Photo: CNN debate

The Sanders Campaign is seeking to combat recent suggestions of Sander’s decline by focusing on his “solid second place” position.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign held a ‘State of the Campaign’ press conference this morning to counter the recent negative coverage of the campaign. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, Bernie’s support in Iowa is at nine percent, declined from his 2016 numbers. This decline has been construed as an ill omen for his campaign going into the primaries.

But, according to the campaign, this conclusion relies on cherry-picking data and “bad polling.” During the call, Ben Tulchin and Ben Krompak of Tulchin Research went to great lengths to draw attention to the more positive auguries for the campaign. 

Bernie’s post-debate momentum

Among these were a FiveThirtyEight analysis pointing to Bernie’s post-debate momentum: Bernie has, according to the analysis, gained the most ground of any candidate since the second debate. This post-debate performance was linked, by the campaign, to the support of Medicare For All among Democratic primary voters. A majority of all voters, the campaign said, pointing to polls from HarrisX, RealClear Opinion and ABC News/Washington Post, are in support of Medicare for All. This support is greater among primary voters. 

Medicare for All is Bernie’s signature issue and he is, the campaign repeatedly reminded, the most trusted candidate on the issue according to polls from CNNABC/Washington PostReuters/Ipsos and Morning Consult. The support of this issue, particularly among primary voters, may lead to success for Bernie. 

The emotional component of Bernie’s campaign

The second part of the call was handled by Ohio State Senator, Nina Turner and focused on the emotional component of Bernie’s campaign. The polls, she suggested, don’t tell the whole story, as Bernie has an inspirational quality that the other candidates lack. “The 2016 campaign was about understanding the mission;” she said, “the 2019 campaign is about understanding why the man is so committed to the mission.” Bernie has a “heart and soul vibe,” which data can’t capture and bad polls can’t invalidate. 

The campaign seemed very eager to establish Bernie as the runner-up, which is why they were so focused on his “solid second-place” decision. The press release from Monmouth, about the poll, referenced Warren as the runner-up, not Sanders, though it acknowledged that Warren was behind him in the polls. 

Essentially, the campaign is concerned less with the results of one poll and more with a perceived loss of momentum. Bernie 2020 lacks the surprise quality that his 2016 campaign had, and it has lost the attention of a two person field. In the crowded 2020 field, crowded with candidates whose policy ideas are much closer to Sander’s than were Clinton’s in 2016—Bernie is struggling to stand out. Whether he manages to will depend on whether he can offer something not in policy, his strength, but in personality that the others can’t. His campaign seems to be still working out what that is. 

Jonathan Compo

Jonathan is a Generation Z voice at the Pavlovic Today. He is studying Theatre and Biology at Georgetown University. His interests include healthcare, arts, culture and the environment.