Update, Feb. 9: Oops.
"Let me tell you a secret," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said over the weekend, foolishly outlining his secret in front of members of the media. "We’re going to win New Hampshire."
That's quite a secret! Bernie Sanders is also keeping that secret from the polls.
The New Hampshire primary is -- say it with me! -- a long time from now, and a lot can happen between now and then. There's only been one poll in the state since Sanders declared his candidacy, according to Real Clear Politics, and it gave Hillary Clinton a narrow 44-point lead over the senator from Vermont.
We'll come back to that. First, let's look at the state of play in New Hampshire back in 2008. Over the course of 2007, Hillary Clinton generally had a decent-sized lead -- as she did nationally. The race in New Hampshire tightened in August, but Clinton started to gain ground late in the year. Then Obama took Iowa and seemed poised to do the same in New Hampshire. That was the first point at which it seemed like Clinton might lose the state.
Compare that with polling in New Hampshire so far this year.
An optimist (Sen. Sanders) will note that his number in the Bloomberg/St. Anselm poll we mentioned above is pretty close to where Obama was at this point in 2007. That person might also note that Sanders's numbers are on an upward trend, that there has only been one poll since Sanders's announcement. Maybe this optimist will get greedy and mention this rather meaningless thing. Fine. Allow us now to rain upon that parade.
The "Clinton up 44" poll, you'll notice, also saw a big spike in support for her over past polling. That's because prior polls had included Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom we in the media kept looping into the list of possible 2016 Democrats because it was interesting to do so and nobody else had a chance against Clinton. With her out, Sanders saw a gain -- and so did Clinton.
The reason Sanders's numbers are so close to where Obama was in 2007 is because in 2007 Clinton and Obama both also had to contend with the reasonably strong candidacy of former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.). If Edwards weren't in that race, it is very safe to assume that much of his support would have gone to Obama. This year, Sanders is running in second over Joe Biden (5 percent) and Martin O'Malley (3 percent). Give all of that support to Sanders, and he's only down by 36 points.
We would also point out that Sanders has an ostensible advantage that Edwards and Obama did not: He is a local. But much of the strong, New Hampshire, we-love-Bernie vote should have been in polling before his actual announcement, to the extent that it exists. We would also point out that there are an awful lot of people in New Hampshire that voted for Clinton eight years ago and who might lean toward supporting her again.
Oh and: Clinton won New Hampshire. Despite the shift right beforehand, Clinton eked out a close, critical victory over Obama. Despite her trailing in the polls, she wound up victorious. To which the Sanders optimist might say, See? You can come from behind and win! And to which I would reply: Sure, if you're Hillary Clinton.