Monday, June 01, 2015

Is Bernie Sanders Gaining Momentum in Iowa?

Most observers believe that Hillary Clinton will be the eventual Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential elections.  That said, Bernie Sanders seems to be generating early excitement in Iowa.  I will confess that I like much of Sanders' populism and his willingness to throw brickbats at the GOP and those like Jeb Bush and the Koch brothers who seek to return America to a new Gilded Age where the few prosper and the rest of us scrounge to eek out a living for ourselves and our families.  That said, the ever present issue is who can prevail in the general election.  The last thing this country needs is another Republican in the White House any time soon.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Sanders' initial surprises in Iowa.  Here are excerpts:

A mere 240 people live in the rural northeast Iowa town of Kensett, so when more than 300 crowded into the community center on Saturday night to hear Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, many driving 50 miles, the cellphones of Democratic leaders statewide began to buzz.

Kurt Meyer, the county party chairman who organized the event, sent a text message to Troy Price, the Iowa political director for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Price called back immediately.

“Objects in your rearview mirror are closer than they appear,” Mr. Meyer said he had told Mr. Price about Mr. Sanders. “Mrs. Clinton had better get out here.”

The first evidence that Mrs. Clinton could face a credible challenge in the Iowa presidential caucuses appeared late last week in the form of overflow crowds at Mr. Sanders’s first swing through that state since declaring his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He drew 700 people to an event on Thursday night in Davenport, for instance — the largest rally in the state for any single candidate this campaign season, and far more than the 50 people who attended a rally there on Saturday with former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland.

The first-in-the-nation caucuses, on Feb. 1, loom as a major test for Mrs. Clinton: She came in third in Iowa during her presidential run in 2008, and anything less than a decisive victory this time would rattle her shell of inevitability and raise questions about her strengths as a standard-bearer for an increasingly liberal Democratic Party.

Mrs. Clinton is far ahead in the polls, fund-raising and name recognition, however, and she is expected to continue to have a much more organized and sophisticated campaign operation in Iowa and nationwide than Mr. Sanders has. Her mix of centrist and progressive Democratic views may yet prove more appealing to the broadest number of party voters as well, while some of Mr. Sanders’s policy prescriptions — including far higher taxes on the wealthy and deep military spending cuts — may eventually persuade Democrats that he is unelectable in a general election.

Other Democratic strategists in the state, unaffiliated with any candidate, said Mrs. Clinton’s aura of inevitability, with a nearly 50-point lead over Democratic rivals in most recent nationwide polls, was one of her greatest challenges.

If Mrs. Clinton wins the caucuses but not by a significant margin, she will risk being embarrassed, and the runner-up will look like a serious challenger to what once appeared to be Mrs. Clinton’s inevitable road to the nomination.

That challenge may be emerging sooner than expected. The large crowds for Mr. Sanders were a sign of many voters’ desire to hear and meet Democratic candidates in free-flowing town-hall-style gatherings, with policy issues discussed in detail, which Mrs. Clinton has so far avoided. Her campaign has promised that such events will follow this summer.

Mr. Sanders’s stop at a brewery in Ames on Saturday was so mobbed that more than 100 people who could not fit inside peered through the windows.

Iowa Democrats “truly hate Clinton’s ‘listening tour’ campaign,” Mr. Schmidt said in a follow-up email exchange. “They feel neglected.”

But one reason the Clinton campaign may not be visibly breaking a sweat is that it is far ahead in building a network of organizers in Iowa, who are key to turning out voters in a caucus state.

Mrs. Clinton’s advisers are most concerned that Mr. Sanders might prove effective, particularly in the Democrats’ televised debates, at painting Mrs. Clinton as squishy or untrustworthy on liberal issues.

The crowds at Mr. Sanders’s Iowa events appeared to be different from the state’s famously finicky tire-kickers. Many said they had already made up their mind to support Mr. Sanders. They applauded his calls for higher taxes on the rich to pay for 13 million public works jobs, for decisive action on climate change and for free tuition at public colleges.

No comments: