As we talked about on this week’s podcast, Bernie Sanders is having trouble differentiating himself from Elizabeth Warren and other candidates competing for liberal voters. And some of the arguments that Sanders has been making — like that he’s more electable than Warren, even when voters don’t necessarily perceive that to be the case — have been dubious. But one number jumped out at me in the new CNN/UNH poll of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters that’s really good for Sanders: 34 percent think that Sanders is best able to handle health care.
By contrast, only 19 percent of voters in the poll put Sanders as their first choice (tied with Warren for second and behind Joe Biden’s 24 percent), so he’s still getting some credit from voters even if they don’t necessarily have him as their first choice.
And frankly, he probably should be getting credit. I don’t mean that as any sort of endorsement of his plan. It’s just that he has a plan — Medicare for All — when several of the other Democrats don’t. Instead, a number of other Democratic candidates — Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — have signed up as co-sponsors of Sanders’s bill.
This is particularly strange for Warren, whose semi-official slogan is that “she has a plan for that.” As the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein points out, there are plenty of plausible versions of plans that fall under the rubric of single payer or Medicare for All, some of which would allow Americans to keep some forms of private insurance (without which, Medicare for All becomes much less popular). Harris, meanwhile, despite having co-sponsored Sanders’s bill, has had trouble articulating what her health care stance actually is, exactly. In the category of unforced errors, I find it hard to fathom why Warren and Harris are ceding leadership on health care to Sanders, and even to Biden, who released his own plan health care plan this week. And it comes on an issue that matters: Health care ranked as the top issue for Democrats in that CNN/UNH poll.