Right as the world learned which 200 of the 19,000 Republican presidential candidates would get to participate in the first debate on Thursday night, a bit of news on the other side of the 2016 coin. A new poll from WMUR in New Hampshire showed that Bernie Sanders had closed to within six points of Hillary Clinton. That's essentially within the 5.9-point margin of error for Democratic respondents. A statistical tie! Trouble in Clintonland!
At the risk of sounding ridiculously contrarian, the opposite is true. This is actually relatively good news for Clinton, all things considering.
I can back that assertion up. Here's the track in recent polling from the Granite State Poll.
A few things worth noticing here. The first is that the tightness in the race between Clinton and Sanders didn't just emerge. In the last poll, conducted in June, Clinton led Sanders by 8. So she lost a point, he gained one. In a poll with a margin of error of 6.
But also notice that the June poll was the first to drop Sen. Elizabeth Warren out of the picture. If you compare Clinton's drop with the combination of support for Warren and Sanders, you can see that Clinton appears to have started losing ground even before Sanders surged.
That in itself is not good news for Clinton, of course. But that the slide appears to have tapered off is. The dark cloud on the horizon is the increasing number of people who, presented with a list of candidates, said they supported someone else or didn't know who they'd support. Often, uncertainty is a waystation between candidates; a voter who once liked Candidate X will say they are not sure who they support before they say they support Candidate Y. But these are pretty small numbers in a pretty big margin of error.
In early polling, it's all about momentum. This poll suggests that the momentum for Sanders / a non-Hillary has slowed. And in the state where Sanders should almost certainly do better than anywhere else. It's mostly white, and Sanders trails more significantly among non-white voters. It's the state next to the one that he's served on Capitol Hill for years. If the Sanders Surge (trademark Washington Post, 2015) is going to overwhelm the Clinton barricades anywhere, it's here.
This isn't what overwhelming looks like.