Why Clinton trails Sanders for the first time in a N.H. poll

A new poll has Bernie Sanders ahead of Hillary Clinton by seven points among likely Democratic voters in the key 2016 state of New Hampshire.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
Supporters cheer during a rally for democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The momentum for Bernie Sanders persists, but can voters call it a surge?

A new poll in New Hampshire from Franklin Pierce University and the Boston Herald shows Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton 44 percent to 37 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, a huge uptick from another Franklin Pierce poll that showed Clinton besting Sanders 44-8 in March. This most recent data marks the first time frontrunner Clinton has trailed in a poll during the 2016 primary season.

The live interview phone poll was conducted Aug. 7-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points, the Boston Herald reports, putting Sanders outside the margin of error in his lead. The other Democrats in the race, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Webb, barely register at 1 percent or below.

Like Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden got a push in this poll; Biden's favorability numbers have spiked 14 points since March. Forty-six percent of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire say Biden should announce his candidacy, while 42 percent say he should stay out.

But while Sanders has closed the gap in the Granite State, even his most strident supporters don’t necessarily find him electable.

Only 11 percent of likely Democratic voters picked him over Clinton to win the nomination, while 65 percent said she would emerge as the party’s general election candidate.

Still, the news from New England comes at a time when the Sanders camp is drawing record crowds on the West Coast.

Sanders has attracted more than 100,000 people to rallies in recent weeks in Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles, which the Washington Post attributes to a savvy campaign being levied on social media, which is successfully drawing the biggest turnouts in any current campaign. A recent rally at an LA arena drew a crowd of 27,500 people inside, and spillover watching from giant monitors outside, according to the Sanders campaign. Clinton’s aides, by contrast, estimate that her largest crowd to date has been about 5,500. The Post suggests the Independent from Vermont is building off this momentum a base of small-scale donors and volunteers that could make the difference if he is to be competitive against Clinton.

But a precedent the Sanders camp is likely keeping in mind: fellow Vermonter Howard Dean drew similarly large and enthusiastic audiences, the Post reports, “in mostly liberal enclaves in 2003, only to collapse as the Iowa caucuses approached.”

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