- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sen. Bernard Sanders is in talks to endorse Hillary Clinton, but his supporters have been warming to her for some time, according to new polling that shows 85 percent of Sanders voters are prepared to back his erstwhile primary opponent.

Just 9 percent of Sanders supporters will back likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, a recent Pew Research survey found, and another 6 percent are for someone else, or aren’t sure how they’ll vote.

But a whopping 85 percent of Sanders supporters said they’ll get behind Mrs. Clinton — putting her well ahead of pace compared to 2008, when less than 70 percent of her supporters were prepared to back then-candidate Barack Obama in June, after their bitter primary.

Mrs. Clinton also is doing better than Mr. Trump, who has the support of just 77 percent of his GOP primary opponents’ voters, according to the survey.

“What I’ve noticed is the vast majority of folks not having an issue turning the page and moving to Clinton,” said Phil Sherwood, chairman of the Atkinson Democratic town committee in New Hampshire.

That Democratic unity, and the relative disunity within the Republican Party, powered Mrs. Clinton to a 51-42 lead in a head-to-head matchup with Mr. Trump in the Pew poll.

Mr. Sherwood, who conceded he “reluctantly” supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, acknowledged that some Sanders backers are having a harder time — but that Mr. Trump is proving to be a powerful Democratic unifier.

“If the Republicans had a nominee, or an impending nominee, that was more tempered, that was less divisive, it would be more challenging for Hillary to court, I think, some of these Bernie supporters,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton is campaigning Tuesday in New Hampshire, where she reportedly could receive Mr. Sanders’ endorsement. The state helped boost Mr. Sanders in the Democratic primary, delivering a massive victory to him and solidifying his campaign as more than just that of a protest candidate.

“The supporters of the losing candidate eventually come around and realize that no matter how much animosity they might have had towards the person who wins the party’s nomination, they dislike the other party even more, and I think that’s what we’re seeing here,” said Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Mr. Smith, though, said it’s still an open question as to whether the younger voters who came out to support Mr. Sanders actually show up in the fall.

“Sanders has tremendous support from that younger demographic — under 35, under 30,” he said. “It’s more, to me, an issue not that they’re going to vote for Trump over Clinton, but whether they show up or not.”

Democratic strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders said the number of disaffected Sanders supporters shouldn’t be underestimated.

“For what it’s worth, I’d love to see that poll done in a geographic fashion,” said Mr. Saunders, who voted for Mr. Sanders in the Virginia primary but said he’s voting for Mr. Trump in the general election. “If you go through rural America, those of us who voted for Bernie Sanders in a primary — a hell of a lot more than 15 percent of us are going to vote for Trump. And it’s for economic reasons.”

The 85 percent level of support among Sanders backers is indeed higher than it’s been in other recent polling.

The Democratic-leaning polling firm Public Policy Polling has cited wary Sanders supporters as one of the major reasons Mr. Trump is hanging tough in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania.

A recent national PPP survey found that 79 percent of Democrats and independents with a favorable view of Mr. Sanders said they now are supporting Mrs. Clinton for president, compared to 7 percent for Mr. Trump, 3 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein and 2 percent for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. Overall, Mrs. Clinton had a 4-percentage-point lead over Mr. Trump.

Her support among the pro-Sanders folks, though, was at 74 percent in North Carolina and 68 percent in Virginia in other recent PPP polls. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, 72 percent of those who backed Mr. Sanders over Mr. Trump in a head-to-head match-up said they’d support Mrs. Clinton.

All of those battleground states were effectively tossups overall.

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