The Bernie Sanders hoax

Bernie Sanders, Infrastructure
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My Facebook newsfeed has been invaded by more than rainbows and Confederate flags. Stories about Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDebate of century lives up to its billing Trump: It's not certain Russia hacked DNC Sanders warns: Debate is not ‘entertainment show’ MORE's (I-Vt.) "surge" in the Democratic primary have become ubiquitous on social media. Out of nowhere, here comes this 72-year-old Vermont socialist — free education in one fist, single-payer healthcare in the other — poised to surpass the once-thought-inevitable Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDebate of century lives up to its billing Trump offers support for banning gun sales to terror suspects Five takeaways from wild debate MORE. Am I witnessing the emergence of 2015's Barack Obama? Mad dash to the keyboard. Finally, I can write something about the Democratic primary! Finally, it got interesting!

In a big, bold Salon headline, Bill Curry asserts that "Hillary Clinton is going to lose."

In the Huffington Post, H.A. Goodman (a contributor to The Hill) has an article headlined "Bernie Sanders Has Overtaken Hillary Clinton In the Hearts and Minds of Democrats."

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Imagine my disappointment when I found out that it was all empty hype.

In fairness to Curry and Goodman, their articles do address the overly optimistic nature of their headlines.

Still, the polls tell the story of a reality in stark contrast to the progressive opinion-writing zeitgeist. There is no surge. There is no overtaking Clinton.

In the most recent Fox News poll (note to those who are anti-Fox: Fox News polls are conducted by an independent, bipartisan organization), Sanders is second at 15 percent. Up 4 points since the May 31 to June 2 poll. That's a nice little jump. Guess who else jumped 4 points since that poll? Clinton. Except her jump was from 57 percent to 61 percent. So Sanders's 4-point jump did not come at Clinton's expense, from voters jettisoning themselves from a sinking ship.

Sanders's 4-point jump came from Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJuan Williams: Verdict on big debate will be instantaneous WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance MORE voters. Sen. Warren (D-Mass.) was at 7 percent in the May 31 to June 2 poll, but she was not included at all in the most recent poll. Those 7 percent of Democratic voters didn't decide to unregister and forgo voting; they simply chose a new candidate.

The New Hampshire surge — which is responsible for much of the burgeoning Sanders mythology — is much more interesting than the nonexistent national surge. Bloomberg and CNN polled New Hampshire voters last week, and the results were a Dickensian tale of two polls. The CNN poll showed Clinton with an 8-point lead. The Bloomberg poll showed Clinton with a 32-point lead. Both polls polled likely Democratic primary voters. Both polls had similar sample sizes. Both polls had a margin of error near 5 points. So, why the 24 point disparity?

The most obvious difference between these two polls was that the Bloomberg poll did not include Vice President Biden as a possible contender. When Biden is included, it hurts Clinton, which means that if Sanders is to have any real chance at all, it rests largely on Biden's decision.

That being said, Sanders is still 8 points down in New Hampshire, even with Biden in the race. An 8-point deficit is small compared to Clinton's national lead, but it's still formidable, and New Hampshire polling misrepresents Sanders's popularity because he does disproportionately well among white voters. On a national level, Clinton leads Sanders among white Democrats by about 34 points. Among black Democrats, she leads him by about 65 points. The black population of New Hampshire is about 1.5 percent according to the Census Bureau, which is far below the 13.5 percent black population of the U.S.

But what about the big lead that evaporated for Clinton in 2008? I asked Kyle Kondik, the managing editor at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball about that, and he explained that "her leads were not as towering as they are now: She was generally in the low-to-mid 40s nationally, whereas she's now consistently over 60 percent. Anything can happen, but Clinton is as big a favorite for her party's nomination as any non-incumbent in recent memory."

So, what is all this Sanders hype really about? Dr. Paul Rutledge, associate professor of political science at the University of West Georgia, attributes it to "the media trying to sensationalize an otherwise dreadfully boring Democratic primary."

Looks to me like wish-upon-a-star thinking from progressives in the media who see the Democratic Party ready to hand the nomination to a non-progressive Democrat who's perceived by 52 percent of people as "untrustworthy," according to the latest Fox poll.

In Curry's insightful but overly optimistic Sanders article, he points to this himself, saying, "She's weakest on the sleeper issue of 2016: public corruption and the general debasement of politics and government."

I sympathize with progressives and their lack of options in this primary. I'll take the so-called GOP "clown car," which comes with 15 to 20 choices, over the Democrats' self-driving Clinton-mobile any day.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College. Follow him on Twitter @eddiezipperer.