Sanders team accuses media of ignoring ‘surge’ in polls

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign is accusing the media of ignoring his “surge” in the polls as the Vermont independent looks to stage a comeback.

Sanders has jumped in new surveys of New Hampshire, with the latest CNN–University of New Hampshire poll finding him with the lead in the Granite State, which he won with 60 percent of the vote in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Sanders has also seen a small bump in some national polls and surveys of Iowa, although he does not lead anywhere else.

The Sanders campaign is fuming at the media, alleging the political press is playing favorites, particularly with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), who for weeks have won headlines about how their campaigns are rising in the stretch run to Iowa.


Sanders’s speechwriter David Sirota, whose daily newsletter is a reflection of the campaign’s thinking, collected examples of alleged media bias and polling misrepresentations in his latest issue, underscored by a headline from the satirical news website The Onion about how Sanders had “plummeted 2 points up” in a new poll.

“In the last week, a wave of polls has emerged showing a genuine, full-on Bernie surge — but you might not know that if you tuned into cable TV or read the headlines from the national press corps,” Sirota wrote. “In fact, you might not even know Bernie is running for president.”

Sanders has had a strong few weeks on the campaign trail since a heart attack sidelined him early last month and raised questions about whether he could continue on in the race.

Since then, Sanders has locked down endorsements from three prominent progressive members of the House, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

Sanders’s rallies in the home states of those three “squad” members have attracted thousands of supporters, replete with celebrity appearances, including rock star Jack White and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

The Vermont senator has more cash on hand than any other candidate — a staggering $33.7 million at the end of the third fundraising quarter — positioning himself for the final run into Iowa, where his campaign believes it will have the advantage in volunteer support and organization.

In the past month, Warren has slid in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls off a high of 27 percent down to 20.6 percent currently, only 4 points ahead of Sanders, as she has faced tougher media scrutiny and questions about her “Medicare for All” plan.


Sanders has seized on the opening to draw contrasts between himself and Warren on health care.

“I think that [Warren’s plan] would probably have a very negative impact on creating those jobs, or providing wages, increased wages and benefits for those workers,” Sanders told ABC News over the weekend.

Still, the polls are largely a mixed bag for Sanders as he jockeys for position with Warren, Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa, the first state to hold its nominating contest.

A USA Today–Suffolk poll from mid-October found Sanders sliding into third place, with only 9 percent support in Iowa. An Emerson College poll conducted in mid-October showed Sanders 10 points behind both Warren and Biden, who were tied at 23 percent.

Those polls have helped Warren establish herself as the front-runner in Iowa, while Buttigieg has gained about 10 points in the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls to overtake Sanders in recent weeks.

But the latest two surveys of Iowa conducted by The New York Times–Siena College and Iowa State University put Sanders right back in the thick of things at 19 percent and 18 percent respectively, in second place and third place and ahead of Biden in both polls.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘surging’ [for Sanders] but I’ve got a national poll coming out … that suggests there could be a small bump,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “However, the overarching finding is uncertainty in the entire field, which is why all the polls have very different results right now.”

Part of the challenge for Sanders owes to Warren’s popularity among some of the same liberal voters that once saw him as their sole standard-bearer. 

Warren has co-opted some of his signature policy proposals — Medicare for All, for instance — while breaking from Sanders over his democratic-socialist ideology, a distinction that some strategists say has helped Warren broaden her support among voters reluctant to back a self-described socialist.

At the same time, Buttigieg has seen his political stock in Iowa rise in recent weeks as he seeks to position himself as a younger centrist alternative to Biden.

The rise of Buttigieg and Warren has heightened doubts among some Democrats about whether Sanders has done enough to broaden his political base. His backing remains strong among the Democratic Party’s younger and more liberal voters, but there’s little evidence that he’s gaining traction beyond that, Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist said.

“Look, I know that his supporters have been very frustrated on Twitter and elsewhere — they’ve been airing some pretty serious resentments and grievances that they’re being counted out,” Reinish said. “I hear them, but I think that is because there’s an expansion strategy that’s not working.”

“Relevance and strength with your base doesn’t equal momentum and expansion,” he added.

Sanders supporters are pointing to the latest Times–Siena College survey that found he’s the only Democratic contender leading President Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, Sanders’s supporters passed around a quote from former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who said Sanders could be the strongest Democratic candidate in Wisconsin, which figures to be one of the hardest-fought battlegrounds in the 2020 election.

“I worry about him the most because I think a lot of voters, particularly in the bubble, forget it’s more about a gut check than a policy list,” Walker told reporters.

Sanders’s allies, meanwhile, say the media’s “Bernie blackout” is real and that their supporters feed off the notion that they’re being written off by the establishment and political press.

“Generally speaking, media folks don’t bother to read and don’t care or understand policy, so you then have talking heads on cable news blathering on about nonsense,” said Jonathan Tasini, a progressive strategist and Sanders supporter.

“That ignorance then feeds a bias against truly revolutionary ideas because, as an example, most college-educated media folks took an Economics 101 class which told them how wonderful the ‘free market’ and ‘free trade’ are, so they are hard-wired to oppose Bernie’s basic philosophy,” he said.

Tags 2020 Democratic presidential candidates 2020 presidential campaign Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg Rashida Tlaib
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