The Clinton Climb

Tomorrow is the next Democratic debate, and I’m finding it very hard to care. The coronation-turned-potentially-interesting-race has once again turned into a coronation. Hillary Clinton has solidified her firm control over the 2016 Democratic Primary. As evidence, take a look at some of these charts, which Huffington Post helped me assemble.

We’ll start with national polling. (You can click on all of today’s charts for a closer look.)


On September 23, Sanders had Clinton’s national lead down to 13 points. Since then, that deficit has more than doubled. Sanders, even with Biden’s drop-out and diffused support, has only climbed 0.4 percent since then. Even Martin O’Malley, who climbed 1.6 percent, has gained more.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, which on February 1 will hold the 2016 Democratic Primary‘s first contest:


On September 10, Clinton’s Iowa lead was down to 1.8 percent, essentially a tie. Now, however, it’s back up to nearly 13. Sanders’s steep drop-off around October 20 coincided with Biden’s announcement and Clinton’s Benghazi testimony, both coming shortly after Clinton’s generally praised first debate performance. These moments solidified her climb, stunted Bernie’s, and changed the narrative of the race.

Most telling is the reversal of fortune in New Hampshire, Senator Sanders’s home away from home and the second contest of the primary. The Granite State, due to Sanders’s home field advantage and the white, liberal population that was slow to come around to Clinton, was seen as his best shot at toppling Clinton in a relevant primary, and many considered him the favorite to win the state. But even there, Clinton has wrested back momentum:


It takes a moment to re-orient ourselves here. In New Hampshire, it was actually Sanders who was leading this race for the latter part of summer and much of autumn. Then once again, about halfway into October, Mr. Mo changed teams. Clinton grabbed the lead and has won three of the last four New Hampshire polls. Both candidates’ numbers have climbed in Biden’s absence, but Clinton has to feel good about any kind of a lead considering how things looked two months ago.

Even if Sanders does find a way to take home New Hampshire on February 9, a mountainous challenge awaits him after the extremely white and liberal opening states. Take, for example, the “first in the south” primary — South Carolina — which holds its contest later in the month.


Even in her campaign’s worst days, Clinton sat on a 37-point lead over her nearest competitor. It was impregnable then, and now, at 53-points, it’s stratospheric.

Relevantly, South Carolina can be used as a stand-in for the entire south, a political wall that would have blunted even a Sanders sweep in Iowa and New Hampshire. Even in the midst of Sanders’s charge and Clinton’s struggles, I stood confidently by my assertion that many factors made the odds overwhelming against a complete collapse. In fact, my biggest mistake of that post might actually be predicting, “Sanders will win New Hampshire.”

Ultimately, we’re seeing a remarkably close parallel with the 2000 Democratic Primary. In that election cycle, Democrat Al Gore was considered a heavy favorite as the primary cycle began. An upstart challenger, Senator Bill Bradley, excited liberals and the media (two groups who are often one in the same, amiright?) into thinking it might actually be close. Still, Gore polled Hillaryesque 50s and 60s throughout most of 1999. The result of that primary? He swept all 50 states.

At this point, if someone offered me an over/under of 2.5 of total Sanders states won, I’d have to take the under. Vermont is probably his, and he has a 50/50 shot at New Hampshire. Maybe some other rogue state like Alaska or Maine might give him a third, but that’s about it. This primary is once again a runaway.

So you’ll excuse me for not getting too excited about tomorrow’s debate.


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