Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders now boasts the support of nearly half of those who say they plan to vote in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Democratic primary next year, and his lead over national front-runner Hillary Clinton has widened to 16 points, according to a new poll from CNN/WMUR-New Hampshire.
Forty-six percent of poll (pdf) respondents said that if the primary were held today, they would support Vermont Sen. Sanders, while just 30 percent said they back former Secretary of State Clinton. Another 14 percent say they would support Vice President Joe Biden, 2 percent like former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, 1 percent go for former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and less than half of 1 percent back former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee or Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig.
What's more, CNN explains, Sanders maintains a solid advantage even if Biden decides not to run:
In most recent national polling, assessments of the Democratic race without Biden have boosted Clinton's standing well above that of Sanders, but in New Hampshire, Biden's backers aren't enough to push Clinton back to the top of the field. Though Clinton picks up more of Biden's supporters than Sanders when they are reallocated to their second choice, Sanders maintains control of the race, holding 49% to Clinton's 36%.
The survey, which was taken between Sept. 17-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percent, also asked: "Regardless of who you are voting for, which candidate do you think is most likely to win the New Hampshire Democratic primary?"
On that question, Clinton and Sanders are tied at 42 percent, with Clinton's share having decreased drastically and Sanders' increased sharply since July.
The progressive senator's commanding lead is built "on the strength of his personal appeal and his overall stand on the issues," WMUR-9 stated, noting that Sanders enjoys "overwhelming popularity, with 78 percent viewing him favorably and 11 percent unfavorably."
Sanders will be in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Friday to give the keynote speech at the Portsmouth Democrats Annual Banquet.