Can Hillary Clinton lose the Democratic primary contest to her archrival, Bernie Sanders? For now, the simple answer is yes.
If the past is prologue to the future, then all indications going forward seem to suggest that Clinton, once the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination, is heading down the same road she once traveled in 2008 when a relatively unknown senator in the shape of Barack Obama suddenly materialized from nowhere and cleaned her clock pretty good.
As they say here, it is dejavu all over again. Sanders, a relatively obscure senator from Vermont who prides himself on being a socialist, and who entered the race for the White House as a toothless bulldog, is not just barking now, but is in fact biting deep into Clinton’s once-commanding poll numbers and chipping away at them.
Several polls from the two early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire either had Clinton tied with her opponent or losing to him atrociously. In the latest Monmouth University survey released last Tuesday, Sanders took 53 percent support over Clinton at 39 percent. Earlier in November, Clinton led the same poll with 48 percent support over Sanders’ 45 percent. And according to the latest Bloomberg Politics/De Moines Register poll, Clinton’s once huge lead over Sanders has shrunk to just 2 percent, at 42 percent to 40 percent respectively.
Losing both early states to Sanders could be devastating to Clinton’s chances of winning the nomination. A defeat in both states could build up momentum for Sanders who would then ride the crest of both victories into the next primary battleground state of South Carolina, the only early state where Clinton is leading him substantially by double digits for now.
The ongoing situation should leave the Clinton campaign terribly worried about the possibility of another humiliation, this time by a 74-year-old man who is not even a terrific campaigner like Obama was eight years ago. But the Clinton folks tell you they’re not worried the least bit. “No, I’m not nervous at all,” Clinton told Savannah Guthrie of MSNBC’s “Today” program the other morning when the host asked her if she should be nervous at all that the tide had shockingly turned in her opponent’s favor. “I’m working hard, and I intend to keep working as hard as I can until the last vote or caucus-goer expresses an opinion. I’m excited about where we are,” added Clinton.
Clinton is only whistling past the graveyard and will have a hard time convincing discerning watchers her campaign isn’t worried. But you know her campaign is worried when you see it going on a relentless offensive against the Sanders campaign over Sanders’ universal healthcare coverage proposal and his refusal to support commonsense gun laws in the past.
Fundamentally, you know the Clinton folks are rattled when you have Clinton herself calling into several television programs to pan Sanders and pitch herself. “When it really mattered, Senator Sanders voted with the gun lobby and I voted against the gun lobby,” Clinton said in a phone-in interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” earlier this week.
Finally, you know the Clinton team is discombobulated when, after justifiably avoiding Joe Scarborough’s “Morning Joe” program since her campaign began, Clinton herself now thought it was all right to phone in Friday morning to further express her theory of the case against Sanders. In the first place, Clinton had every reason to snub that program which had so clearly been a thorn in her side, savaging her terribly every day for months on end. Scarborough’s mean-spiritedness to Clinton twice earned the censure of this blog, in addition to more than three dozen snarky tweets from me.
Tomorrow night at Charleston, SC., Clinton, Sanders and Martin O’Malley will have another chance to square off in a televised debate. Look for Clinton and Sanders to come out swinging at each other in a fashion we have never quite seen since this presidential campaign cycle began. Both the tone and substance of the exchange could very well underline what is at stake for both candidates — and America, too.