feel the Bern”) and ongoing e-mail scandal dropped her from her pedestal.
If the similarities between Sanders’ 2016 success and Obama’s 2008 campaign are any indication, Clinton might as well put a halt on those primary night victory parties – she has a lot to worry about.
Connect With Jess Colopy On Twitter: https://twitter.com/crisscrossjess
Featured photo courtesy of Ted Eytan. Sanders courtesy of Phil Roeder.