New Poll: Sanders Surges to 27-Point Lead in N.H. | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
New Poll: Sanders Surges to 27-Point Lead in N.H.


Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in Wisconsin last year. - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in Wisconsin last year.
Updated at 11:44 p.m.

New Hampshire, it seems, is feelin' the Bern.

A new poll released Tuesday by CNN and WMUR-TV found Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading former secretary of state Hillary Clinton 60 to 33 percent among likely Democratic voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state. Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley trailed far behind, with just 1 percent of the vote.

Sanders has widened his lead from 10 percentage points to 27 since the same polling outfit, the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, last queried Granite Staters a month ago. The two top candidates have traded leads in the state since last August, but Sanders has edged out Clinton in six of the seven polls conducted in New Hampshire this month.

“Sanders is still performing very strongly in New Hampshire and the actions by the Clinton campaign as well as the debate last night are an indication, in my view, that the Clinton campaign is nervous,” UNH Survey Center director Andrew Smith told Seven Days on Monday, before his latest poll was released. “I don’t think they’re panicking yet, but they’re nervous. And there are some people who are having nightmares about 2008 all over again.”

The Sanders campaign on Tuesday celebrated the survey result, which came just three weeks before the New Hampshire primary and two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

“This poll suggests that our campaign has real momentum and that the American people want to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics," campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement. "But it’s just a poll and we take nothing for granted."

Despite Sanders' lopsided lead, New Hampshire voters could still change their minds. Only 52 percent of the Democrats surveyed said they had definitely decided who they would support. Another 23 percent said they were leaning toward a candidate, while 26 percent said they were undecided.

Soon after the poll was released, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri bashed Sanders in a written statement for gleaning support from Republican political operatives, who she said had “made clear the candidate they’re actually afraid to face.”

In recent days, the Clinton campaign noted, Karl Rove super PAC American Crossroads released an ad attacking Clinton for her ties to Wall Street. Sanders’ campaign did the same, though with a bit more subtlety.

“Now he’s taking his cues from them, using a Karl Rove attack to go after her,” Palmieri said of the Vermont senator. “Both Sanders and the Republicans know that Hillary is the candidate who can take them on and ensure the White House isn’t in Donald Trump or Ted Cruz’s hands.”

It was Clinton’s second hit of the day. Hours earlier, her campaign released a statement from 10 former national security and diplomatic officials, who said they were “concerned” that Sanders had “not thought through” his response to Iran or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“His lack of a strategy for defeating ISIS — one of the greatest challenges we face today — is troubling,” they said. “We need a commander in chief who sees how all of these dynamics fit together — someone who sees the whole chessboard, as Hillary Clinton does.”

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs responded to the broadside by raising Clinton’s 2003 vote for the Iraq War, which Sanders opposed.

“We certainly concede that former Secretary of State Clinton has more experience than Sen. Sanders, but his judgment on major foreign policy issues is far superior,” Briggs said.

Even as Clinton has increased her attacks on Sanders, the Vermonter’s popularity in New Hampshire has only grown. The poll found that 91 percent of Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of him, while just 7 percent have an unfavorable opinion. His net favorability — the percentage of those with a positive opinion minus those with a negative opinion — has grown from +67 percent in September to what the UNH pollsters referred to as “an almost unheard of +84 percent.”

Meanwhile, 65 percent of New Hampshire Democrats have a favorable opinion of Clinton, while 26 percent have an unfavorable opinion. That leaves her with a net favorability of +39 percent.

Asked which candidate “has the personal characteristics and qualities that you think a president should have,” 58 percent answered Sanders, while only 38 percent said Clinton.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.