Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders commenced his campaign with a vow to refrain from personal attacks against his opponents. After a campaign speech in Iowa on August 16, a Washington Post reporter tried to provoke Sanders into criticizing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“What I said is that corporate media talks about all kinds of issues except the most important issues,” Sanders explained. “Time after time I’m being asked to criticize Hillary Clinton, because that’s the sport you guys like,” he added.
According to the latest poll, Sanders is only 7 points behind Clinton in Iowa. In May, Sanders was polling at 16 percent compared to Clinton’s 57 percent. Even more striking is the New Hampshire poll that places Sanders ahead of Clinton, compared to his place in March when he was 39 points behind.
This is a significant increase and part of it, Sanders explained, is from his pledge to discuss issues Americans care about rather than attacking his opponents.
Negative advertisements are of strategic value only if a person is behind in the polls. Essentially, Sanders should have been attacking Clinton for weeks; yet, his promise to refrain from this sort of politicking might have catapulted him to the front in some states.
“I am not going to get into the game of sitting around and criticizing Hillary Clinton,” Sanders said.
In national polls, Sanders remains 24 percentage points behind Clinton. However, it is clear he will continue to keep his pledge to refrain from personal attacks — at least, in the short term. If Sanders does decide to go negative, it will severely hurt his authenticity, which so many voters have come to rely on.