Sanders rises in polls


For Rod Sullivan, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is like no one he has ever met.

Sullivan, a Johnson County supervisor and an Iowa City resident, has met Sanders and said the senator was refreshing.

“You don’t meet many people like that, period,” Sullivan said. “Let alone politicians like that. I thought it was pretty amazing.”

When the time comes, Sullivan said, he knows whom he will vote for — he feels the “Bern.”

Sanders has been creeping up on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since he launched his campaign in May.

Last week, a Bloomberg Politics Poll put Sanders at almost the halfway point with 24 percent of potential caucus-goes polled saying he would be their first choice. Fifty percent of people polled said Clinton would be their first choice. The maximum margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Thomas Whalen, an associate professor of social science at Boston University, said he believes Sanders’ spike won’t subside soon.

“I think he’s going to climb a little bit more,” Whalen said. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, he is going to lack [enough money].”

But Sanders’ goal isn’t to have a seat in the Oval Office, one expert said.

Whalen said, however, he thinks Sanders’ role in this election is to push Clinton more to the left. He said in the past elections, Democrats have bordered the middle, and Sanders is “trying to do a course correction for the Democratic Party.”

“I think if he’s realistic, probably not,” Whalen said when asked whether Sanders is aiming to be president. “I think he would be smoking something that’s not legal. His purpose here is to make the Democratic Party truly the liberal choice.”

Supporters of Sanders believe he can make it big, though.

Sullivan said Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, noting that people care about climate change, income inequality, and taking on Wall Street, and those are all issues Sanders has addressed.

In the same Bloomberg poll, when potential caucus-goers were asked who is more authentic, 47 percent said Sanders was, compared with the 30 percent who said Clinton was.

Justin Holmes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, said authenticity — or honesty — is Clinton’s “Achilles’ heel.”

During former President Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, Holmes said 2-1 voters found him not trustworthy.

“People are voting for the whole package,” Holmes said, noting that being likable doesn’t seal the deal for voters.

Rising in polls doesn’t equate more zeros behind a comma. Money will still be Sanders’ biggest drawback.

Whalen said he thinks Sanders will pull out of the race following the New Hampshire primary.

Holmes said he doesn’t know how long Sanders can afford to stay in the race for that long.

“It’s a lot of work to run; at some point, he can run out of cash,” Holmes said. “But it’s hard to say when that will happen.”

Sullivan said that when he talked to Sanders, they discussed Iowa City and Johnson County, what was good about the community, and what could be improved. He said Sanders was easygoing and willing to talk to people, especially students.

“In the same way that I feel like we have some critical issues, there are a lot of other people who feel the same way,” Sullivan said, not worrying about Clinton’s polling or the other Democratic candidates. “I expect those people will also behave similarly; anything can happen.”

“He’s a very interesting character,” Sullivan said. “He really seems almost completely without pretense.”

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