Trailing Bernie: Sanders surges again, as Clinton steps up attacks

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New polling in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary shows Sen. Bernie Sanders leading rival Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, prompting Clinton to step up her attacks.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows Sanders, the 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist, with a 49 percent to 44 percent edge over the former secretary of state and first lady among likely Democratic caucus-goers. It’s the first time Sanders has had a lead over Clinton in the poll. The same poll on Dec. 15 gave Clinton a 51 percent to 40 percent lead.

Iowa will hold the first presidential nominating contest on Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, a Monmouth University poll, also released Tuesday, gives Sanders a 14-point lead in New Hampshire. According to the Monmouth poll, Sanders now leads Clinton 53 percent to 39 percent.

A third, national poll, conducted by The New York Times and CBS News, shows Clinton’s lead nationally narrowing to a 48 percent to 41 percent margin. That’s a significant drop for Clinton from a month ago when the same poll gave her a 52 percent to 32 percent edge.

Sanders surge in the latest polling has coincided with increased spending on television ads in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The Sanders campaign has spent $4.7 million on ads compared to $3.7 million, according to the AP. That has resulted in the airing of 1,000 more commercials for Sanders during that time period.

Overall, Clinton has spent $3 million more than Sanders on television ads. But that didn’t stop Clinton Campaign manager Robby Mook from appealing to donors to help Clinton keep pace, according to the AP.

“I’m not trying to be dramatic about this (I swear! I’m really not!), but there’s a situation developing in Iowa and New Hampshire that could change the course of this election,” Mook wrote in a fundraising email. “I just found out that he’s outspending us on TV advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Both candidates reported raising more than $30 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The Sanders surge has also coincided with a sharper tone from Clinton. She has repeatedly highlighted Sanders’ vote to protect gun manufacturers from liability, even launching a television ad that tells voters it is “time to take a side.” The ad seeks to imply that Sanders are Clinton have disparate views on guns, even though both support President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions.

Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, also sought to undermine Sanders by saying Tuesday that his Medicare-for-all health care proposal would undermine the federal Affordable Care Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare and Medicaid.

The Sanders campaign pushed back hard Wednesday, accusing Clinton of “flip-flopping” on her previous assertion that it “undermined core Democratic values” and provides “aid and comfort” to opponents when Democrats attack each other’s health care plans.

The Sanders news release said the change from Clinton comes “in the wake of new polls showing that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is gaining ground or leading in the Iowa caucuses.” The campaign accused Clinton of using “Karl Rove tactics she once decried.” Rove was the political mind behind former Republican President George W. Bush’s political success.

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Also on Tuesday, the Sanders campaign announced the endorsement of MoveOn.org, the liberal activist group. MoveOn pledged to mobilize its millions of members on Sanders’ behalf. It plans to initially focus its efforts on turning out its 43,000 members in Iowa and 30,000 in New Hampshire to vote and organized for Sanders.

“I’m proud to have MoveOn and its community of millions of members join our people-powered campaign,” Sanders said in a statement. “MoveOn has spent more than 17 years bringing people together to fight for progressive change and stand up against big money interests. MoveOn’s fight to give the American people a voice in our political system was reflected in the group’s internal democratic process. I’m humbled by their support and welcome MoveOn’s members to the political revolution.”

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Meanwhile, Sanders launched a new television ad in Iowa and New Hampshire Wednesday that focuses on his plan to boost Social Security benefits. Sanders has introduced a bill calling on those who make more than $250,000 a year pay the same share of their income into the retirement system as everyone else. Current law caps the amount of income subject to payroll taxes at $118,500.

“I hope Hillary Clinton joins us because I believe that we’ve got to stand with seniors,” Sanders said in a statement. “We need not only to extend social security benefits, we need to expand them.”

Sanders said his plan would boost Social Security benefits $65 a month, on average. It would raise taxes on the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Americans.

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Sanders’ campaign revealed Wednesday that he will host a press conference at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire Thursday to announce “an important endorsement.” The endorsement will be followed by a town hall discussion hosted by the college.

The campaign did not reveal who will endorse the candidate and did not respond to inquiries.

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