Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is surging in the race for the Democratic nomination and beginning to gain some traction in early primary states, according to The Hill.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton still remains the favorite, but Sanders is finding some popularity in New Hampshire, particularly through his attacks on her.
"Primary voters in New Hampshire are looking around," Democratic strategist Brad Bannon told The Hill. "They at least want to shop around a little bit before buying. Based on that alone, it's probably time for the Clinton campaign to take Sanders seriously."
Some Democratic strategists say that it would be a mistake for the Clinton campaign to take on Sanders directly, believing it could rally his supporters and alienate the liberals she will need to lock up the nomination.
"They're not going to go after him publicly and it'd be wrong to do so," Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who worked on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election bid, told The Hill. "She needs to keep slogging along and make the kinds of policy arguments that will eventually make some of the uniqueness around Sanders dissipate."
Sanders, however, has begun his attacks on Clinton. The Hill said that Clinton has already moved toward Sanders on at least one position: She announced she would vote against giving President Barack Obama fast-track authority.
But those close to Clinton do not appear to be concerned about a Sanders candidacy yet. They believe he has a limited potential for support concentrated in the anti-establishment wing of the party.
"Everything can change, but as I see it today, he doesn't look to me to pose a material threat," Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, a Clinton White House veteran, told The Hill.
"I don't think he has the capacity to unite the different factions of the party beyond those who are naturally inclined to go against the establishment."
Nevertheless, a Suffolk University poll
out this week put Sanders within 10 points of Clinton in New Hampshire.
A win in New Hampshire "would scare the hell out of the Clinton people," Bannon told The Hill.
"It's quite possible he's going to win a primary some place and will have the momentum," Sheinkopf told The Hill.
"He may do well in Iowa or New Hampshire. The question is, how do you deal with that? They need to be prepared to organize and surround him on the ground, and prepare a response without just going out and attacking him."
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