While much of the ongoing evaluation of the Democrat primary remains both hypothetical and anecdotal until we start counting some votes, I can say with 100% certainty that Bernie Sanders has two big fans in my household. One is my wife, a Democrat who really likes Bernie for the next president and despises Hillary Clinton to the point where she suggested one evening (after a glass of brandy) that she might even vote for Trump over the former First Lady. The other, of course, is me. I still have to believe that running an avowed socialist on the Democrat ticket would be essentially an unbeatable plan for electing any of the Republicans currently under consideration. But thus far I’ve never really believed that Bernie would get within smelling distance of the nomination and, as far as I can tell, neither did Hillary Clinton.
Oh, she talked a good game to be sure and sent out her surrogates to all the talk shows, proclaiming that they respected Sanders and expected a tough battle, but nobody in Clintonland seriously thought Bernie was going anywhere. So has that changed? If you listen to Liz Kreutz at ABC News, they’d certainly like you to think so.
The most blatant sign came earlier this week when Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook sent a fundraising email to supporters with the subject line “nervous.”
“There’s a situation developing in Iowa and New Hampshire that could change the course of this election,” Mook wrote in the e-mail, noting that Sanders’ campaign is outspending Clinton in TV ads in the two early states.
Two days later, the campaign sent another fundraising email mentioning the “(seriously!) tight” polls in New Hampshire.
Mildly alarming your donor base in an effort to squeeze out a few more dollars is nothing new in politics at any level, so those sorts of missives don’t give much of an indicator in my opinion. But I did perk up my ears (at least a little) when I heard a recording of Clinton herself calling in to one of the MSNBC evening gab festivals. (CNN)
For months, Clinton’s campaign declined to get into regular exchanges with Sanders and his aides. Clinton herself waited months to even say his name on the campaign trail. The offensive stance was on full display on Friday night, when Clinton and her aides let loose on Sanders on guns.
“When it really mattered, Senator Sanders voted with the gun lobby and I voted against the gun lobby,” Clinton said, taking the unusual step of calling into MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
She accused Sanders of saying one thing and doing another and called on him to “introduce legislation to repeal the immunity that was given to gun makers and sellers.”
So does that make it real? Is Hillary Clinton really starting to hear footsteps behind her and doubting that the Democrat base will send her into the general election? Sorry, but I’m still not buying it. The Clinton machine has been at this game for a very long time, and while not always successful, they know how all of this works. Sending a few signals to keep her donors and base voters on their toes is actually fairly typical. Yes, the polls indicate that she’s in a very tight race in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but that’s all. There was a time (pre-internet) when most folks had little idea what direction a race was taking until the first two states voted and a surprise winner coming out of either of them (or both) could translate into a huge swing in the standings. As far as I can tell, those days are pretty much over. The entire country gets CNN, MSNBC and Fox, as well as having online access to the major newspapers and the campaigns themselves. Voters are settling on their candidates everywhere, not just waiting to see what happens in Boise or Nashua. Bernie is doing well in those two states because he’s essentially lived there and flushed all of his money into them. Once you leave New Hampshire, Bernie is nowhere to be seen in the polls and Clinton absolutely knows that. One or two early losses would be embarrassing, but it’s nothing she can’t overcome with a big string of wins in the following few weeks.
If Hillary Clinton is worried about anyone these days, it’s not Bernie Sanders. It’s an as yet unnamed person from the FBI who might be knocking on the door asking her about the magical, disappearing document classification headers revealed in her emails. She’s busy claiming that there’s no there there, but it’s as unlikely of an explanation as could be imagined. If anything is going to change this race it would be a sudden arrest, not that I find it likely to happen with Obama’s people in charge of the Department of Justice. Yet it does leave us with one interesting exit question today: if you win the election but the inauguration is scheduled for a day when you’re in prison, do they let you out for the ceremony or does John Roberts need to go down to the jail to swear you in?