Bernie Sanders Takes Slim Lead Over Hillary Clinton in New Iowa Poll

PHOTO: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a CNN Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. PlayJohn Locher/AP Photo
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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has climbed to a slim lead over national frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a new Iowa poll.

With just 20 days remaining until the first-in-the-nation caucus, a Quinnipiac University poll released today shows Sanders leading Clinton for the first time in the Hawkeye State with 49 percent support -- his highest support in any Iowa poll yet. Clinton garnered 44 percent support.

That's a 9 percentage point increase for Sanders and a 7-point drop for Clinton since the last Quinnipiac poll in Iowa almost one month ago.

Sanders' lead, which is still barely within the margin of error, is bolstered by a broad gender gap. Sanders, who just earned a critical endorsement from liberal group MoveOn, gets support from six in 10 men and leads Clinton by 31 points among that group. Meanwhile, Clinton leads among women by 16 points.

The poll comes as the Vermont senator's campaign continues to gain momentum in his neighboring state of New Hampshire. He's led recent polling there by double digits, threatening to deliver a blow to Clinton's campaign in the first two contests.

Clinton's top aide sent an email to supporters last week telling them he was "nervous" about Sanders' advertising strength in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders has said the Clinton campaign is "panicky" and in "serious trouble," pointing to general election polling and asserting that he is the more electable candidate. And that argument seems to be moving the scales in Iowa: 68 percent of Democrats say he would have a good chance of winning the general election, up 11 points since December.

ÔÇťAnybody can win," Clinton told reporters last night when asked whether Sanders can win the presidency. "Who would have thought Donald Trump is leading in national polls?"

Clinton saw across-the-board decreases in her ability to handle key issues in the Quinnipiac polls, down 11 points on healthcare and 7 points on foreign policy.

After Iowa and New Hampshire, Democrats will compete in Nevada and South Carolina, where the most recent polling shows Clinton maintaining a broad lead.

When questioned on the issues, Clinton holds wide advantages on terrorism and foreign policy, while Sanders holds smaller leads on domestic issues like the economy and climate change. They are about even on health care.

Roughly a quarter of Iowa Democrats think Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, doesn't care about their problems and does not share their values. Fewer than one in 10 feel the same way about Sanders on his weaker attributes like being a strong leader and having the right experience.