Why? It's a one-word answer: "guns."
The most recent mass shooting in Oregon has left Sanders vulnerable.
As documented here before, Sanders is ... well, IMO, he's a gun nut. Pure and simple. He voted against the Brady Bill and he voted in favor of immunizing gun makers from suits. Neither of these is a borderline issue. And favors loaded guns in National Parks.
(Update, Jan. 17, 2016: Sanders now says he would support overturning that law. That said, his caveat for small gun sellers is a fig leaf just as it's always been, and his claimed 2005 — and ongoing — opposition to child gun locks is tone-deaf, indeed. He could have supported a no-immunity bill with child locks as part of that bill. Beyond that, announcing this the day of the third Democratic presidential debate you're being Just.Another.Politician.
Here's the nut grafs:
Campaign aides said the decision was not a flip-flop, arguing that Sanders backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition.
"Those were important provisions that I did support," Sanders said in a statement.Umm, nice try, nice fail, at the caveating. And, actually, this makes things even worse.)
NBC, with a news roundup, notes that Clinton could have other favorable tailwinds after the Oct. 13 initial debate. The House's Benghazi committee, with would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy having already screwed its political pooch, meets later in October. With McCarthy's statement in mind, Clinton could be hitting softballs.
Clinton herself is letting the media do the labeling of Sanders, even as she the summer proposed new gun regulations. That includes the gun makers' liability issue.
The WaPost, meanwhile, reminds us that Sanders has a 24-year legislative history. He may have other votes, besides the ones above on guns, that Clinton will dredge up.
(On the other hand, Clinton's vote in favor of the Iraq War, which is at least tentatively linked to the current morass in Syria, leaves her 8-year Senate record also open. This is why governors often run for president in modern times.)
Sanders has shown himself a bit curmudgeonly in 1-person appearances; if cornered and provoked in debate, he could be very curmudgeonly. That may be in part due to him being the oldest declared candidate in a semi-geriatric Democratic field. (And, should JoePa Biden run, Sanders is more than a year older than him.)
Speaking of? Already this summer, I thought Biden's angling for the presidency was a bit creepy, on using emotions over his son's dying. Now, in that roundup link, NBC says that Biden was his own leaker to Maureen Dowd, lined out in detail by Politico. The general public may not take note, but Democratic insiders will. This is starting to sound like the 1998 plagiarizer Biden.
As for that debate? To be honest, I could see Sanders "pulling a Howard Dean." And, per friend Perry, if Hillary Clinton can stay 10 percent as newly loosened up as on Saturday Night Live from here on out, she could be a winner. (However, a NYT steno suggests that the same old Hillary will show up.)