Poll shows Clinton trails Sanders in New Hampshire. Should she panic?

New Hampshire is full of the kind of voters that like Sanders the most – white liberals. But national polls still show Clinton winning an absolute majority of her party.

Dominick Reuter/Reuters
US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, US senator fro Vermont, greets supporters at a campaign town hall in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 1, 2015.

Hillary Clinton has fallen behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, according to a new poll. She now attracts 37 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, while liberal fireball Sanders gets 44 percent.

Yes, it’s just one poll. Yes, the Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey has a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points, meaning it’s possible that Mrs. Clinton and Senator Sanders are actually tied. Yes, the poll is based on phone interviews with only 442 people. That’s not exactly a big sample. 

Still, the same pollsters in March had Clinton ahead of Sanders by 44 to 8 percent.

“That is ... a big swing,” writes Ezra Klein at Vox.

Is it time for panic in Chappaqua? The news is doubly bad for Clintonworld today, given that the former secretary of State has turned over to the FBI her personal e-mail server and a thumb drive with copies of 30,000 e-mails sent from her controversial private system.

Well, at the lower levels sheer terror is certainly a viable position. Political campaigns run on lattes and lack of sleep, producing an atmosphere in which black humor is appropriate for almost any occasion. But it’s not time for panic on the bridge. Hillary Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination for president.

It would still be an upset of historical proportions for anyone to beat her. Yes, Joe Biden – we’re looking at you. (The general election is another story, but that’s not our subject at the moment.)

Look at the national polls. According to RealClearPolitics rolling average, Clinton is ahead of Sanders among Democratic voters by 36 points. She wins an absolute majority of her party even with Vice President Biden included in the race.

Plus, if Sanders is going to win any important primary state, New Hampshire is the logical choice. He’s likely to do much better there than in the overall contest.

First, it’s next door to his home state of Vermont. Second, Sanders resembles the Old Man of the Mountain – that iconic Granite State rock formation that’s on the reverse of the state quarter. (We’re surprised he hasn’t campaigned on this.) And finally, and most importantly, New Hampshire is just full of the kind of voters that like Sanders the most – white liberals.

Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight data journalism site ran the numbers on this a few weeks ago. Fully 54 percent of the Democratic primary vote in New Hampshire is composed of white liberals. The only state with a larger share is ... Vermont, with 59 percent.

Iowa is third, with 50 percent.

In fact, it’s possible that Clinton could lose to Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire and win everywhere else, writes Silver. Other early primary states, such as South Carolina, have a low percentage of liberals in their Democratic electorate. The case is the same for big prize states such as California.

“Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t representative of the more diverse electorates that Democrats will turn out elsewhere,” according to Mr. Silver. “It just so happens that the idiosyncrasies of the first two states match Sanders’ strengths and Clinton’s relative weaknesses.”

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