Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made dueling appearances just hours apart Saturday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. But if an informal straw poll conducted by the Iowa Secretary of State is any reliable measure of whose visit was more successful, the Vermont senator clearly won the day.
According to the Iowa secretary of state’s website, which monitors the votes in real-time, more than 52 percent of Democrats who have cast a vote in the straw poll say they support Sanders. Just over 41 percent said they support Clinton.
That’s a nice gain for Sanders, who was tied with Clinton at 46 percent after Friday — the second day of the fair.
While the straw poll has a small sample size and likely says little about how Iowans will vote in February’s all-important caucus, it does provide an apples-to-apples comparison of how voters view the two candidates when they appear at the same venue.
Like nearly all of the other presidential candidates who have attended or plan to attend the Iowa State Fair before it ends next week, Sanders held sway Saturday at The Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox, a large forum held on the fair grounds.
The 73-year-old Sanders drew the largest crowd so far at the event, according to reporters on the ground in Des Moines.
Skipping the soapbox means Hillary Clinton avoids crowd comparison shots. Here's Bernie Sanders' pic.twitter.com/1JEIuoHwLx
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) August 15, 2015
Clinton opted out of the event, making her the only Democrat — and the only candidate of either party besides Donald Trump — to do so. Instead, she chose to answer questions from reporters on the outskirts of the fair grounds. She also mingled with state fair attendees as she walked with Iowa U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, who endorsed her Thursday. Clinton shook hands and posed for pictures for about an hour before heading to Martha’s Vineyard, where she will attend a birthday party along with President Obama.
Clinton’s choice of the press conference over the soapbox event mirrors the tack she’s taken throughout her campaign. Utilizing her larger campaign staff and her Secret Service protection, she’s opted for controlled, tightly-scripted events. While she’s attended town hall meetings, attendees are often vetted before entering. During Saturday’s presser, her campaign spokesman, Nick Merrill, chose which reporters to call on.
Clinton still maintains a large lead over Sanders in Iowa, however. According to a CNN/ORC poll conducted last week, 50 percent support Clinton, 31 percent back Sanders, and 12 said they would vote for Vice President Joe Biden, who is reportedly considering running. Sanders has gained on the front-runner elsewhere, though. A surprising poll out of New Hampshire released this week showed him leading Clinton 44-38.