Does Bernie have a shout?

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - ROBERT PHILPOT

WHEN HIL­LARY Clin­ton first con­tem­plated the de­bates against her ri­vals for the Demo­cratic party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, she could have been for­given for en­vis­ag­ing a some­what cosy af­fair. To one side of her, for­mer Mary­land gover­nor Martin O’Malley, ea­ger to avoid of­fend­ing the for­mer first lady and thus nix­ing his chances of be­com­ing her run­ning mate next sum­mer; on the other, cranky old Bernie San­ders, spout­ing those left-wing bro­mides that may play well in Ver­mont, but few places be­yond its state lines.

As the Demo­crat can­di­dates took to the stage in Las Ve­gas for their first de­bate this week, how­ever, Mr San­ders has proved to be the joker in the pack.

Close to 60 points be­hind Mrs Clin­ton when he launched his cam­paign in May, the Jewish sen­a­tor has cut her lead in na­tional polls to just 14 points. In the first states to vote — New Hamp­shire and Iowa — Mr San­ders is do­ing even bet­ter: he’s ahead by 10 points in the for­mer and fought her to a draw in the lat­ter.

Mr San­ders’s ral­lies have drawn huge crowds through­out the sum­mer, and the latest fundrais­ing fig­ures showed that he re­ceived 1.3 mil­lion do­na­tions in the last quar­ter. The sen­a­tor’s $26 mil­lion haul was within reach of the $28 mil­lion raised by Mrs Clin­ton.

Mr San­ders is, more­over, cur­rently de­fy­ing ev­ery rule in the US po­lit­i­cal play­book: as yet, the 74-year-old self­de­scribed so­cial­ist has not spent a dime on TV advertising or polling.

Mrs Clin­ton, how­ever, does have one for­mi­da­ble card up her sleeve. While Mr San­ders is ex­pend­ing his en­er­gies in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, her cam­paign is erect­ing a “Su­per Tues­day” fire­wall. Mrs Clin­ton has al­ready spent a great deal of time and money on the 13 states that go to the polls on March 1: build­ing grass­roots cam­paign or­gan­i­sa­tions and lock­ing up en­dorse­ments.

The great un­known is whether vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den de­cides to join the game: polls sug­gest that, if he does, he will draw away more sup­port­ers from Mrs Clin­ton than Mr San­ders.

Buoyed by their fundrais­ing suc­cess, Mr San­ders’s cam­paign team boasts that, in any case, it can raise the re­sources to com­pete on Su­per Tues­day and is eye­ing vic­to­ries in Mas­sachusetts, Colorado and Min­nesota.

The Ver­mont sen­a­tor, how­ever, faces an up­hill strug­gle. His sup­port is heav­ily con­cen­trated among mid­dle-class white lib­er­als who dom­i­nate his home state and fig­ure dis­pro­por­tion­ately in Iowa and New Hamp­shire. But the ter­ri­tory on which the pri­mary bat­tle is fought be­comes much less hos­pitable af­ter those early states have voted. In south­ern states like Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Ten­nessee, Vir­ginia and Ge­or­gia, which vote on Su­per Tues­day, the Demo­cratic elec­torate is heav­ily African-Amer­i­can or His­panic.

Mr San­ders may have proved to be the joker in the pack thus far, but bet on Hil­lary Clin­ton hav­ing the last laugh.

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