With February 1st comes Iowa; the first state to vote in the 2016 US Presidential elections. If the polls are to be trusted, it’s a dead heat between previous favourite Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Long gone are the days of the Clinton campaign dismissing Sanders as ‘something in the rear view mirror appearing closer than in reality’.
Following Iowa is the New Hampshire vote, on 9th February. Although these states are only the start of the official voting season, they have long acted as a bellwether for the state of play before the November announcement of the presidency. It was in January of the Presidential campaign of 2008, that Obama first began to surge in the polls against Clinton; will Sanders impressive progessive and millennial grassroots movement be enough to secure Iowa? If Sanders was to win in Iowa, and his numbers skyrocket – as Obama’s did as a result – the Clinton campaign may wind down, just as it did in 2008, with Hillary ceding defeat to the then-untouchable Obama by June.
Bernie and Barack’s grassroots campaigns are not without similarity, both incredibly well-organised and the majority of which, made up by small ($25 or less) donations from thousands of US citizens. It was announced in December 2015, that Sanders had received more individual donations than either of Obama’s campaigns did in the down-year prior to the Election years – an astounding 2,209,636 donations.
But many have been quick to dispel the idea that Sanders could win the Democratic ticket – even now – and point out that the majority of his campaign is online and away from the traditional voter demographics. Yes, Sanders has the milliennials behind him – see the subreddit /SandersForPresident – and appears to be the 18-30s voting choice, but even if Sanders follows in Obama’s footsteps and secures the Democratic nomination, of the 19% of voters in 2012 that were in the 18-25 bracket, 60% voted for Obama. Out of a turnout of 57.5% and a total voter count of 126 million, only 23.94 million were in the 18-25 bracket, meaning that Sanders has to win over many, many more voters to make a dent in Clinton’s drawn out rise to the top. The key voting bloc to target would be the 45-64 bracket, as this appears to be the most likely vote in high numbers for the U.S. Presidential elections.
Yes, Sanders is doing exceptionally well with millennials and also progressives – he has run as an Independent candidate for most of his political career, after all – but will this truly be enough to progress and defeat Hillary. Nothing is a sure thing in politics, and polls come and go, but the Quinnipiac poll for the Des Moines Register on January 12th shows Sanders surging past Clinton to receive 49% of the Democratic vote, with Hillary trailing 5 percentage points at 44%. Even Fox News – the notoriously staunch Republican media outlet – predicts a re-run of 2008 with Sanders, like Obama, surging past Clinton in Iowa and to victory for the Democratic nomination.
But, as the first voting stages approach, it seems that the Clinton receives more and more endorsements – even from some of the major unions – effectively steamrollering the level of Sanders’ endorsements. Will progressives and millennials be enough for Sanders to put a stop to the Clinton campaign? If Iowa votes Bernie, New Hampshire looks set to follow and if that happens, Bernie will have taken the wind out of Hillary’s sails. But if this is enough to win the nomination is anyone’s guess.
For more information on the US Presidential Election, the Telegraph have created a good overview of the processes and voting system.
For the breakdown of voter statistics in 2012, go to Cornell University’s renowned Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.