Sanders banking on Iowa win to surge past Biden

Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE’s campaign is all but guaranteeing a win next year in Iowa, a key caucus state that the Vermont senator views as critical to winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Campaign co-chairman Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaProgressive Caucus co-chair endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary Biden’s right, we need policing reform now – the House should quickly take up his call to action The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report MORE (D-Calif.) says Sanders will win Iowa — a bold prediction eight months ahead of the caucuses scheduled for Feb. 3, where he will be up against Democratic rivals like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (Mass.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE.

“I fully anticipate he’ll win Iowa, having been on the ground there. And I think he’s going to do very well in New Hampshire and then there will be a fight between him and probably Warren and Biden,” Khanna said. “I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t win Iowa.”


Sanders, who has slipped in national polls recently, is counting on a strong showing in Iowa to give him momentum heading into New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — the second, third and fourth contests, respectively, of the primary season before Super Tuesday on March 3. 

A Gravis Marketing poll of 590 registered Democrats in Iowa from mid-April showed Biden and Sanders in a tie.

That’s been a solace to the Sanders campaign as other polls show him sliding. Surveys by Monmouth University found him dropping nationally, from 25 percent in March to 20 percent in April and then 15 percent in May.

A win in Iowa by Sanders would put him on the same path as former President Obama in 2008, when he defeated establishment-favored Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE.

Iowa has at times played the role of giant-killer.

Clinton finished third in 2008, a setback from which she never fully recovered. Eventual GOP nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMilley discussed resigning from post after Trump photo-op: report Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Attorney says 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police suffered brain injury MORE tied with conservative Rick Santorum in 2012. Four years earlier, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Cindy McCain ‘disappointed’ McGrath used image of John McCain in ad attacking McConnell Report that Bush won’t support Trump reelection ‘completely made up,’ spokesman says MORE (R-Ariz.) came in fourth.


Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWill the ‘law and order’ president pardon Roger Stone? Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden The sad spectacle of Trump’s enablers MORE mustered only 3 percent support in 1992, and his predecessor, former President George H.W. Bush, came in third place in 1988.

“It tends to be a more progressive electorate in that caucus process, that’s been the history and tradition of it,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who advised Sanders’s campaign in 2016. “There’s a maverick streak in Iowa and — this goes back to the Vietnam War — there’s been an anti-war movement in Iowa that’s gone on for generations.”

“I saw it with Bernie. His vote against the Iraq War was a very critical factor,” he added. 

The state could be a stumbling block for Biden, who voted for the Iraq War while a senator.

Obama, who also used Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War against her, was able to parlay his Iowa victory into strong second-place finishes in New Hampshire and Nevada and then victory in South Carolina, giving him enough momentum to win the 2008 nomination.

The Sanders campaign sees New Hampshire, which Sanders won with 60 percent of the vote in 2016, as friendly territory, with Nevada as another potential victory since their candidate is polling well among the state’s Latino residents.

Sanders sees Iowa, which he came close to winning in 2016, as his for the taking because of his loyal core of activist supporters who can be counted to show up on caucus night — no matter how bad the weather is — and stay through the time-consuming process.

“Having a lot of grass-roots activists and enthusiasm matters a lot because if it’s rainy and cold — a freezing-cold, snowy, icy night in February, which it often is — your supporters have to have the energy and motivation to show up,” said Ben Tulchin, Sanders’s campaign pollster.

“The energy and enthusiasm matters a lot, and that’s how he was able to pull into a tie last time,” Tulchin added, referring to 2016 when Clinton and Sanders finished with 49.9 and 49.6 percent of the state’s vote, respectively. It was a major victory for Sanders, who started off trailing Clinton by 50 points in early polling, according to Devine, who worked on his campaign at the time.

An active base of supporters is a boon to candidates in Iowa, where voters are more persuaded by direct encounters with politicians — or the recommendations of friends and neighbors — than in a big state such as California, where television advertising and media coverage have a larger influence.

The Sanders campaign is also counting on the traditional anti-war sentiments and the skepticism of free-trade agreements among Iowa Democrats — two potential vulnerabilities for Biden as they were for Clinton, who supported the Obama administration’s free-trade deals.

Realizing the political liability posed by Obama’s trade policies, Clinton reversed her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership a few months before the Iowa contest.

Earlier this month at an event in Iowa, Sanders bashed Biden’s support for the Iraq War, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and normalizing trade relations with China.

Sanders’s advisers see the eastern part of the state, especially along the Mississippi River, which has tended to vote Democratic in the past, as similar to Midwestern states where Sanders won in 2016, namely Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Tulchin circulated a polling memo on April 22 showing Sanders beating President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — three critical battlegrounds.

“If we win Iowa, we’re more likely to win New Hampshire, which makes us more likely to win Nevada, which puts us on a very strong path to winning the nomination,” Tulchin said. “Doing well in Iowa is essential.”

A win in Iowa would make Sanders the favorite going into New Hampshire, a next-door neighbor to his home state of Vermont.

The Sanders campaign is also optimistic about Nevada, which has a primary electorate with a strong working-class identity and a large number of Latino voters.

“Bernie does well with Latinos. Most polling shows him winning among Latinos. Even national polling that has Biden in first place shows Bernie in first with Latinos,” Tulchin said. “You have a larger Latino population in Nevada, and then it tends to be more working-class, which is good for Bernie.”

The other advantage Sanders has in Nevada is that, like Iowa, it’s a caucus state, where his active base of supporters is willing to put in the time. 

Sanders’s allies see strong performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada as crucial because he’s likely to have a weak showing in South Carolina, where African American voters make up about 60 percent of Democratic voters. Clinton crushed him — 73 percent to 26 percent — in 2016.

A published earlier this month by The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., showed Biden in first place with a commanding 31-point lead over second-place Sanders.

California, which holds its primary along with 12 other states on Super Tuesday, is another potentially tough state for Sanders, given its size and similarity to the national Democratic electorate, among which Sanders has slipped in recent polls.

A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,005 California voters published in April showed Biden with 26 percent support, compared to Sanders’s 18 percent. 

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.) is likely to have a strong performance in her home state, as reflected by the Quinnipiac poll showing 17 percent support for her candidacy.