“If we can make it about his message and his record versus her message and her record, we can beat her,” Devine says. “We’d much rather win that way, because if we beat her and she collapses and we’re standing there, the whole institutional establishment party could rise up against us. That is a real possibility. Bernie’s OK inside the Senate and the Congress. But once we extend beyond that to people who don’t know who he is, it’s very scary. We’ve got the whole socialist thing and all this other stuff hanging around. So we’ll have to deal with a rear-guard action against him that will almost be like being in a second primary. So it’s much better for us if we win by not attacking her frontally—and we can argue that in fact we’re the ones that can benefit the party in terms of turn-out of the electorate.”
But Devine and Weaver are well aware that they may—indeed, given the Clintonian precedents, are likely to—have no choice but go full frontal. “On policy, we’re driving the agenda, and we’re happy to be in that position,” Weaver says. “But I think they will to a large extent drive the tone. She’s the quote-unquote front-runner, and really started going after Bernie of late. They obviously are not as confident about this race as apparently the punditry is.”

Devine agrees. “How hard we fight back and how far we push it is very much dependent on them,” he says.

“So if they go hard negative,” I ask, “you guys will…?”

“Let them get run over by a Mack truck,” he says.