Sanders’ base growing but narrow
Women and minorities still favor Clinton
Sen. Bernard Sanders has become a force in the Democratic presidential race this year with a base of supporters who would look at home on a university quad — young, wealthy and collegeeducated voters — many of them getting involved in politics for the first time in their lives.
His enthusiastic following of young people, college students and urban professionals has resulted in huge crowds at Sanders campaign stops across the country, given him more momentum than any other Democratic candidate and made him the chief rival of front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
However, the Sanders revolution so far has been confined to voters who are mostly young, mostly men and mostly white, and has not translated into first-place poll numbers anywhere outside New Hampshire.
The Sanders campaign said the movement will continue to grow.
Mr. Sanders cut deep into Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the presidential proving ground of Iowa, where a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released over the weekend showed him just 7 points behind, 37 percent to 30 percent.
“Not only in Iowa, not only in New Hampshire, but all over this country we are generating enormous enthusiasm,” Mr. Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“People do not understand why the middle class of this country is collapsing at the same time as almost all the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. People do not like the idea that as a result of Citizens United, our campaign finance system has become corrupt and politicians are dependent upon super PACs and billionaires for money. People want us to deal with climate change [and] make college affordable,” he said.
“Those are the issues I have been talking about. Those are the issues that are generating enormous enthusiasm from one end of this country to the other,” Mr. Sanders said.
He has surged ahead of Mrs. Clinton in two recent polls of Democratic voters in New Hampshire, where he has attracted broader support than anywhere else.
Mr. Sanders beat Mrs. Clinton 43 percent to 35 percent in a recent survey by Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling.
As in other states, Mrs. Clinton led 51 percent to 34 percent among New Hampshire’s Democratic seniors, while Mr. Sanders had a 45 percent to 29 percent advantage with the party’s voters younger than 65 in New Hampshire.
What helped put Mr. Sanders on top in New Hampshire was his ability to erase the gender gap, which had been buoying Mrs. Clinton against the early surge by the self-described socialist, who won election to the U.S. Senate as an independent but caucuses with the chamber’s Democrats.
Mr. Sanders led Mrs. Clinton with men, 44 percent to 30 percent, and women, 41 percent to 38 percent.
A Boston Herald poll this month had him ahead 44 percent to 37 percent in New Hampshire.
Carl Soderstrom, Democratic Party chairman for Concord, New Hampshire, said Mr. Sanders has managed to bring in “everybody.”
“It’s a very broad-based thing. There’s young people, old people, all kinds of people are very avid supporters of Bernie Sanders,” he said. “It’s people who are disillusioned with the status quo and feel that Bernie Sanders is an independent enough candidate to appeal to them.”
That’s a recipe the Sanders campaign is trying to replicate outside of New Hampshire, where he already has widespread name recognition and support as the senator from neighboring Vermont.
On the stump, Mr. Sanders powerfully advocates for liberal policies that include expanding Social Security, free in-state college tuition and cracking down on Wall Street. The message has drawn huge crowds in recent weeks: 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, 27,500 in Los Angeles, 15,000 in Seattle and about 1,800 in Dubuque, Iowa.
In Iowa, the crowds are made up mostly of high schoolers, college students and people in the 30s or 40s, said John Colombo, Democratic Party chairman for Franklin County, Iowa.
“These are the type of people who were enthused with the Occupy Wall Street movement when that occurred,” he said. “They are sick of business as usual and see Bernie Sanders as an alternative to what they’ve seen in the past.”