Bernie Sanders lags far behind Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, but he still has pockets of support that could help him turn things around in coming weeks, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll shows.
Voters ages 18-29 prefer the Vermont senator over the former secretary of state by 58 percent to 35 percent. Democratic-leaning independents prefer him over her, 50 percent to 38 percent.
Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic nomination, also does well with white voters, those who live in the West and the most liberal members of the party.
“A lot of people my age usually don’t have a candidate, but a lot of us like Bernie,” said Democrat Amur El Bey, 19, a student in Charlotte, N.C. “He seems like one of the few honest politicians up there who isn’t crazy.”
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The Democrats take the debate stage Saturday in Iowa just as Clinton is solidifying her lead after standout performances at the first debate and an 11-hour grilling on Capitol Hill about the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. She received another boost after Vice President Joe Biden announced that he would not challenge her.
Clinton leads Sanders 57 percent to 35 percent overall among Democratic primary voters nationally despite the senator’s increasingly sharp attacks on her shifting policy positions over the years, the poll found. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley trails far back with 4 percent, the same number of those who are undecided three months before voting begins in the earliest nominating states.
“She’s more knowledgeable,” said Democrat Charles Bass, 75, a retiree from Rosharon. “I would trust her making the right decisions.”
Still, Clinton faces problems that could provide an opening to Sanders, if not the Republicans in a general election contest. Notably, a large majority of all voters believe she did something either unethical or illegal in her use of a private email system for government business, according to the poll. That includes large blocs of Democrats and independents.
In recent weeks, Sanders has been trying to stop Clinton’s momentum in the Democratic race by emphasizing that unlike Clinton, he has been consistent on policy positions through the years and by portraying a softer side of himself by speaking to small groups, appearing on non-news TV shows and releasing get-to-know-you ads.
“Despite his initial surge nationally, she remains in control,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion, which conducts the survey.
Voters are split about whether they want a Democratic nominee who will continue President Barack Obama’s policies or who will move in a different direction, 46 percent to 50 percent. By nearly 2-to-1, Democratic-leaning independents want a change.
Clinton, who served in Obama’s Cabinet, has largely embraced the president, though she says she opposes his trade pact with Pacific nations, vows to do more than him to fix the nation’s broken immigration system and campaigns on dismantling a piece of his healthcare law.
Sanders, a self-described socialist who talks about being a champion of the underpaid, overworked American worker, has benefited from those who want to move beyond Obama.
“Hillary Clinton has the experience in government, but right now we’re in a climate that doesn’t trust the government,” said Denise Miller, 48, an entrepreneur from Quilcene, Wash. “I believe that Bernie Sanders would not fall short on his campaign promises. His life is more in alignment with the people.”
Facing the GOP
In a test of the ability to win, the poll indicates that both Clinton and Sanders would defeat the leading Republican candidates, including Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.
Clinton would defeat Rubio by 5 percentage points; Bush by 8; Cruz or Fiorina by 10; and Trump by 15. Sanders would defeat Rubio by 3 percentage points, Bush by 10, Cruz or Trump by 12, and Fiorina by 14.
Only Clinton would defeat the current Republican front-runner, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, by 2 percentage points, according to the poll. Sanders would lose to Carson by 2 percentage points.
Democrat Clyde Sanadi, 63, a software marketer from Temple Terrace, Fla., said Clinton, not Sanders, is the Democrats’ best choice to beat the Republican nominee.
“I’m not sure he’s a socialist, for starters, but that’s not going to help in the elections. He’s way too far left,” he said. “And anyone who sees Bernie Sanders next to a Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders is going to look so old. I don’t see Americans voting for somebody who looks so old.”
Where to watch tonight’s debate
A lot of Americans had a hard time figuring out where to tune in to some of the recent presidential debates because they landed on cable channels like Fox Business and CNBC, which not all households subscribe to. Tonight’s debate in Iowa will be much easier to find because it’s on a traditional broadcast network, CBS, that’s available to all.
Details: 8-10 p.m., Channel 11 in the Fort Worth region.
Something different: Twitter is partnering with CBS tonight to provide viewer questions and reaction during the debate. You can join the conversation with using the hashtag #DemDebate.