Republicans didn’t have the only dramatic result in Wisconsin last night. While Ted Cruz thundered back from eleven points down in polling six weeks earlier to win a 13-point victory last night, Bernie Sanders fulfilled most recent polling to nearly sweep Hillary Clinton across the state. Hillary only narrowly won four counties as Sanders cruised to his own 13-point victory, taking 14 more delegates than the Democratic frontrunner:
Bernie Sanders emerged from Wisconsin with a solid victory Tuesday, prolonging his dogged but improbable bid to catch Hillary Clinton in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The senator from Vermont was leading the party’s front-runner in a state with a celebrated tradition of progressive activism — and a primary open to independent voters, a bedrock Sanders constituency.
Now, despite Clinton’s still-overwhelming lead in delegates, Sanders can claim the momentum of winning in six of the past seven states holding nominating contests across the country.
The victory was certain to energize Sanders’s supporters two weeks ahead of what will be a key showdown in delegate-rich New York, a state where Clinton hopes to put an end to Sanders’s embarrassing winning streak and reclaim control of the race against the self-described democratic socialist.
We’ll get to New York in a moment, but first let’s take a look at some highlights from the exit polls. Bernie beat Hillary among women, 50/49. He did even better among single women, 56/43, and only narrowly lost among married women 49/51. That little nugget should give Democrats pause about their chances in November, if not night sweats. The draw of the First Woman President doesn’t even hold up among Democrats. On top of that, here are the age demos out of Wisconsin:
- 18-24: Sanders 84/16
- 25-29: Sanders 79/20
- 30-39: Sanders 69/31
- 40-49: Sanders 58/44
Hillary won the over-50 demos fairly handily, but those comprised only 48% of the electorate last night. Those voters are not going to flip from Sanders to the GOP, but a lot of them may stay home if Hillary gets the nomination. That would be a disaster for Democrats, and a sharp departure from Barack Obama’s ability to build a coalition on the youth vote.
As the two head into New York, those demographics matter. And so it’s no surprise that CNN began reporting last night that Team Hillary plans to attack Bernie “frontally,” rather than continue with the “unifying” message that clearly hasn’t worked over the past month. Politic’s Glenn Thrush sat down with Hillary shortly before the results came in for Wisconsin, and the shift was already apparent:
Clinton didn’t much care for Lazio and she’s clearly arrived at the enough-already stage with Bernie.
Sanders was very much on Clinton’s mind — more than Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, the whole lot of them — when I sat with her for a far-ranging and unvarnished discussion for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast last Friday inside an empty warehouse at an upstate New York farmer’s market. …
This time around, Clinton has managed her press interactions with extreme care, often rebuffing her staff’s suggestions that she schmooze reporters in off-the-record sessions like she did during her Senate and Foggy Bottom days. Yet within two minutes of sitting in front of the microphone, Clinton’s icy reserve began to melt, especially when I brought up the issue of Sanders’ fealty (or lack thereof) to the Democratic Party establishment Clinton proudly champions against the anti-establishment tide.
Sanders had just told an interviewer that he was iffy about raising money for down-ballot Democrats, so I asked Clinton the obvious question: Did she think Sanders is a real Democrat?
“Well, I can’t answer that,” she said with a smile. Then she proceeded to answer the question. “He’s a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I’m not even sure he is one. He’s running as one. So I don’t know quite how to characterize him.”
Clinton’s stock line as she’s watched Trump & Co. savage each other for months has been some version of don’t-speak-too-ill-of-any-Democrat. But things have changed over the last couple of weeks, with Sanders’ team ratcheting up its attacks and speaking openly about a contested convention, GOP style.
Yes, the gloves are off, but in the end it may not matter much anyway. There is no indication that Hillary has lost ground in New York, where 247 delegates await proportional allocation in two weeks, even though both claim the state as home turf — Bernie’s a native Brooklynite, while Hillary has been around long enough for carpetbagging attacks to be passé. Even if the RCP average lead Hillary enjoys were to be flipped, it wouldn’t matter much in terms of delegate allocation. She has enough of a lead — around 680 delegates, and 229 without the superdelegates — that Bernie would have to win 70% of the popular vote from here on out to catch her in the latter category before the convention.
But Bernie doesn’t really have to catch Hillary. All he needs to do is keep her from reaching 2,383 delegates without the superdelegates to hold the threat of a contested convention over her head. If that happens — or even if it comes close to happening — then Democrats really have to ask themselves why they put all of their electoral eggs in the Clintons’ basket. If she can’t beat a walkover like Bernie, Hillary will be in deep trouble in a general election, unless Republicans hand it to her in their own contested convention.