by Rod D. Martin
January 13, 2016
Is lightning about to strike Hillary Clinton for the second time?
Yesterday’s Monmouth University poll has Hillary down 14 points in New Hampshire, 39% to Bernie Sanders’ 53%. And in a primary where independents and even Republicans routinely vote, she’s losing Democrats 42 to 50, down from a 57-35 lead just two months ago.
It gets worse. Voters under 50 prefer the 74 year old Sanders by almost 2 to 1. And equally implausibly Sanders is now beating Hillary among women, 50-44. He’s annihilating her among men, 57-32 (no one talks about this “gender gap,” but they should: Hillary’s latest campaign line is that women make better leaders than men, which is also known as “insulting half your audience”). And for that matter, so is Ted Cruz, who in the most recent Fox News poll has reduced her lead among women from 15 points a month ago to just 3 (Cruz also beats her overall, as do all of the top Republican contenders).
Nationally, a CBS/New York Times poll out yesterday has her under 50% among Democrats for the first time, with Sanders closing the gap from 52-32 last month to 48-41 now. Quinnipiac has her losing Iowa to Sanders 49-44. NBC/Wall Street Journal has her up, but within the margin of error.
As they say, Hillary’s been inevitable before. She was up by 29 points two months before the 2008 Iowa caucuses and was well over 50% among Democrats. By mid-February, it had become mathematically impossible for her to win, unless the Democrats’ vast pool of unelected “super delegates” could be convinced to throw her the nomination. They voted for Obama.
The most popular explanations are only part of the story. Democrats were indeed excited that Barack Obama was the first black candidate who had a chance (but Hillary was the first woman who had a chance, and there are a lot more women than blacks). He was significantly to the left of Hillary in a party that was moving to the left even of him, that couldn’t forgive her for voting for the Iraq War and for being part of the DLC and Clintonian “triangulation” (true, but if that were enough, Ron Paul would have won his nomination too). Hillary was disorganized (true, but John McCain was more so). And so forth.
Factors all; but Hillary would still have been coronated right on schedule but for technological advances which gave her younger opponent a decided edge. She never caught up. She still hasn’t.
Before there was a Barack Obama, at least on the national scene, there was MoveOn.org. MoveOn was the first group to really figure out the internet’s disruptive implications for politics, implications still largely lost on conservatives. They succeeded in building a multi-issue group in a single-issue world, and an army of dissatisfied leftists who could be motivated to action – and eventually giving – in real time.
MoveOn raised about $1 million in 2002, and wouldn’t have managed that if the media hadn’t loved them. Six years later, it raised $127 million – the NRA’s PAC raised $15 million the same year – with an average contribution size of just $34. And volunteers? Up from a handful in 2002, it put 231,000 “boots on the ground” in 2004, 493,000 in 2006, and a whopping 934,000 in 2008: not members, not email address, actual volunteers. For comparison, the entire membership of the United Auto Workers in 2008 was 557,000.
None of these people wanted Hillary. They still don’t.
Throughout 2007, this massive activist infrastructure threw itself into making Barack Obama viable and victorious. Though Hillary had the entire Democrat establishment at her disposal, Obama – consistently 20 to 30 points down – actually edged her in fundraising for the first half of the year, and continued to do so in the third and fourth quarters. On July 1, 2007, he had an unprecedented 258,000 individual donors; the entire Republican field had a collective 79,000. By Iowa, he had an unheard-of 600,000, mobilized, conditioned for activism by years with MoveOn, all ready to take Hillary down. And they did, organizing entire states for Obama before his campaign had bandwidth to assign paid staff, and flooding caucus states, many of which they won by as much as 70%. Hillary’s infinitely more conventional campaign simply could not keep up.
Is it happening again? You be the judge.
Hillary is still Hillary, baggage and all, and Quinnipiac finds that the first word that comes to mind in an open-ended question when voters are asked about her is “liar.” The people who ripped away her dream eight years ago haven’t changed their minds; but a lot of people have joined them. Moreover, the Democrat Party is a lot further left than it was in 2008. Whatever socialist signals Obama sent, he ran as a capitalist (and as a supporter of gun rights and traditional marriage). Sanders is surging as a capital-S Socialist. That’s a very new and disconcerting thing.
What’s more, despite being 20 to 30 points down all year, Sanders has held nearly even with Hillary’s fundraising, and kept his burn (Bern?) rate to about half hers. More than that, he’s almost doubled Obama’s 600,000 donors in 2007 with over 1.1 million. For the same period, Clinton reported just 89,000 volunteers, and while she has not released her individual donor numbers, for the first nine months of 2015, Sanders’ ratio of large donor cash to small was 1:3.3 (roughly identical to Obama’s in 2008); Clinton’s was 3:1.
Sound familiar? Add this: on Tuesday, MoveOn.org announced its endorsement for Bernie Sanders. 340,000 of its members voted in the endorsing contest (which, incidentally, is more people than voted in the 2008 Democrat primary or caucuses in half of the states). Sanders got 78.6%, almost identical to the vote eight years ago for Barack Obama.
In the history of the modern primary system, only two candidates have won the Democrat nomination after losing both Iowa and New Hampshire. Nine out of eleven times, losing both was death.
Perhaps Hillary will pull it out yet, or at least take one of the two (though her New Hampshire win in 2008 following Obama’s Iowa upset did nothing to save her). But I wouldn’t bet heavily on it. All of this has happened before. It looks like it’s about to happen again.