Democratic Race Tightens

Jan. 13, 2016 — Several new polls are showing a tightening of the Democratic presidential campaign nationally, and for the upcoming Iowa Caucus (Feb. 1) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9). But, is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the party nomination threatened? We think, not.

The new Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll, which, the New York Times rated as the most accurate of the 23 pollsters they tested in the 2012 presidential campaign, posted their latest national results. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 967 “Americans”) finds Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) by her smallest margin in months, 43-39 percent. The last 10 national polls, not including this most recent IBD/TIPP data, finds the former First Lady’s advantage averaging approximately 55-33 percent.

The IBD/TIPP poll appears inherently flawed. First, surveying “Americans” tells us that not all of the respondents are registered voters. Second, the overall sample of 967 participants contains only 378 likely Democratic primary voters, which is the fundamental segment for determining the Clinton-Sanders ballot test. Keep in mind, however, this group of less than 400 people is supposed to represent the nation.

Such a sample may be adequate for a lone congressional district, but falls far short of the number necessary for forming accurate national conclusions. Therefore, standing alone this poll should be discarded, but it does serve as a potential base point from which to begin judging what may be a developing trend.

Clinton is also receiving warning signs from Iowa and New Hampshire. The new American Research Group (ARG) survey (Jan. 6-10; 400 self-proclaimed Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) is the first Iowa poll since early September to find Sen. Sanders leading (47-44 percent). Since that time, 26 consecutive Hawkeye State polls have determined Clinton to be the race leader, 17 of which had her at or over majority support.

Since Jan. 1, three new polls project Sanders leading in New Hampshire. The Granite State, adjacent to his Vermont constituency, has always been Sanders’ strongest entity. Now, we again see resurgence, as NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (Jan. 2-7; 425 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), Fox News (Jan. 4-7; 386 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), and ARG (Jan. 7-10; 600 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), all find the Vermont senator forging ahead. NBC/WSJ/Marist finds the Sanders’ lead to be 50-46 percent. Fox sees a much broader 50-37 percent Sanders margin, while ARG projects a 47-44 percent spread.

Even if all of these surveys are correct and Sanders comes through with upset wins in either or both early states, it is still unlikely to deny Clinton the party nomination. Once the campaign goes to the south, Clinton’s numbers improve substantially.

Sen. Sanders has little support among African Americans and more conservative southern voters, the groups that dominate Democratic primaries in places like South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia, all of which vote on or before March 1.

Combined, these states hold 752 Democratic delegate votes. Therefore, expect the former Secretary of State to be in a dominant delegate position after March 1, irrespective of how well Sanders might perform in the small states of Iowa (52 Democratic delegates) and New Hampshire (32).

Such a showing will keep her overwhelming support among the 1,204 Super Delegates – the term given to the elected officials and state party leaders from each state – intact. To clinch the Democratic nomination, a candidate must secure 2,759 delegate votes.

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