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

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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.

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"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.

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

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

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