Is It 2008 All Over Again For Hillary Clinton?
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this for the Democratic frontrunner. Hillary Clinton had been swept up in a wave of momentum riding on her long political career, her last name, and her unique identity as a woman. People have cheered on Hillary as she led in national polls by double-digits against a distant rival. This rival was some radical, touting the power of the people and a message of change that seemed to be all hot air. But now, weeks before the Iowa primary that would kick off her race to the White House, he was gaining speed—and fast.
Hillary and this fiery underdog, now within spitting distance with a single-digit dance in Iowa poll results, are now the race to watch. Because through some small miracle, she may not be the surefire bet to win that everyone had predicted. This radical rival boasted of a huge donor base from average people, rather than the millionaires pouring money into the Clinton campaign. Political attack ads cropped up and increased spending on fundraising was rising. For the first time in the campaign, people are stopping to say that there may actually be a chance that she could lose this thing, as all eyes fixated on the Iowa primary polls.
The year was 2008, and that radical underdog gaining in the polls and firing up young people? Well, his name was Barack Obama. We all know how that turned out.
If you were reading that and asking yourself if you somehow traveled into the past, you aren’t alone. Nobody could’ve expected that the start of the year would become one big flashback to the 2008 campaign, but here we are again. Bernie Sanders spent last year being relegated to the “he can never win” camp, until somehow, he’s become the surging star that seems like the last best hope for a new era of political revolution. The problem is, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Despite a media blackout that gave him only 1/23 of the coverage they give to the radically racist Trump, Sanders has drawn hundreds of thousands of supporters to his events and has raised millions in small-donor contributions. These contributions have actually outpaced the previous record holder, President Obama, when he ran for reelection in 2012. A historic 2.5 million donations raised almost $73 million in 2015 for the democratic socialist senator. As for polling, Bernie Sanders spent all of last year trailing by double-digits behind Clinton nationally and in early primary states, just like Obama. Now with less than three weeks before the first Iowa primary in the race to the White House the national polls have Sanders finally surging within single-digits of the woman who has been touted as a sure thing for over a year. That same can be said of the Iowa polls as well as the New Hampshire polls. Both states kick off the vote for who will be the Democratic nominee for the White House and, again, had been surefire wins for Clinton last year.
Polls don’t tell the whole story though, and it’s essential to look beyond numbers and focus on what’s been happening on the campaign trail. Unsurprisingly, Bernie and Hillary have stopped acting nice, slipped on their boxing gloves, and are full-on fighting for their right to party. Shit, sorry. Fighting for their right to win the primaries. Hillary is definitely starting to #FeelTheBern, and has gone on the defensive against Sanders for his controversial record on guns, his health care plan, and the very real issue of how the hell he plans to pay for everything. On the Sanders front, most of the week has been spent fending off attacks from Hillary and the supports campaigning on her behalf. One of the most vehement attacks against Bernie did come from a Clinton but, for once, it wasn’t Hillary. Her daughter Chelsea went on the offensive on the campaign trail in Iowa and lobbed a bizarre and factually incorrect critique at Bernie’s health care plan, stating that he was going to rip up Obamacare and start over. It was the kind of dirty political ploy we haven’t seen in the democratic race since Hillary’s lowkey racism in 2008.
In more positive news, both candidates spent the week accepting a series of high profile endorsements. Hillary’s big news came in the form of endorsements gun control advocates, including Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. Meanwhile, Sanders spent his Thursday accepting a high-profile endorsement from former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk, as well as the The Nation—a political newspaper that has only endorsed three candidates in their 150-year history.
With the Iowa primary only 17 days away, the democratic race doesn’t look poised to go all rainbows and sunshine. Polling data will continue to be analyzed under a microscope while supporters take to the streets and phone banks to make that case that their candidate is the best suited to win the nomination and take the White House this November.
Stay tuned to Milk to #FeelTheBern.
Images by Jason Reed and Mother Jones.