Is Bernie Sanders ‘surging’ in Iowa?

By Dave Andrusko

Vermont Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders

Vermont Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders

It is still way too early to draw even preliminary conclusions, but with the President’s swan song (his last State of the Union address) tonight and the Iowa caucuses just 20 days away, the latest Quinnipiac polling of likely Democratic participants in the February 1 caucuses showing Vermont Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders “surging” in Iowa is getting a lot of attention.

Here’s the key in a couple of words. On December 15 pro-abortion Hillary Clinton led Sanders, also pro-abortion, by 11 points: 51%-40%. Now among likely Democratic participants in the February 1 caucus, Sanders is up 5 points, 49% to 44%, a huge turn around in one month.

Ryan Struyk of ABC News reports

Sanders’ lead, which is still barely within the margin of error, is bolstered by a broad gender gap. Sanders, who just earned a critical endorsement from liberal group MoveOn, gets support from six in 10 men and leads Clinton by 31 points among that group. Meanwhile, Clinton leads among women by 16 points.

But also that

The poll comes as the Vermont senator’s campaign continues to gain momentum in his neighboring state of New Hampshire. He’s led recent polling there by double digits, threatening to deliver a blow to Clinton’s campaign in the first two contests.

So, “what happened to Clinton”? asks Philip Bump of the Washington Post:

Well, part of it is that her favorability slipped. Among all voters, she dropped seven points in the head-to-head matchup (Sanders gained nine), but the percentage of people viewing her favorably fell from 81 to 74.

What else? According to Struyk

Roughly a quarter of Iowa Democrats think Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, doesn’t care about their problems and does not share their values. Fewer than one in 10 feel the same way about Sanders on his weaker attributes like being a strong leader and having the right experience.

What does said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, say? 

“Sen. Sanders’ surge seems based on the perception by Iowa Democrats that he is a better fit for Iowans. They see him, by solid double digit margins as more sharing their values, more honest and trustworthy and viewed more favorably overall than is Secretary Clinton.”

“Iowa likely Democratic Caucus-goers see Sanders as better able to handle the economy and climate change, two important issues for Democrats and a key asset for him in the home stretch.”

Sen. Sanders also leads Clinton on questions about handling the economy (51% to 39%) and (speaking of character traits) is well ahead when people were asked about the candidates being honest and trustworthy—93% said yes for Sanders to 66% for Clinton.