Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPoll: 85 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for her again OMB director: Government shutdown not a 'desired end' Poll: Almost half say Trump off to poor start MORE allies worried about polls that suggest a tightening general election match-up with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's Hollywood Walk of Fame star defaced Report: Senate's Russia probe understaffed Trump won't comment on Le Pen's advancement in French election MORE are placing blame on Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Kasich: 'I think political parties are on their way out' Sanders: Democratic Party's model is 'failing' MORE.
They say that the long primary fight with the independent senator from Vermont, which looks like it could go all the way to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, has taken a toll on Clinton’s standing in the polls. In the latest RealClearPolitics average,she is two-tenths of a point behind Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
“I don’t think he realizes the damage he’s doing at this point,” one ally said of Sanders. “I understand running the campaign until the end, fine. But at least take the steps to begin bringing everyone together.”
In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Sanders called voting for Clinton in the general election “the lesser of two evils.”
He has also kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism against the Democratic National Committee and its chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who his supporters charge is rigging the contest against Sanders.
A series of polls over the weekend all point to a tightening general election race between Trump and Clinton, who needs 90 more delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination, according to The Associated Press. The news group includes superdelegates who have committed to each candidate in its totals. Clinton has a huge lead over Sanders in superdelegates, the party officials who will cast votes at the convention for a nominee.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed the billionaire businessman with a 2-point national lead, 46 percent to 44 percent. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had Clinton up 46 percent to 43 percent. Last month, Clinton held an 11-point lead in that poll.
Swing states also suggest a tight race.
In Florida, a CBS/YouGov poll has Clinton up by just 1 point over Trump, 43 percent to 42 percent. In Ohio, the same poll showed the former secretary of State with a 4-point lead.
“I’ve said all along that opposing Trump isn’t going to be easy,” the Clinton ally said. “In fact, he’s probably one of the toughest opponents we could have. There’s a reason he knocked out every other opponent in the Republican primary.”
To be sure, Clinton has problems and vulnerabilities that go beyond Sanders. Her favorability numbers are weak for a major-party nominee at this stage of the campaign.
She is also still waiting for the FBI to finish its investigation of her use of a private email server while at State.
Still, it is the Sanders problem that is now on the front burner of concerns for Clinton and her supporters.
Just two months before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Clinton has yet to lock up a nomination that would allow her to focus her fire on Trump amid an effort to unify Democrats around her candidacy.
Instead, Sanders supporters online are loudly declaring no end to the “Bernie or bust” motto even as Republicans increasingly rally around Trump as their own nominee.
“It holds her back from controlling the narrative,” another Clinton ally said of Sanders’s continued presence in the race.
The polls indicating a tight general election race have cemented a belief in Clinton World that the candidate needs to devote all her time now to the general election.
Publicly, Clinton has downplayed the polls, dismissing them when asked Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Polls this far out mean nothing,” she told the show’s moderator, Chuck Todd. “They certainly mean nothing to me. And I think if people go back and look, they really mean nothing in terms of analyzing what’s going to happen in the fall.”
At the same time, she added that the campaign is “not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize himself” while she still opposes Sanders in the primary.
“I’m going to keep focused on Donald Trump because I will be the nominee. I will be running against Donald Trump in the fall and I do not want Americans, and, you know, good, thinking Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents, to start to believe this is a normal candidacy,” she said. “It isn’t.”
Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, attributes tightening in the polls to Trump solidifying support from Republicans.
“That’s definitely helping him,” Reeher said.
One Democratic strategist and veteran of the 2004 and 2008 election cycles predicted that Clinton would see a similar bounce in the polls if Sanders were to exit the race.
“I’ve never seen an advantage this big before on issues like preparedness to be president, and a big majority of Sanders supporters already say they’ll support her as the nominee,” the strategist said.
The political veteran also said the current situation is favorable for Clinton compared to the Democratic divide that Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump will ramp up action on executive orders this week: reports French election: Le Pen, Macron will face off Congress must delay ObamaCare's health insurance tax immediately MORE faced in 2008 after his hard-fought primary victory over Clinton. In that case, Clinton voters did come home to Obama.
“Most importantly, you’ve never had 70 percent of voters saying a nominee doesn’t have the temperament to be president,” the strategist said, referring to polls about Trump. “This is unprecedented at this stage.”
This story was updated at 11:38 a.m.