Former top Obama adviser explains why Hillary Clinton needs to be wary of Bernie Sanders

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Jerry Seib: No Free Pass to Presidential Nomination

SIMI VALLEY, California — President Barack Obama's former top communications adviser says that Hillary Clinton needs to pay attention to the energy behind Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vermont) rise.

Speaking to Business Insider ahead the Republican debate here Wednesday, Dan Pfeiffer said the enthusiasm surrounding Sanders' campaign is what Clinton needs in order to motivate Democratic voters to support her in next year's general election.

SEE MORE ELECTION COVERAGE AT AOL.COM

"He has run a great race to date, and the Clinton campaign needs to be aware of the energy behind the Sanders race because elections are just as much about motivation as persuasion these days," said Pfeiffer, now a CNN political analyst. "So they have to understand it. They have to figure out themselves how to channel it."

Pfeiffer still does not think Sanders can win due to his limited base of support, which for the moment seems disproportionately concentrated among white, liberal voters in left-leaning enclaves.

See the crowds Sanders is getting on the trail:

58 PHOTOS
Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail
See Gallery
Former top Obama adviser explains why Hillary Clinton needs to be wary of Bernie Sanders
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 15: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to a crowd gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center during a campaign rally on March 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary elections in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, while Missouri and Illinois remain tight races. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, pumps his fist as he arrives for at a rally at the Macomb Community College, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Warren, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at the FOX News town hall at the Gem Theatre, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves as he leaves a news conference after voting in the Vermont primary at the Robert Miller Community and Recreation Center in Burlington, Vermont, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, on Super Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)???
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and his wife, Jane arrive for a rally in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. smiles while speaking at the Kansas City Convention Center during a campaign event in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, meets 3-month-old Oliver Lomas, of Venice, Calif., who was dressed as Sanders during a rally at Bonanza High School, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a canvass kick-off event at the Reno Sparks Convention Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a crowd outside of a rally at Bonanza High School, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., boards his plane for a campaign rally in Las Vegas, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Rev. Al Sharpton talks with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as they sit down for a breakfast meeting at Sylvia's Restaurant, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Sanders defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reacts to the cheering crowd at his primary night rally Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a selfie during a campaign rally on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 26: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to the media after holding a campaign event with United Steelworkers Local 310L, on January 26, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders continues his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee.. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. jokes with members of the media and pretends to slip as he steps off his bus before speaking at a town hall, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, at Santa Maria Winery in Carroll, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., leaves after speaking to a crowded room during a campaign stop Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, is joined by his wife Jane, right, and grandchildren, Dylan, 4, and Ella, 7, on stage after speaking at a town hall at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, participates in the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. Hours before Sunday's Democratic debate, the two top Democratic contenders held a warm-up bout of sorts in multiple separate appearances on political talk shows, at a time when the polling gap between the pair has narrowed in early-voting states. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shakes hands with supporters after outlining his plan to reform the U.S. financial sector on January 5, 2016 in New York City. Sanders is demanding greater financial oversight and greater government action for banks and individuals that break financial laws. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, to discuss gun control and related amendments to the reconciliation bill. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders at the NHDP annual Jefferson Jackson dinner in Manchester, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., steps onstage to speak at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. left, sits with rapper Killer Mike at The Busy Bee Cafe Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta. Killer Mike is scheduled to introduce Sanders at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre later in the evening. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The crowd cheers as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Supporters for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cheer at the Jenkins Orphanage in North Charleston, S.C., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, during the Blue Jamboree event. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, about the meaning of "democratic socialism" and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses to wipe his brow as he speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, about the meaning of "democratic socialism" and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
LEBANON, NH - NOVEMBER 11: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) marches in the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2015 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Sanders goes into the Democrats second debate this weekend still running strong in the polls.(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. While next Tuesday's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about the Workplace Democracy Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks during a campaign rally in Springfield, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2105. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Des Moines Youth Summit, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Creative Visions in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Senator Bernie Sanders at Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York City on September 18, 2015. Credit: RW/MediaPunch/IPX
US Senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses striking low-wage contract workers from the US Capitol and religious leaders at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on September 22, 2015 for an interfaith service ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis for a six-day visit to the US. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Five Democratic presidential candidates are all expected to address the crowd inside the Verizon Wireless Arena. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves as he marches with supporters in the Labor Day parade Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a television interview before a town hall meeting, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Grinnell, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I -Vt., reacts during a fundraiser reception Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greets supporters during the opening of his Cedar Rapids field headquarters, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Marion, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Iowa at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., lifts his arms in celebration as he speaks at a rally, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a visit to the National Nurses United office Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A supporter takes a photo with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, at a rally, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., smiles before a rally Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, in downtown Seattle. The afternoon rally was the first of several weekend appearances by Sanders in Seattle and Portland. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Nurses take "selfies" with Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., after her spoke at a rally with registered nurses and other community leaders on the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, Thursday, July 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the 2015 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Conference, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined by federal contract workers, speaks during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, to push for a raise to the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., gives an opening statement at a Netroots Nation town hall meeting, Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waits to speak at the Alliance for Retired Americans 2015 National Legislative Conference in Washington, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to the media about his agenda in running for president, Thursday, April 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a portrait before an interview, Wednesday May 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"Sanders has consolidated the anti-Clinton vote. This race would look very different if Martin O'Malley was getting 10% of the vote," Pfeiffer said, referring to former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who is currently polling in the low single digits in all major polls.

Pfeiffer referenced previous candidates who were viewed similarly as liberal insurgents — such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), who challenged then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) for the 2004 Democratic nomination; and former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey), who posed a challenge to then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

"But unless Bernie Sanders shows in the coming weeks that he can expand his base of support, he is destined to follow the same fate as the other candidates," Pfeiffer said,.

Pfeiffer also noted the race could be very different if Vice President Joe Biden decides to jump in, as he may cannibalize some of Clinton's support.

Biden mulls a presidential run:

13 PHOTOS
Joe Biden as he mulls over a presidential run
See Gallery
Former top Obama adviser explains why Hillary Clinton needs to be wary of Bernie Sanders
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a White House Champions of Change Law Enforcement and Youth meeting, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. CNN said Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, it will allow Biden to participate in the first Democratic presidential primary debate even if he decides that day to be a candidate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Solar Power International Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Taking aim at his potential political opponents, Biden railed against Republicans who "deny climate change" and want to shut down the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and pleaded with them to "just get out of the way." (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: Stephen talks with Vice President Joe Biden, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Thursday Sept 10, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a labor rally in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, center, greets some of the crowd as he walks in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, a crowd gathers, many wearing union shirts, in front of Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks before joining in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. Hearing chants of "run Joe, run," Biden marched in Pittsburgh's annual Labor Day parade on Monday as speculation swirled about a potential late entry into the Democratic presidential campaign. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Vice President Joe Biden puts on a United Steelworkers hat before he spoke to a crowd before he joined in the annual Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
In this Sept. 4, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, right, stands in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Washington. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Vice President Joe Biden discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Jewish community leaders at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Fla. on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Biden sought to allay concerns of South Florida Jewish leaders who fear Iran won too many concessions in the agreement, which seeks to curb the country's nuclear program in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
FILE - In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable discussion at the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Community College of Denver. Although Biden is considering whether to enter the presidential race, he skipped this week’s Democratic National Committee summer meeting. Doing so created an opening for front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to consolidate her party’s support. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this May 26, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden listens to remarks to the media during a meeting between President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Although Biden has yet to make a decision on a run for the presidency, his advisers say the discussions taking form in the last several weeks are serious enough that the vice president and his associates have started gaming out mechanics like fundraising, ballot deadlines and an early primary state strategy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"We'll have to see whether the Vice President gets into the race or not, because he's included in all of the polls but he's not in the race," Pfeiffer said.

But thought some polls do show that Clinton regains support should Biden decide not to enter the race, the margin is not great in early states.

A recent NBC/Marist poll of likely voters in New Hampshire, for example, found Sanders' would still win the Granite State handily if Biden decided not run.

NOW WATCH: New aerial footage shows aftermath of explosion in China

See Also:

Read Full Story

People are Reading