Sanders banking on Iowa win to surge past Biden

Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE’s campaign is all but guaranteeing a win next year in Iowa, a key caucus state that the Vermont senator views as critical to winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Campaign co-chairman Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKing incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-Calif.) says Sanders will win Iowa — a bold prediction eight months ahead of the caucuses scheduled for Feb. 3, where he will be up against Democratic rivals like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (Mass.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Moulton says Biden would make 'fantastic president' MORE.

“I fully anticipate he’ll win Iowa, having been on the ground there. And I think he’s going to do very well in New Hampshire and then there will be a fight between him and probably Warren and Biden,” Khanna said. “I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t win Iowa.”


Sanders, who has slipped in national polls recently, is counting on a strong showing in Iowa to give him momentum heading into New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — the second, third and fourth contests, respectively, of the primary season before Super Tuesday on March 3. 

A Gravis Marketing poll of 590 registered Democrats in Iowa from mid-April showed Biden and Sanders in a tie.

That’s been a solace to the Sanders campaign as other polls show him sliding. Surveys by Monmouth University found him dropping nationally, from 25 percent in March to 20 percent in April and then 15 percent in May.

A win in Iowa by Sanders would put him on the same path as former President Obama in 2008, when he defeated establishment-favored Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE.

Iowa has at times played the role of giant-killer.

Clinton finished third in 2008, a setback from which she never fully recovered. Eventual GOP nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE tied with conservative Rick Santorum in 2012. Four years earlier, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) came in fourth.


Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDemocratic governors fizzle in presidential race Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona MORE mustered only 3 percent support in 1992, and his predecessor, former President George H.W. Bush, came in third place in 1988.

“It tends to be a more progressive electorate in that caucus process, that’s been the history and tradition of it,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who advised Sanders’s campaign in 2016. “There’s a maverick streak in Iowa and — this goes back to the Vietnam War — there’s been an anti-war movement in Iowa that’s gone on for generations."

“I saw it with Bernie. His vote against the Iraq War was a very critical factor,” he added. 

The state could be a stumbling block for Biden, who voted for the Iraq War while a senator.

Obama, who also used Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War against her, was able to parlay his Iowa victory into strong second-place finishes in New Hampshire and Nevada and then victory in South Carolina, giving him enough momentum to win the 2008 nomination.

The Sanders campaign sees New Hampshire, which Sanders won with 60 percent of the vote in 2016, as friendly territory, with Nevada as another potential victory since their candidate is polling well among the state’s Latino residents.

Sanders sees Iowa, which he came close to winning in 2016, as his for the taking because of his loyal core of activist supporters who can be counted to show up on caucus night — no matter how bad the weather is — and stay through the time-consuming process.

“Having a lot of grass-roots activists and enthusiasm matters a lot because if it’s rainy and cold — a freezing-cold, snowy, icy night in February, which it often is — your supporters have to have the energy and motivation to show up,” said Ben Tulchin, Sanders’s campaign pollster.

“The energy and enthusiasm matters a lot, and that’s how he was able to pull into a tie last time,” Tulchin added, referring to 2016 when Clinton and Sanders finished with 49.9 and 49.6 percent of the state’s vote, respectively. It was a major victory for Sanders, who started off trailing Clinton by 50 points in early polling, according to Devine, who worked on his campaign at the time.

An active base of supporters is a boon to candidates in Iowa, where voters are more persuaded by direct encounters with politicians — or the recommendations of friends and neighbors — than in a big state such as California, where television advertising and media coverage have a larger influence.

The Sanders campaign is also counting on the traditional anti-war sentiments and the skepticism of free-trade agreements among Iowa Democrats — two potential vulnerabilities for Biden as they were for Clinton, who supported the Obama administration’s free-trade deals.

Realizing the political liability posed by Obama’s trade policies, Clinton reversed her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership a few months before the Iowa contest.

Earlier this month at an event in Iowa, Sanders bashed Biden’s support for the Iraq War, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and normalizing trade relations with China.

Sanders’s advisers see the eastern part of the state, especially along the Mississippi River, which has tended to vote Democratic in the past, as similar to Midwestern states where Sanders won in 2016, namely Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Tulchin circulated a polling memo on April 22 showing Sanders beating President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — three critical battlegrounds.

“If we win Iowa, we’re more likely to win New Hampshire, which makes us more likely to win Nevada, which puts us on a very strong path to winning the nomination,” Tulchin said. “Doing well in Iowa is essential.”

A win in Iowa would make Sanders the favorite going into New Hampshire, a next-door neighbor to his home state of Vermont.

The Sanders campaign is also optimistic about Nevada, which has a primary electorate with a strong working-class identity and a large number of Latino voters.

“Bernie does well with Latinos. Most polling shows him winning among Latinos. Even national polling that has Biden in first place shows Bernie in first with Latinos,” Tulchin said. “You have a larger Latino population in Nevada, and then it tends to be more working-class, which is good for Bernie.”

The other advantage Sanders has in Nevada is that, like Iowa, it’s a caucus state, where his active base of supporters is willing to put in the time. 

Sanders’s allies see strong performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada as crucial because he’s likely to have a weak showing in South Carolina, where African American voters make up about 60 percent of Democratic voters. Clinton crushed him — 73 percent to 26 percent — in 2016.

A published earlier this month by The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., showed Biden in first place with a commanding 31-point lead over second-place Sanders.

California, which holds its primary along with 12 other states on Super Tuesday, is another potentially tough state for Sanders, given its size and similarity to the national Democratic electorate, among which Sanders has slipped in recent polls.

A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,005 California voters published in April showed Biden with 26 percent support, compared to Sanders’s 18 percent. 

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) is likely to have a strong performance in her home state, as reflected by the Quinnipiac poll showing 17 percent support for her candidacy.