Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks during a campaign stop at the Pinkerton Academy Stockbridge Theatre, Feb. 8, 2016, in Derry, N.H.PlayJohn Minchillo/AP Photo
WATCH Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Make Final Push for New Hampshire Voters

In politics, there is one downside to front-runner status; you have to win and, depending on your perceived lead at the time votes are cast, it helps to win big.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months.

One poll released on the eve of the "First in the Nation" primary from CNN/WMUR/UNH put the Vermont independent at a whopping 61 percent over the former secretary of state at 35 percent. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the bar high for Sanders as voting in the state begins.

Sanders' campaign confirms that their internal polling numbers are strong, but argues, as does the senator, that nothing can be taken for granted and that any win would be momentous for them.

“Obviously, there are these polls out there that have him 20, 23 points ahead that can't be true. It’s got to be tighter than that,” Sanders’ national spokesman Michael Briggs told ABC News.

While the Clinton campaign declined to comment formally for this story, aides have told reporters they will be happy with any outcome that puts Clinton within a closer margin to Sanders than recent polls. That is to say, the Clinton campaign seems to be hoping to get within at least single digits.

Pushing back against this idea that only a resounding win would be noteworthy, Sanders' New Hampshire Communications Director Karthik Ganapathy told ABC News, “A win means 50 percent plus 1 vote. Any votes beyond that are pure rocket fuel for momentum heading into Super Tuesday.”

Briggs, too, pointed out that the Clinton campaign adopted a “win is a win” philosophy when it came to Iowa, where she only beat Sanders by 0.25 percent, but declared herself the victor the night of the caucuses before the final results were announced.

Back in New Hampshire, Sanders' supporters seem less concerned with expectations; most are confident. Amanda Hayes, a veterinary technician from Manchester, said she feels in her gut that Sanders is going to win by a landslide.

“I just think he’s got it. I do,” she told ABC News while waiting to hear the senator speak in Manchester. “I have seen a slow progression and now his campaign is just snowballing. Now he’s a force to be reckoned with. Hillary is scared.”