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Why Are More People Feeling 'the Bern?'

Scott Olson
Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leads a march to the Iowa Events Center before the start of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The second scheduled debate among the Democratic candidates for president is scheduled for this Friday in South Carolina. 

Many political analysts have said that former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeals to the broadest spectrum of Democratic voters, but Rick Perlstein, a national political reporter, says many of his colleagues have missed the part of the story surrounding Bernie Sanders.

"I'd like to see more reporting," says Perlstein. "I fear we're not seeing a lot because it really doesn't fit any of the conventional narratives about what's going on in the election."

From what voters have noticed so far, Sanders is not a typical presidential candidate. People are calling his campaign "a revolution" with ideas such as free college, fixing wealth inequality and addressing climate change.

Despite what recent polls show, Perlstein believes that there are a lot of voters in America that have not been accounted for and are increasingly garnering support for Sanders, even in the dominantly red states.

"We're not talking about necessarily the older white voters that Donald Trump is finding attracted to him, a lot of these people are young people and the issue does seem to be college debt," explains Perlstein.

Both Sanders and Trump use "straight from the cuff" language that cuts through the political chatter to appeal to voters. The major difference is the audience that Sanders is targeting is out growing the older population that tends to dominate the polls, he says.

"Polls skew old because pollers have a very hard time reaching people with cell phones," says Perlstein. This leads him to believe that Bernie Sanders probably has far more support than the media and polls are showing. Sanders just needs the name recognition in all voting communities to increase his performance in the polls, Perlstein says.

"Once people do hear about him and what he represents, he's also over performing expectations," says Perlstein.

Milwaukee native Rick Perlstein is author of a number of books, including Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge – The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.  His piece on the Bernie Sanders campaign appears in the Washington Spectator and online at Salon.