3 reasons Bernie Sanders is now the Democratic front-runner

In 2008, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSanders press secretary leaves campaign RNC strategizes against Clinton VP contenders Analysis: Trump, Clinton plans not in line with balancing national debt MORE lost the Democratic nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). In 2015, another senator is giving the Clinton campaign a headache; however, this election cycle has an additional cast of characters that normally isn't a part of any presidential rivalry. Because of a federal judge, the FBI and Justice Department investigations, and an energized base of progressive voters throughout the nation voting for Sanders, it's evident Clinton has lost her status as the leading presidential candidate for Democrats. Although many Democrats still won't admit the obvious, below are three reasons why Sanders has become the new Democratic front-runner in 2016.

1. Within a surprisingly short time period, increased name recognition and an energized base of Democratic voters have allowed Sanders to compete and even surpass Clinton in various polls.

Sanders formally announced his run for the presidency on May 26, 2015. Since then, Clinton's lead in nationwide polls has dwindled. This paradigm shift has been fueled primarily because of scandals, Clinton's inability to answer questions in a forthright manner, and the energy exhibited by Sanders's supporters. Furthermore, CNN cites a recent Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll that reports Sanders ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire. Even when acknowledging that Clinton still leads Sanders in various other polls, CNN writes that "polling has also shown Clinton's vulnerabilities as voters question her honesty and trustworthiness." Echoing CNN, Quinnipiac University issued a report in July titled "Clinton In Trouble In Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds." This Quinnipiac poll explains that Sanders now performs as well, or even better than Clinton, in various scenarios:

In several matchups in Iowa and Colorado, another Democratic contender, U.S. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders press secretary leaves campaign RNC strategizes against Clinton VP contenders Dems celebrate anniversary of gay marriage ruling MORE of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker. ...

Clinton gets markedly negative favorability ratings in each state, 35-56 percent in Colorado, 33-56 percent in Iowa and 41-50 percent in Virginia.

'Hillary Clinton's numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

True, there is a poll among Democrats where Clinton still has a wide lead, however, this poll doesn't ask voters about "honesty." Whenever a poll is narrowed down to issues like trustworthiness, then data from Quinnipiac University's Swing State Poll and CNN's findings illustrate that voters in swing states (Democrats can't win the White House without winning a majority of swing states) simply do not trust Clinton.

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In addition to Quinnipiac's research, The Hill's Brent Budowsky, in his Contributors piece titled "Sanders beats trump by 20 plus points," explains that Sanders is just as competitive as Clinton against GOP competition:

The fact that Sanders beats Walker by six to seven points, depending on whether all voters or likely voters are counted — a near-landslide margin in a general election — makes it clear that the Sanders surge is more than a surge against Donald Trump, but move that makes him competitive with all Republican candidates.

Budowsky also dispels the myth that Sanders is unelectable or too extreme, explaining that “giving free college tuition at public universities paid for by a transaction tax on Wall Street firms, and Medicare-for-all healthcare are all popular positions that Democrats should adopt in one form or another." The fact that Sanders doesn't need to convince voters to trust him, whereas Clinton continues to battle against FBI investigations of her emails, is yet another Bernie Sanders is rising in the polls.

It's important to remember as well that the Iowa caucus is on Feb. 1, 2016. The Sanders campaign is literally just getting started in terms of mainstream media attention and nationwide organization. In contrast, the Clinton campaign is going in the opposite direction, due to the FBI's confiscation of her email server, and the inability to answer why she had this server in the first place. The disparity between both campaigns could be much wider by February of next year, primarily because Sanders doesn't have scandals to defend against and can simply focus entirely on campaigning.

As of August, a CNN poll reported that 55 percent of voters have an "unfavorable" view of Clinton, worse than the 47 percent of voters who shared the same view in April. With the email controversy, it's feasible that an even greater percentage of voters will hold an unfavorable view of Clinton several months from now, and we're still a long way from the Iowa caucus. In contrast, greater name recognition and the ability to debate Clinton on television will only help Sanders and continue to energize an ever-growing base of extremely loyal supporters across America.

2. Clinton can't win the Democratic nomination or presidency with the FBI as a running mate.

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is now part of the ongoing controversy:

The judge ordered the State Department to request the FBI alert the department about "any information recovered from Mrs. Clinton's server and the related thumb drive" that is potentially relevant to the FOIA case and not already in the State Department's possession. He gave the two agencies a month to report back to him on their progress.

Sullivan stated, "We wouldn't be here today if the employee had followed government policy." Furthermore, Politico notes that pertaining to Clinton's conduct, Sullivan asserted "during a hearing Thursday that she violated government policy by storing official messages on a private server when she worked as secretary of [S]tate." The FBI now has two months to analyze a private server, and the results could lead to even more revelations about a breach of security protocol. Most importantly, the Clinton campaign can no longer claim that information was classified for political purposes if this information was "born classified."

3. Classified information has already been found within Clinton's emails and there's a great likelihood of more revelations pertaining to breaches in protocol. As a result, the servers and emails (of other people) linked to Clinton's correspondence can also become part of this ongoing saga.

Since emails containing classified information were stored on a private server, questions about security will continue to plague the Clinton campaign. In addition, new information has surfaced indicating that some of Clinton's emails were classified from the start, not retroactively. A recent Reuters article explains why the Clinton campaign can't hide behind the notion that Clinton never knew certain emails were classified:

The new stamps indicate that some of Clinton's emails from her time as the nation's most senior diplomat are filled with a type of information the U.S. government and the department's own regulations automatically deems classified from the get-go — regardless of whether it is already marked that way or not. In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department's own "Classified" stamps now identify as so-called "foreign government information."

Therefore, if information was always classified, or "born classified," then there's no defense for keeping such data on a private server without the protection of government security. This fact alone could lead to numerous issues that eventually undermine Clinton's chances in 2016. In addition, the FBI might also demand the emails and servers of people Clinton corresponded with, if indeed finding information from her server (wiped clean of information as stated by her lawyer) proves difficult and records from computers that corresponded with Clinton's server are required in the investigation of classified material.

When asked if she wiped her server clean of data, Clinton responded, "Like with a cloth or something?" This type of response highlights the following question: Why did Secretary of State Clinton need a personal server in the first place? The longer this saga persists, the more people will inquire as to why she needed to keep personal and government information — without government security — on a private server. As a result of the FBI's involvement and nature of the controversy (both intelligence and technology can take this scandal into a number of directions), it's only logical that Sanders is the only Democrat capable of uniting voters and challenging a GOP nominee.

Democrats, and the country, can't enter the voting booth 441 days from now with the FBI investigating emails and private servers. This fact, along with the millions of Sanders voters around the country filling arenas to hear the senator speak, are reasons why Sanders is the true Democratic front-runner. Over 100,000 people have attended his events thus far, and it's safe to say that such enthusiasm and energy will continue to grow until Election Day. Democrats in Congress might not admit it at the moment, and Clinton supporters might still believe the email controversy is fabricated, but only one Democrat in 2016 can win the presidency. His name is Bernie Sanders, and the longer Hillary Clinton's email scandal persists, the more Sanders becomes the only hope Democrats have of winning the White House.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.

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