As Momentum Continues, Bernie Sanders Shedding Dark Horse Status

Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to gain on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Photo: iprimages/flickr/cc)

As Momentum Continues, Bernie Sanders Shedding Dark Horse Status

'Sanders has captured the imagination and support of people looking for a real progressive challenger in the 2016 Democratic primary.'

Bernie Sanders has had a good day.

In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the senator's campaign has been steadily advancing on current frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination--and, as several media outlets noted on Friday, his challenge is becoming impossible for her campaign to ignore.

Beyond the overflow crowds that show up to his rallies and the growing support in voter polls, it is Sanders' very status as a dark horse that makes him "uniquely positioned" to do well in the primaries, The Hill's Jonathan Easley explained on Friday.

Easley continued:

One of the problems that the Sanders surge poses for Clinton is that Democrats say there's a risk in taking him head on.

Doing so could rally his supporters, alienate liberals the Democratic nominee will need in the fall of 2016 and elevate Sanders as a challenger.

... Meanwhile, Sanders has begun sharpening his attacks against Clinton -- and she has started to move toward Sanders on at least one issue.

The senator from Vermont also has something of a hometown advantage in the New Hampshire primaries, Easley said, quoting Democratic strategist Ben Bannon that "[a] victory in New Hampshire would scare the hell out of the Clinton people."

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Sanders' biggest challenge will be expanding his base to garner more diversity among his supporters, who are currently mostly young and male, Easley said.

And he may get them. On Friday, the grassroots political initiative Ready to Fight--borne from the now-dormant Ready for Warren campaign--officially endorsed Sanders as its candidate for president. Its founders, Erica Sagrans and Charles Lenchner, wrote in an op-ed for CNN that Sanders' progressive values make him a good fit for those who would have backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had she chosen to run.

"Sanders has captured the imagination and support of people looking for a real progressive challenger in the 2016 Democratic primary," Sagrans and Lenchner wrote.

The day's final boon came from an in-depth profile of Sanders at the Guardian, where the newspaper's Washington correspondent Paul Lewis described the senator as "unafraid of punching above his weight."

Lewis continued:

Never has that been more the case than now. Six weeks into his campaign, Sanders has gained the kind of momentum few expected from the Vermont senator, establishing himself as the primary obstacle between Hillary Clinton and the Democratic ticket for the White House.

In just the latest example of his rising standing among Democrats, a Suffolk University poll released on Tuesday showed the Vermont senator receiving 31% of support among New Hampshire primary voters - just 10 points behind Clinton.

It is a stunning endorsement of Sanders, who has been beating the same drum, mostly in vain, for close to half a century. Now, in the twilight of his career - and very possibly at its pinnacle - the reverberations are starting to be heard.

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