Bernie Sanders Again Shows That The Pundits Are Wrong–Improving In The Polls After First Debate

CNN Debate Sanders Clinton

The pundits who have been downplaying Bernie Sanders’ campaign form the start declared that Hillary Clinton was the winner of the first Democratic debate, despite the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. As usually occurs, polls showed that after the fact the majority went with the pundits as to the winner (with many probably not having seen the debate). However the pundits did not predict what has actually happened. Voters are telling pollsters that Clinton won, but an increasing number want Sanders to win the nomination.

CNN reports Hillary Clinton wins debate, but Bernie Sanders rises:

With the first Democratic debate in the books, a new CNN/ORC poll finds most who watched think Hillary Clinton had the best performance of the night, but her strong showing hasn’t boosted her standing in the race for the party’s nomination…

Compared with pre-debate polling, Sanders’ support is up five points since mid-September, but no other candidate showed significant change.

Gravis Marketing similarly found that a majority thought Clinton won the debate, but also that Sanders pulled within eight points of Clinton nationally–overall a favorable outcome for Sanders. Clinton is welcome to accumulate debate points if Sanders is picking up voters.

One item of concern was that the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll did show Clinton pulling even with Sanders in New Hampshire, but now the Franklin Pierce-Herald poll shows Sanders maintaining his lead:

Sanders holds a 38-30 percent lead over Clinton in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Biden draws 19 percent in the poll of 403 likely Democratic primary voters conducted immediately after last week’s debate.

Sanders’ 8-point lead is essentially unchanged from the 44-37 percent advantage the Vermont senator held in a stunning Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August — the first to show the former Secretary of State behind in New Hampshire.

The new poll also has Sanders holding an even bigger 10-point lead over Clinton if Biden isn’t in the presidential field.

The results suggest Clinton will have a tough time overcoming the deficit, as more than half of notoriously finicky Granite State voters now say they have made up their minds.

Seven in 10 Sanders supporters say they’ve made a “firm choice” to vote for him, a 26 percent increase from the last Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August. And 62 percent of Clinton backers now report they’re firmly in her column, compared to just 40 percent in August.

This does show that the pundits who claimed that Clinton was once again unbeatable after the first debate got it wrong. Beyond that, I wouldn’t believe any predictions that the polls today will accurately predict what will happen when people turn out to vote. If you need an example of that, check out this report  from December 2007 describing how Clinton has a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Polls in a primary battle mean very little, and a single debate will not decide the nomination. Nothing is even close to getting settled until people start to vote, and ignore those pundits who tell you otherwise. A lead in the national polls is especially meaningless as these often change dramatically afte the results of the first contests are known. Strong performances by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire can totally redefine the race.

The pundits also said after the debate that Clinton’s performance meant that Joe Biden was not going to enter the race. That argument never made much sense. Biden had said his decision was based upon personal matters. Even if he was watching the debate to decide, a strong debate performance by Hillary Clinton would not suddenly erase Clinton’s major flaws and weaknesses. If she could beat the other candidates in the debate, that might even be seen by Biden as meaning there is room in the race for him to challenge her.

Despite all the predicti0ns from pundits that the debate would keep Joe Biden out, the headlines on Monday were full of predictions that Biden might be announcing that he is running imminently. Whether or not he runs, the debate did not settle the matter.

The pundits are probably right about one thing–Jim Webb has no chance at winning the Democratic nomination. Now there is speculation that he might be planning to run as an independent. If he does, I’m not sure if he will take more votes from Democrats or Republicans, and if he can pick up enough votes to matter. Maybe he has a shot at receiving some votes, however few, if he is seen as a rational Republican, in contrast to those who are currently running.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Maurice Ross says:

    I adore Sanders, just as I adored George McGovern,  But it was a mistake to nominate McGovern who was doomed to lose a general election to Nixon, however reprehensible Nixon was to those of us on the left. Let's not repeat the same mistake.  Biden is the most electable Democrat, but Clinton would also be formidable. With the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, we need to win this one.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    This is not 1972 and Sanders is not George McGovern. Clinton is too risky to consider nominating with scandals which are probably going to get worse over the next year and the majority considering her to be dishonest. Sanders, not Clinton, is creating excitement and bringing in new voters. Clinton is doing terribly among independents and in the battle ground states, with Sanders looking much stronger.

    Biden might be more electable. We will have to see what happens if he really does get in.

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