US ELEC­TION: SAN­DERS’S BID

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT PHILPOT

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.

PHOTO: AP

San­ders: in a close pri­maries race with Clin­ton

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