After the razor-thin margin by which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat out Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in last night’s Democratic caucus in Iowa, Sanders’ most vocal supporter in the New Jersey legislature is calling the competition between the establishment favorite and the progressive upstart a “dead heat.” Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) likes Sanders’ chances of repeating last night’s strong showing in New Hampshire next Tuesday.
With record turnout in the Iowa caucuses, last night may have put the lie to the idea that anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would see their strong poll numbers fail to perform at the ballot box when supporters failed to become voters.
“To those who have said Senator Sanders supporters won’t turn out, they were proven wrong last night,” said Wisniewski. “Remember, most of the polls had Senator Sanders close but not ahead in Iowa. ”
The latest numbers out of Iowa put Clinton at a bare lead of 49.9 percent against Sanders’ 49.6 percent.
“I did believe that Donald Trump’s polling numbers would not be matched by the Iowa caucus results, and that turned out to be true.” “But an Iowa victory is not tantamount to a clear path to the whitehouse. History shows there are more people who have won Iowa and lost the nomination that have lost Iowa and won the nomination.”
On that competition on the other side of the aisle, Wisniewski said he believes Trump, the frontrunner in New Hampshire according to the latest polls, will need to prove that his campaign has substance behind the bombast if he wants to avoid another defeat like Iowa. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) put his policy platform to work with evangelical voters and pulled out a win, a scenario that could play out again in South Carolina.
“Donald Trump’s celebrity status did not translate easily into people on the ground actually voting for him. I had always suspected that Donald Trump’s poll numbers were a function of his celebrity status and not necessarily a measure of his suitability for the office. And last night’s caucus seemed to have proved that.”
Wisniewski believes the former independent’s ground-up support has shown that his platform of tackling economic inequality can propel him to a win in New Hampshire despite his lack of support from the reigning campaign finance regime of big banks, corporate interests and super PACs. Sanders raised an impressive $33 million in individual contributions during the last quarter of 2015, compared to Clinton’s $37 million.
“Despite what the naysayers have said, Senator Sanders message of basic economic fairness resonates very strongly whether you’re in New Hampshire, Iowa, or even here in New Jersey,” he said. “His grassroots fundraising is simply nothing short of phenomenal. Over 300 million individual contributions have put him in a position that has passed even President Obama in grassroots fundraising.
Asked whether Sanders can maintain his momentum in the South Carolina primary, where the latest Monmouth poll shows Clinton leading 69 percent to Sanders’ 21 percent, Wisniewski said he’s confident Sanders’ exponential rise from this time last year will continue. Sanders will need splinter Clinton’s hold on the black and latino vote in that state, a hurdle he hasn’t faced in heavily white Iowa and New Hampshire.
“He is making inroads into what was formerly an impenetrable wall, and he will continue to do so into the next contest,” Wisniewski said.