Hillary Clinton has been fearing this day since she launched her campaign.
New Democratic Presidential Nomination Polls in Iowa have Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in a deadlock. Out of seven polls conducted between 1/5 and 1/20, three of them predicted Sanders winning. Both polls have each candidate winning by single digits. What was once a clear Clinton stronghold has been turned into a big question, only to be answered on February 1, the day of the Iowa Caucuses.
This may not be significant to outside spectators. After all, Iowa is only one state participating in the Democratic Primaries. However, what makes this more interesting is that according to RedState, only once in the modern primary system has a Republican or Democratic candidate ever won their party’s nomination without Iowa or New Hampshire (ironically, it was Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton in his 1992 campaign). Sanders could potentially win both states.
Pollsters have consistently predicted Sanders would win New Hampshire. In the latest five polls in New Hampshire, Sanders was predicted to win. In fact, in a CNN poll, Sanders would defeat Clinton by 27 percent, 60-33.
Although both states are very small and may not be representative of the entire country, most candidates who win both Iowa and New Hampshire receive an enormous amount of momentum and press coverage, which brings a huge surge to the candidate. For example, in 2008, after then-Senator Barack Obama won Iowa, according to RealClearPolitics, he got a twelve point surge nationally. The rest is history.
Skeptics of the Sanders campaign believe he can’t win in a state below the Mason-Dixon line. From October to December last year, Clinton wavered around 60-70 percent in South Carolina, the third state to host their primary. However, in a new poll, the gap between Sanders and Clinton has decreased from 30 percent to 20 percent.
This sudden momentum could potentially bring out the “bad sides” for Clinton. Clinton has a high unfavorability rating, with 53 percent of those polled viewing her unfavorably to 42 percent favorable. By contrast, Sanders has a higher favorability at 44 percent, and a lower unfavorability than Clinton at 38 percent. This can only be exacerbated by a surge from a Sanders win in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The benefit for Iowa and New Hampshire being first in the primary process is that anything can happen. Sanders has just as much of a chance of winning the first two states as Clinton does, and Sanders winning both of them could very well end Hillary’s campaign.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that President Obama had won both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries in 2008. In fact, Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary.