Sen. Bernie Sanders is the new Democratic front-runner -- at least in New Hampshire. Sanders overtook former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time in an average of polling in the first-in-the-country primary state on Tuesday, marking an improbable rise to presidential viability for the independent Vermont lawmaker looking for the Democratic nomination. [New Hampshire's primary is scheduled for Feb. 9.]

When Sanders joined the race April 30, Clinton had quite the lead on him in New Hampshire, with 51.5 percent to Sanders's 11.3. In mid-June and then again in early August, Sanders saw two significant jumps that have now put him one point ahead of Clinton: 40.3 percent to 39.3.

"We've been seeing this happening now for several weeks. The more people know about Bernie Sanders and know about the important issues he's talking about, the more they like him," said Michael Briggs, Sanders' communications director, when asked about the latest numbers. "So, the crowds are turning out, the poll numbers are improving and it's just another sign that his message that it's time to take on the millionaire class and rebuild the American middle class" is resonating.

Sanders made a campaign stop in New Hampshire this week. Clinton began visiting the state in April.

RTX1PCQE An average of polls in New Hampshire show U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination. Pictured: The Vermont senator speaks at a town hall meeting in Salem, New Hampshire, Aug. 23, 2015. Photo: Reuters

Sanders, of Vermont, has been running on a progressive agenda, refusing to get into political skirmishes that have come to define modern presidential campaigns in favor of policy conversations around income inequality, money in politics and climate change.

At the same time, while Sanders has been rising in polls across the country, Clinton has been bogged down by questions surrounding her use of a private email server while at the State Department and whether or not she sent emails containing classified material. She's also taken heat for contributions made to her family's charitable foundation from foreign entities while she was secretary of state, 2009 to 2013.

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