“On the one hand, I find the comparison preposterous,” said Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic strategist and Sanders advisor. Aside from some similar-sounding populist rhetoric on trade and on campaign finance, the two men’s views are “diametrically opposed.”Caitlin Huey-Burns writes at RealClearPolitics:
“On the other hand, I understand why people are looking for some commonality to what’s going on. I think they’re both candidates who are cutting through the typical back-and-forth of politics. … There’s this recognition on the part of voters that this is a guy who says exactly what he’s thinking at the moment.
“I think with Trump, too, people believe that they’re hearing what he’s thinking. For voters who are used to canned responses, teleprompter speeches and things that are much more packaged, I think that’s refreshing.”
Trump, speaking this week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” also noted the similarities.
“He’s struck a nerve on the other side and I’ve struck, I think, an even bigger nerve on the Republican side, the conservative side. It’s amazing,” he said.
“There’s always been an appetite, especially in Iowa, for outsider candidates, for a non-political solution in terms of presidential politics,” says Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican, ticking off names like Pat Buchanan, Malcolm Forbes, Pat Robertson, and Herman Cain. “What’s fascinating this time is you actually see these outsiders polling near the top of the heap, and candidates like Bush, Rubio and Paul as almost second-tier candidates.”
Early-state observers say the momentum of outsider candidates has brought new potential voters into the fold and that this could help propel the party. And the phenomenon is not exclusive to Republicans. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running as a Democrat in the presidential primary, is also surging in the polls and showing himself to be a worthy competitor for Clinton, at least in New Hampshire. Sanders has been in the U.S. Senate for decades, but has positioned himself as an outsider of the institution. Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman, is also running as a Washington outsider.
The challenge for the surging outsider candidates, however, is to avoid becoming just a summer headline, or a punch line of past polls, like Cain turned out to be. At this time in the last cycle, Michele Bachmann was winning the Iowa straw poll and sitting atop most of the surveys.