US ELECTION: SANDERS’S BID
AT SOME point in the next 10 days, the improbable candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the Jewish selfdeclared socialist challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, will likely make history.
This weekend, Democrats in Iowa will vote for who they want to represent them in November’s battle for the White House; just over a week later, the party’s supporters in New Hampshire will do likewise. If Mr Sanders wins in either state, he will become the first Jew — in fact, the first non-Christian — to win a Democrat or Republican presidential primary or caucus election.
Mr Sanders may just be in with a shot of winning both. In Iowa, polls show the Vermont senator has whittled away Mrs Clinton’s once-double digit lead, fighting her to a virtual draw. The Iowa caucus has thrown up some nasty surprises for Mrs Clinton before, not least eight years ago when Barack Obama’s upset win dealt the former First Lady a blow from which she never recovered.
Mr Obama built his victory by massively boosting turnout. Mr Sanders believes he can do likewise, turning the tens of thousands of young liberal grassroots enthusiasts who have showed up at his rallies since last summer into a victory. Some local observers, however, remain sceptical: having seen her hopes melt away here in 2008, Mrs Clinton has visited the state repeatedly and has had a longentrenched ground operation.
But if Mr Sanders falls short in Iowa, he will have another chance when New Hampshire votes on February 9. The senator from a neighbouring state, Mr Sanders is comfortably ahead here in the Real Clear Politics poll of polls: indeed, one recent poll showed his lead stretching to a massive 27 per cent.
Victories for Mr Sanders in the first two states to vote would give him those most precious of commodities in a presidential race: momentum, media coverage and money. Earlier this month, latest figures suggested Mr Sanders raised $33m in the final quarter of 2015, only $4m less than Mrs Clinton.
Despite all this, the electoral terrain after New Hampshire and Iowa will turn a lot less hospitable for Mr Sanders as the campaigns move to South Carolina, Nevada and then the string of states which vote on Super Tuesday on March 1.
But what of Mr Sanders’ fellow Jews? Unlike Senator Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s vice-presidential running mate in 2000 who ran unsuccessfully for the Democrat nomination in 2004, Mr Sanders’ political persona is less tied to his Judaism. A self-proclaimed “proud Jew”, the Vermont senator is both less observant and a less vocal supporter of Israel than Mr Lieberman. But, as Lieberman found in 2004, Jewish Democrats are not necessarily forthcoming with their cash or votes simply because a candidate is Jewish. In the early states in which Lieberman competed, the “Jewish vote” went to John Kerry, the eventual nominee.
That pattern is likely to be repeated this time. In September, a poll for the American Jewish Coalition found Mrs Clinton polling twice the level of support as Mr Sanders among Jews.
Sanders: in a close primaries race with Clinton