In an interview yesterday with Fusion and Univision, Bernie Sanders was asked what everyone seems to think is the obvious and insurmountable question of his campaign.
Do you think Hillary is not inevitable, can you beat her?
His answer came as a surprise to many.
“Absolutely. No Question.”
We’ve assumed Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for 2016 since the day President Barack Obama took office. Her campaign has seemed more a march to coronation than a nomination. Poll after poll shows her with healthy leads in every match up against Republican rivals, no matter whom they nominate, but almost always ignore the possibility that another Dem might face them come next fall.
Thus far, Clinton’s campaign has faced a relatively quiet assemblage of single-digit polling opponents, and Bernie. Sanders is a relatively unknown, by Clinton standards, 73-year-old senator from a small state (Vermont). If that isn’t enough to doom his campaign, he is a self-described socialist. And that seems to be the obstacle that makes his campaign the epitome of the term, quixotic.
Even here at ReverbPress we’ve seen headlines like, “Newly Released Poll Proves Bernie Sanders Can’t Win In 2016.” The tone of the article is that every Republican beats a socialist. But they are not running against the word. They are running against the man. In a contest against the Fox News-defined term, “Socialist,” a ham sandwich could win. But when facing an articulate and fiery Bernie Sanders, who spells out clearly what he is for, it’s another story. The crowds at his campaign stops prove it.
But what about all those polls showing Hillary Clinton with an insurmountable lead? Yes, she would beat any GOP candidate in a head to head match up. But then, so would Bernie.
When it comes to the general election, when independents and those quiet folks who don’t respond to polls, perhaps the most important indicator is not the favorability rating, but the unfavorable. While Hillary Clinton has surged with an enormous recognition factor, that can be a double-edged sword. For every voter who loves her and vows to support her at the polls, it seems there is another, who hates her and will support any opponent. A recent Gallup poll showed Hillary with 43 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable and only 11 percent with no opinion. A three percent deficit, overall. Bernie Sanders, scored 24 percent favorable and 20 percent unfavorable, a four percent positive rating. More importantly, 56 percent had either no opinion or were not familiar with him.
It is from that block the Bernie Sanders is building his following. And it’s working. As he told Jorge Ramos yesterday:
“Every day we are doing better and better. We started off with a disadvantage, not a whole lot of people knew who I was. But every day I think there are more people who know who I am and what our program is,” he said. “As people hear that, they’re saying: Yeah, that’s the kind of program we need.”
The election is still more than a year away. There is plenty of time for Senator Sanders to build that following. Latest polling has him breaking the 20 percent mark for the first time. For those doubters who say 20 percent is a long way from beating Hillary, I remind you of another presidential race 8 years ago. In the Summer of 2007, Hillary Clinton was the odds on favorite. In June of that year, Barack Obama was trailing her at 21 percent. In August, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average had him at 21.2 percent.
We all know how that turned out.