The ride gets bumpier for Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Book 'Hard Choices' In New YorkNot that long ago, The Fix, a Washington Post blog dedicated to discussing elections, speculated that Hillary Clinton might win the Democratic nomination next year by a bigger margin than Barack Obama did as an uncontested incumbent in 2012. That remains a possibility, but a shrinking one. Uncommitted slates and delegates committed to fringe candidates got some surprising votes in 2012. They didn’t win any states – or come particularly close to doing so – but considering the fact that the president was on the ballot and, effectively, no-one else was, his vote was rather soft. Polls have shown Clinton leading by margins of 40, 50, or 60 points, against some actual candidates: a former governor, a former senator, a serving senator, and even the serving vice-president (though he is not a declared candidate).

Last week, a new candidate, former Senator Jim Webb, declared. The defunct possibility of a Joe Biden campaign even gathered some renewed traction, with some Biden fans declaring that the Veep’s recently, and tragically, deceased son, Beau, urged his father to run from his deathbed. The most complete campaign and most credible challenger is probably Governor Martin O’Malley, on whom Common Sense has opined before. But the candidate with the present momentum is the independent – and self-styled socialist – senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has been getting some good poll numbers in New Hampshire. Perhaps that is not surprising. It is a rather similar state to Vermont. Both were formerly very Republican, but now Vermont is strongly Democratic and New Hampshire is a swing state. The states are mostly liberal on social issues and staunchly conservative on the Second Amendment. Both lean moderate on the economy, though Vermont is probably more liberal. It also has a strong hippy tendency, with liberal attitudes on drugs and the environment. Like the other small states in New England, there is an independent tradition, of which Bernie Sanders is a proud part. He was an eight-term House member before joining the Senate and was mayor of Burlington before that. Though always elected as an independent, throughout his time in Congress he has caucused with the Democrats.

But now he has started to gain ground in Iowa too. He has picked up support in recent polls there, and it is not just a reshuffling of the non-Clinton vote. Her support is down among men (where it was always softer) and sharply down among women (where she still leads well) and the most liberal voters (where Sanders is actually ahead). Until now, most people had assumed that O’Malley was a bigger threat in Iowa, and could potentially get a bounce out of Iowa that would roll up Sanders’s support in New Hampshire. 

So Sanders is getting hit. O’Malley has been attacking his stance on gun control – which is actually quite brave by Vermont standards, but rather weak for someone seen as a challenger from the left. The Clinton campaign has been dismissive of his big crowds in Madison Wisconsin – a liberal college town, rather like Burlington, Vermont, but sitting close to the border with Iowa. Sanders packed an auditorium with 10,000 people. The Clinton campaign pointed out that other extreme candidates in past – Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan – have gathered big crowds. She has a point. Maybe it means nothing. But she is concerned that it maybe does.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at


  1. I think the Clinton era has long since passed and I am not looking forward to a dual presidency either. (

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