Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Bernie Sanders Shakes Up Hillary Clinton in Iowa

If Hillary Clinton envisioned a smooth serene passage to the Democrat 2016 presidential nomination, it seems that Bernie Sanders is hell bent to cause some waves and make the passage a bit more storm tossed and stressful.  A case in point?  Sanders has been seeing sizable crowd turnouts, including  2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a Sanders appearance.  Sanders' populist message appears to be resonating and Clinton may need to rethink some of here strategy and agenda.  A piece in the New York Times looks at how Sanders is rocking Clinton's boat.  Here are story excerpts:
The ample crowds and unexpectedly strong showing garnered by Senator Bernie Sanders are setting off worry among advisers and allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who believe the Vermont senator could overtake her in Iowa polls by the fall and even defeat her in the nation’s first nominating contest there.

The enthusiasm that Mr. Sanders has generated — including a rally attended by 2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Friday — has called into question Mrs. Clinton’s early strategy of focusing on a listening tour of small groups and wooing big donors in private settings. In May, Mrs. Clinton led with 60 percent support to Mr. Sanders’s 15 percent in a Quinnipiac poll. Last week the same poll showed Mrs. Clinton at 52 percent to Mr. Sanders’s 33 percent.

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers acknowledged that they were surprised by Mr. Sanders’s momentum and said there were enough liberal voters in Iowa, including many who supported Barack Obama or John Edwards in 2008, to create problems for her there.

“I think we underestimated that Sanders would quickly attract so many Democrats in Iowa who weren’t likely to support Hillary,” said one Clinton adviser, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share views about the race. “It’s too early to change strategy because no one knows if Sanders will be able to hold on to these voters in the months ahead. We’re working hard to win them over, but, yeah, it’s a real competition there.”

Those who see Mrs. Clinton as being at risk in Iowa say she is still far better positioned to win the nomination than Mr. Sanders, who lags by double digits in Iowa polling. Mr. Sanders is an untested national candidate who has far less money than she does, and his self-announced “democratic socialist” leanings are anathema to many Americans.

But a loss in an early state like Iowa would signal a vulnerability for Mrs. Clinton at a time when she has sought to unite the Democratic Party behind her candidacy, and especially to demonstrate to its restless liberal wing that she can represent their interests. A Sanders victory could also further energize his fund-raising base.

Mr. Sanders’s rising fortunes pose a bind for the Clinton team. Directly challenging the senator on his policies and record could elevate his candidacy, alienate some liberal Democrats and make Mrs. Clinton look anxious. Yet continuing the current strategy — vigorously courting voters while hoping they conclude that Mr. Sanders is unelectable — requires Mrs. Clinton to put faith in an Iowa electorate that snubbed her seven years ago, choosing Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards over her.

Carter Eskew, a Democratic political consultant, said the strength of the Sanders candidacy should stop further talk of a “coronation” of Mrs. Clinton as the Democratic nominee. “From the Clinton perspective, Sanders has gone from an annoyance to a threat,” he said. “One consolation, Sanders won’t creep up on anybody anymore. The Clinton camp has time to adjust expectations, if not strategy.”

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said voters flocked to his events because he offers ambitious proposals to major problems, such as his plans to eliminate tuition at public colleges, to reduce student debt and to spend $1 trillion on public works programs to create more jobs, though he proposed paying for them with huge tax increases. His advisers also argued that voters viewed him as willing to go further in championing significant tax increases for wealthy Americans to support programs to benefit low- and middle-income Americans.

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