The Democratic primary race has grown tighter and spicier than virtually anyone had predicted. A quick glance at February:
February 1: Hillary Clinton bests Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucus, but only by the narrowest of victories.
February 5: A national poll puts Clinton and Sanders in a dead heat: as Politico reported, Sanders is at 42% compared with Clinton at 44%. These percentages fall within the margin of error.
February 9: Sanders dominates the New Hampshire primary by a margin of more than 20 points. But perhaps just as important, as David R. Jones noted in a post in The New York Times, Sanders won in essentially all categories of voters:
He carried majorities of both men and women. He won among those with and without college degrees. He won among gun owners and non-gun owners. He beat Mrs. Clinton among previous primary voters and those participating for the first time. And he ran ahead among both moderates and liberals.
February 12: As the Hill reports, another poll demonstrates a tight race, with Clinton having only a 7-point lead over Sanders nationwide.
February 20: The next Democratic contest, the Nevada caucus. Recent reliable polls seem to be in short supply. For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight’s “polls-plus” analysis gives the two candidates an equal chance of winning. On Friday, Slate’s Jim Newell described Clinton’s numerous advantages in the state – her so-called “Western firewall” – but also notes that “it wouldn’t be surprising if this firewall is crumbling, or whatever it is that firewalls do when they stop being firewalls.” Do they smolder, or are they quenched?
February 27: The South Carolina primary. This is seen as Clinton’s real “firewall,” as the odd saying goes. According to FiveThirtyEight, she is set to dominate the state. However, a long report, well worth reading, by Joyn-Ann Reid at MSNBC headlined “Warning signs for Hillary Clinton in South Carolina” argues that the situation in that state may be less settled than polls may suggest.
Time will tell. In the meanwhile, the tightening of the race has meant that single payer health care has remained front and center of the national political discussion. For single payer advocates it is a crucial time to continue pressing the cause.