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At the Democratic town hall debate, Bernie Sanders might play a confidence game.

With just one week till the Iowa Caucus, Sanders has started to exude a surprising confidence. Polls have been tightening nationally, and Sanders is well ahead in New Hampshire. Iowa is more confusing since polls are all over the place, and in any case hardly predictive given the complicated caucus system. Despite this mixed news, the Sanders campaign has become increasingly self-assured and more aggressive in criticizing Hillary Clinton. 

The hopeful spirit of the Sanders campaign can most clearly be seen in the ad it released in Iowa, an inspirational pitch showing the ordinary people of Iowa coming together to support Sanders. The ad takes no potshots at Clinton, but instead shows Sanders as a leader who lifts the spirit. By contrast, Clinton’s “Fighting For You” ad portrays a much darker world, where candidate Hillary stands as a protective force. 

How real is the confident spirit that Sanders is exuding? Confidence can be a game in many ways: It’s easier to win if you convince yourself that you are a winner. In politics, this is not just a matter of improving your own psychological outlook, but also reassuring potential supporters. As he tries to close the gap with Clinton, Sanders has to come on strong and confident tonight.