Sanders is on a roll.
The Vermont senator has led in Iowa polls for weeks, and his surge has Democrats rethinking the convention and even considering an alternate convention to nominate him.
The stakes are higher than ever.
“If he can win Iowa, he’s going to be in a position to win delegates,” said Tom Rosenstiel, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who is now a professor of politics at Columbia University.
“That’s where we have to be.
He’s going into the convention with an incredible base, a massive delegate haul, and it would be a shame if he lost it.”
Sanders has consistently trailed Clinton in the race for pledged delegates, a crucial factor in how pledged delegates are allocated in the Democratic primaries.
And the Sanders campaign has been under intense scrutiny for its decision to spend money on advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire in a race where Sanders has struggled.
It’s an issue that many of his supporters are worried about.
“There is a real concern among some of his voters, and even some of my own supporters, that the campaign has run up a massive amount of money in these two states, and that we’re just running up huge expenses on them,” Rosenstien said.
“I’m not sure it’s an appropriate way to spend a million dollars to get the nomination.”
The Sanders campaign said it will continue to spend the money on ad buys and field operations, and they have hired two more staff members to help with the campaign’s operations.
And in a move that could help Sanders, a number of major Democratic donors have said they’ll give Sanders a total of $5 million in additional contributions, including $3 million from former Vice President Joe Biden.
The money will help fund the campaign until July 15, the last day of the convention.
The new hires will also help Sanders secure the endorsements of prominent figures like former Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Convention Michael Briggs, former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Cedric Richmond, and former DNC Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile.
“We have been very pleased to have these new hires,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.
“They will be working together to make sure the campaign can compete for the delegates, as we have done in every state where the campaign is in the lead.”
There are a number factors at play in Sanders’ momentum.
The senator has consistently led in recent polls and has a large lead in Iowa, a state where he trails Clinton by 2.5 percentage points.
It could help him win delegates on the convention floor, which is expected to happen soon.
In the past, the DNC has been a major force in Democratic primary contests, and the Sanders team is using it to build its campaign infrastructure and get a boost from the party’s liberal base.
But it has struggled to make inroads among Democratic voters.
And despite Sanders’ dominance in the polls, he has not been able to close the gap on Clinton, who has consistently outraised Sanders by about $1 billion, according to a report from the Cook Political Report.
“He’s had a pretty decent showing with African-American voters and Latino voters,” said Peter A. Brown, a Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to the DNC.
“But they’re still very, very far behind.
It would be interesting to see where the Sanders support stands in those demographics, because if you look at the state by state numbers, I think they’re all in the red.”
A number of Sanders supporters have called on the DNC to rescind its endorsement of Clinton and instead allow him to be the nominee.
The Sanders camp says the Sanders-led effort will make sure that no candidate wins a majority of delegates.
“Sanders has made a clear commitment to win the nomination and have a majority,” Weaver said.
But even some supporters say they’re worried about the convention, especially because of Sanders’ high negatives and poor support among minorities.
“It’s a very divisive convention,” said Ben Wikler, the national chairman of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
“The Sanders campaign is going to have a lot of work to do to convince people that they are the candidate they want.”
For example, Sanders is still facing the specter of a coronavirus pandemic that could make it impossible for him to win a majority.
Sanders is already facing criticism over his health, but the pandemic is making it difficult for him.
“What we need to do is focus on the Sanders people and the people who care about Bernie Sanders, not the pandemics,” said Wikler.
“For the Sanders supporters, the pandems are the most important thing.”
He added: “The pandemic and the coronaviruses are really important to the Sanders voters.
It is the people in the Sanders camp who have done a great job of building that base and getting them excited about Bernie.”