- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sen. Bernard Sanders has become a force in the Democratic presidential race this year with a base of supporters who would look at home on a university quad — young, wealthy and college-educated voters — many of them getting involved in politics for the first time in their lives.

His enthusiastic following of young people, college students and urban professionals has resulted in huge crowds at Sanders campaign stops across the country, given him more momentum than any other Democratic candidate and made him the chief rival of front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

However, the Sanders revolution so far has been confined to voters who are mostly young, mostly men and mostly white, and has not translated into first-place poll numbers anywhere outside New Hampshire.

The Sanders campaign said the movement will continue to grow.

Mr. Sanders cut deep into Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the presidential proving ground of Iowa, where a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released over the weekend showed him just 7 points behind, 37 percent to 30 percent.

“Not only in Iowa, not only in New Hampshire, but all over this country we are generating enormous enthusiasm,” Mr. Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“People do not understand why the middle class of this country is collapsing at the same time as almost all the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. People do not like the idea that as a result of Citizens United, our campaign finance system has become corrupt and politicians are dependent upon super PACs and billionaires for money. People want us to deal with climate change [and] make college affordable,” he said.

“Those are the issues I have been talking about. Those are the issues that are generating enormous enthusiasm from one end of this country to the other,” Mr. Sanders said.

He has surged ahead of Mrs. Clinton in two recent polls of Democratic voters in New Hampshire, where he has attracted broader support than anywhere else.

Mr. Sanders beat Mrs. Clinton 43 percent to 35 percent in a recent survey by Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling.

As in other states, Mrs. Clinton led 51 percent to 34 percent among New Hampshire’s Democratic seniors, while Mr. Sanders had a 45 percent to 29 percent advantage with the party’s voters younger than 65 in New Hampshire.

What helped put Mr. Sanders on top in New Hampshire was his ability to erase the gender gap, which had been buoying Mrs. Clinton against the early surge by the self-described socialist, who won election to the U.S. Senate as an independent but caucuses with the chamber’s Democrats.

Mr. Sanders led Mrs. Clinton with men, 44 percent to 30 percent, and women, 41 percent to 38 percent.

A Boston Herald poll this month had him ahead 44 percent to 37 percent in New Hampshire.

Carl Soderstrom, Democratic Party chairman for Concord, New Hampshire, said Mr. Sanders has managed to bring in “everybody.”

“It’s a very broad-based thing. There’s young people, old people, all kinds of people are very avid supporters of Bernie Sanders,” he said. “It’s people who are disillusioned with the status quo and feel that Bernie Sanders is an independent enough candidate to appeal to them.”

That’s a recipe the Sanders campaign is trying to replicate outside of New Hampshire, where he already has widespread name recognition and support as the senator from neighboring Vermont.

On the stump, Mr. Sanders powerfully advocates for liberal policies that include expanding Social Security, free in-state college tuition and cracking down on Wall Street. The message has drawn huge crowds in recent weeks: 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, 27,500 in Los Angeles, 15,000 in Seattle and about 1,800 in Dubuque, Iowa.

In Iowa, the crowds are made up mostly of high schoolers, college students and people in the 30s or 40s, said John Colombo, Democratic Party chairman for Franklin County, Iowa.

“These are the type of people who were enthused with the Occupy Wall Street movement when that occurred,” he said. “They are sick of business as usual and see Bernie Sanders as an alternative to what they’ve seen in the past.”

He said he has seen only a few of the usual Democratic caucusgoers at Sanders rallies — the types of dedicated voters candidates need to show up for a potentially long night of caucusing.

“Some of the folks who are backing him are the newer, younger folks who haven’t been involved in the process before,” said Mr. Colombo. “That’s a great thing, but I don’t think you can rely on that alone to win Iowa.”

In the latest Iowa poll, Mr. Sanders gained on Mrs. Clinton by taking the lead with first-time caucusgoers by 12 points, young voters by 23 points and independent voters by 21 points.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is backing Mrs. Clinton, said Sunday that the Clinton campaign in Iowa was undaunted by the tightening of the race.

“She is still ahead in these polls. I think she’s running a strong campaign,” Ms. Klobuchar said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is not a coronation. She expected there would be other candidates in the race. You can’t just waltz in and win a Democratic primary.”

Mr. Sanders has picked up supporters as Mrs. Clinton has struggled to answer questions about her exclusive use of a personal email account for official business while she was secretary of state, with controversy growing to include scrutiny of her handling of classified material and a federal probe that conceivably could lead to criminal charges.

Iowa voters said they are not backing Mr. Sanders in protest of Mrs. Clinton. About 96 percent of Mr. Sanders‘ supporters said they mostly back him and his ideas, with just 2 percent identifying themselves as anti-Clinton, according to the pollsters.

Still, Mr. Sanders has made few inroads nationally with female or black voters — key Democratic blocs that overwhelmingly support Mrs. Clinton — even as voters in general say he is more trustworthy.

A recent CNN/ORC poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Sanders 50 percent to 31 percent. Mrs. Clinton barely edged out Mr. Sanders among men, 38 percent to 37 percent, but clobbered him among women, 58 percent to 26 percent.

“I don’t think pollsters can be off by that much,” Mr. Colombo said.

Young voters and new voters were key components of the coalition that Barack Obama assembled for his historic 2008 campaign, but he also had overwhelming support from black voters, a constituency that so far spurns Mr. Sanders.

Mrs. Clinton has crushed Mr. Sanders in the competition for nonwhite voters, winning them 65 percent to 14 percent in a national Fox News survey of likely Democratic voters early this month.

Strength in Iowa and New Hampshire — two of the whitest states in the union — might not translate into the next two contests. South Carolina’s Democratic primary electorate is about half black, and Nevada’s is much more Hispanic than the nation as a whole.

Mr. Sanders would will have to peel away a significant amount of black support to repeat the 2008 feat of Mr. Obama, who overcame Mrs. Clinton’s status as the party’s “inevitable” nominee buttressed by 40- and 50-point poll leads in spring and summer 2007.

Mr. Sanders‘ weakness with women also shows up in national polls.

Mr. Sanders trailed Mrs. Clinton 45 percent to 22 percent among Democratic voters nationwide in a survey by Quinnipiac University. In the poll, Mr. Sanders fared best among men (29 percent) and voters who identified themselves as very liberal (32 percent).

In several recent polls, Mr. Sanders received strong support from Democratic voters who make more than $50,000 a year and those who have attended college or earned a degree.

A national survey last week by CNN/ORC showed Mr. Sanders closing in on Mrs. Clinton with voters making more than $50,000 a year, 43 percent to 36 percent, and with college-educated voters, 46 percent to 34 percent.

But he trailed Mrs. Clinton with voters making less than $50,000 a year, 54 percent to 22 percent, according to the poll.

The Sanders campaign said his base of support is expanding all the time.

“The poll numbers are improving,” said Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs, noting the two New Hampshire polls that show Mr. Sanders winning. “He’s also gaining ground in Iowa and nationally. That’s because the more people know about Bernie the more they like him and his ideas for rebuilding the middle class and taking on the billionaire class.”

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