Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has inched ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, 44-37 percent, in a recent Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll.
Those who know Sanders well say his growing popularity is due to his sincerity and position on free college education, Medicare for all and a strong economy.
Sanders' campaign did not return emails from the American Media Institute seeking comment.
“He is tapping into a discontent throughout the country on issues he’s been talking about for a very long time that are now gaining popularity,” Attorney Dave Sterrett, of Sterrett Law, PLC, in Waterbury, Vermont, who has worked with Sanders on health care policy issues, said.
When asked if Sanders’ growing popularity is due to his platform or presidential contender Hillary Clinton’s email woes, Sterrett said he believes it is a combination of both.
“Clinton’s emails problems has had an impact on her favorability," Sterrett said. "That said, Sanders has been gaining on Clinton, he’s gained 40 points since March.”
Sterrett said it’s telling Sanders is far ahead of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, given his experience and background.
“A few months ago if you’d have said Sanders is pulling 40 percent to O’Malley’s one percent, I think people would have found that shocking," Sterrett said. "Sanders is doing well against established politicians such as O’Malley and [former Democratic Sen. from Virginia] Jim Webb.”
O’Malley and Webb’s press offices did not return calls and emails from The American Media Institute seeking comment.
“I don’t see them gaining traction at all,” Sterrett said. “Not when Sanders is turning out 20,000 people in Los Angeles. O’Malley and Webb are centrists and that’s not resonating with democratic primary voters.”
Vermont State Rep. Chris Pearson, a progressive and current progressive caucus leader in the Vermont House, worked on Sanders’s 1998 reelection campaign and worked in his congressional office in 1999.
“Sanders’s record and style is being recognized, coupled with his stance on health care, affordable college and the primary planks of his platform: the economy and the wealth gap. It’s what’s gotten the crowds turning out,” Pearson said.
Expanding on the education issue, Pearson said he recently spoke to a group of middle school students and when he asked those who believed their parents were worried about how they were going to pay for their education, “All their hands went up. Free college is something offered in almost every advanced country. I have kids and I’m worried about how I’m going to pay for their educations.”