Sanders and Clinton Neck and Neck as Primaries Loom

By David Cooke (guest post)

It's finally 2016 and the big day is going to be here before you know it. The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are set to take place in early February in what has become a tight race between Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The upcoming Iowa Caucuses are a closed race and have been the first major event in the presidential nomination process since 1972. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled to take place February 1, 2016 and candidates have already been campaigning across the state for weeks in preparation for the event.

As if the election process wasn't already complicated enough, the primaries can often be an even more impenetrable fog into the democratic process. One major difference between primaries and general elections is the distinction between open and closed primaries. The differentiation can be explained in that "closed primaries only allow registered Democrats to vote, in open primaries anyone can vote." This means that those registered as independents or not registered at all will be unable to have a say in helping to determine their preferred party's potential candidate in a closed primary such as Iowa. However, a "pick a party" primary such as New Hampshire will offer a much wider electoral pool.

Early predictions had Clinton pegged as the clear winner of the next election. However, given the momentum that continues to build behind the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the outcome isn't quite so clear as it was six months ago.

According to the latest reports, Clinton still holds a slight edge over Sanders among voters in Iowa with a 48 percent versus 45 percent lead. The opposite seems to be true for the upcoming New Hampshire primary, though. In New Hampshire, Sanders is ahead of Clinton 50 percent to 46 percent, which is relatively unsurprising given the name recognition of the former Vermont senator among New Hampshire voters.

However, Clinton has been working hard to change opinions in New Hampshire. She's been citing her electability as a more realistic opportunity to compete with the Republican Party on a national scale as opposed to the fiery rhetoric brought forth by Sanders. However, depending on how things turn out in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton may find herself gravely mistaken. While it has been suggested that losses in the two races wouldn't be the end of the world for the Clinton campaign, they would provide a huge boost for Sanders. They'd also help to solidify his status as a legitimate presidential contender.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is also competing for the Democratic nomination, but everyone knows that the race has always been about the battle between Hillary and Bernie. We expect the upcoming primaries to further solidify that fact. In advance of the quickly advancing races and the rapidly shrinking gap between the two candidates, Clinton has been attempting to increase her presence. She has even gone on the offensive with a wave of surprising attack ads aimed against Sanders. But it remains to be seen whether these tactics will have the desired effect that Clinton is hoping for—or if they might actually end up working against her.

We'll have to wait and see come this February, but as of right now, the Democratic candidacy is still very much anyone's race.