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“What Have You Done To Help The Party?”: Clinton, Sanders Differ On Down-Ballot Democrats

Late last week, Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced that it raised $44 million in March, which represents an extraordinary success story. The Vermont independent raised a jaw-dropping $109 million in the first quarter, which in practical terms, may actually be more money than the campaign knows what to do with. For any national political endeavor, it’s a fantastic “problem” to have.

In his statement announcing his latest financial triumph, Sanders emphasized details he has every reason to be proud of: his campaign has now received over 6.5 million contributions from 1.7 million individual Americans, with an average contribution of just $27. The senator’s email to supporters referenced the potency of his “revolution” – three times.

Yesterday afternoon, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced its fundraising tally over the same period, and though Sanders hasn’t matched his rival in votes or wins, we were reminded once more that he’s easily defeating her when it comes to dollars in the bank. But the Clinton campaign’s press release added something Sanders’ did not:

Hillary Clinton raised about $29.5 million for her primary campaign during March. That amount brings the first quarter total to nearly $75 million raised for the primary, beating the campaign’s goal of $50 million by about 50 percent. [Hillary For America] begins April with nearly $29 million on hand.

Clinton raised an additional $6.1 million for the DNC and state parties during the month of March, bringing the total for the quarter to about $15 million [emphasis added].

The first part matters, of course, to the extent that Sanders’ fundraising juggernaut is eclipsing Clinton’s operation, but it’s the second part that stands out. How much money did Sanders raise for the DNC and state parties in March? Actually, zero. For the quarter, the total was also zero.

And while the typical voter probably doesn’t know or care about candidates’ work on behalf of down-ballot allies, this speaks to a key difference between Sanders and Clinton: the former is positioning himself as the leader of a revolution; the latter is positioning herself as the leader of the Democratic Party. For Sanders, it means raising amazing amounts of money to advance his ambitions; for Clinton, it means also raising money to help other Democratic candidates.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the former Secretary of State has begun emphasizing this angle while speaking to voters on the campaign trail. Here, for example, is Clinton addressing a Wisconsin audience over the weekend:

“I’m also a Democrat and have been a proud Democrat all my adult life. I think that’s kind of important if we’re selecting somebody to be the Democratic nominee of the Democratic Party.

“But what it also means is that I know how important to elect state legislatures, to elect Democratic governors, to elect a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives.”

The message wasn’t subtle: Clinton is a Democrat and Sanders isn’t; Clinton is working to help Democrats up and down the ballot and Sanders isn’t.

It’s worth emphasizing that this dynamic may yet change. When Rachel asked Sanders directly last week if he foresees a point in which he’ll start trying to raise funds to help candidates other than himself, the senator replied, “Well, we’ll see.”

In other words, maybe Sanders’ approach will change, maybe not. Time will tell.

I honestly have no idea whether, and to what extent, rank-and-file voters are going to be moved by any of this – as a rule, fundraising tallies and strategies are seen as a small detail of interest to those who follow campaigns at a granular level – but it’s probably safe to say Democratic officials who serve as superdelegates are taking note of these developments. If pressed in the coming months to influence the outcome of the nominating race, it’s easy to imagine some of these officials asking the candidates, “What have you done to help the party?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Big Math v. ‘Big Mo'”: Despite Talk Of The Big Mo, It Really Is About The Big Math

Way back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were running for president, Bush heralded his Iowa victory by declaring he had “the Big Mo” — momentum — that would carry him to the presidency.

Other states and the math intervened, and he became Reagan’s vice president instead.

Bernie Sanders is talking a lot about the Big Mo after his victories in five western states. If I were in his position, I would probably be doing the same thing. It helps him raise money and continue the battle for the next several months.

But Hillary’s sweep of five major states on March 15th wasn’t exactly chopped liver either, nor were her overwhelming wins in southern states. The difference is that Hillary has been racking up the delegates. The math is on her side.

Right now, according to RealClearPolitics, she has 1,712 delegates and Sanders has 1,004 (including superdelegates). For Hillary to reach the magic number of 2,382, she needs 670 more. Sanders will need 1,378 – over twice as many as Clinton.

There are over 1,700 delegates in upcoming states still to be chosen, plus over 200 superdelegates yet to declare whom they will support. Of those superdelegates who have declared, Clinton has 469, and Sanders has 29. That is a big math problem unless, somehow, delegates change their mind and support Sanders. Clearly, that is his hope.

But here is his problem: Even if he wins a number of states and scores some upsets, these are likely to be close races, and delegates will be split fairly evenly. From April 6 in Wisconsin until April 26 (with New York in between), there will be 710 delegates chosen. Other states include Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wyoming. Clinton is likely to win at least half of these delegates, if not more. None of the major states should be blowout races for Sanders, like the caucus states in the West. Or, for that matter, blowout states for Clinton, like the deep South.

So for the sake of argument, let’s give Hillary Clinton 350 delegates between now and April 26; that brings her total up to 2,062, without additional superdelegates who may come over to her side. She will be 320 votes from the magic number of 2,382. If she wins 400 delegates in the next month, she will be only 270 votes short.

The pressure on the other 214 superdelegates to go over to the Clinton side will mount. Funny how politicians like to be the ones to put a candidate over the top or close to over the top.

The next big day with six states, June 7, has 694 delegates, with California selecting 475 and New Jersey 126. Again, assuming Clinton and Sanders are going back and forth winning states, Clinton will need only a portion of those delegates to secure the nomination.

If Clinton wins out in most of these states, pressure will mount on Sanders to unify the party after April 26, though he could easily choose to keep on until June 7. He will probably have the money, and he has focused a lot of energy on California. That is, rightly, his choice.

Clinton’s path to the nomination may have a few more curves and bumps, but it looks pretty straightforward. The delegate math is the delegate math. Barring a catastrophe for Clinton and superdelegates leaving her en masse, it is doubtful the trajectory of this race will change.

Despite talk of the Big Mo, it really is about the Big Math.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, March 28, 2016

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Calendar Is Unforgiving”: Following Bernie Sanders’ Latest Landslides, What’s Next?

A couple of weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, laid out his short-term expectations for the Democratic presidential race, which now appears rather prescient. As Mook saw it, Bernie Sanders would win the next five caucus states with relative ease – Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and the state of Washington – while coming within striking distance in Arizona.

After Clinton’s bigger-than-expected win in Arizona, one of Mook’s predictions looked a little off, but the rest of the assessment was quite sound. Last week, Sanders cruised to easy wins in Idaho and Utah, and over the weekend, the independent senator did it again.

Bernie Sanders swept all three Democratic caucuses on Saturday, with decisive victories over front-runner Hillary Clinton in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, according to NBC News analysis.

Speaking to a rapturous crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, after his victory in Alaska, Sanders declared his campaign was making “significant inroads” into Clinton’s big delegate lead.

Sanders was supposed to do well in Saturday’s caucuses, but let’s be clear: he did extremely well, winning by margins ranging from 40 to 70 points. As for “significant inroads,” the final numbers are still coming together, but it looks like Sanders will end up with a net gain of 60 to 70 pledged delegates.

By most measures, Saturday was Sanders’ single best day of the entire presidential race: three lopsided landslides, which, when combined, gave the Vermonter his biggest net delegate gain of 2016.

That’s the good news for Sanders and his supporters. The bad news is, well, just about everything else.

The delegate math is so brutal for the senator that narrowing the gap in earnest remains incredibly daunting. Clinton’s recent victory in the Florida primary, for example, netted her about 70 delegates. Sanders’ wins on Saturday night were worth roughly as much.

Or put another way, Clinton appeared likely to win the Democratic nomination on March 15, when she led by about 215 pledged delegates, and as things stand, her advantage is even larger now, even including Sanders’ weekend wins. (Adding Democratic superdelegates to the equation makes Clinton’s advantage even larger.)

The argument from the Sanders campaign is that these results don’t happen in a vacuum: big wins get noticed, and this leads to improved fundraising, positive press, increased enthusiasm, and a sense of momentum as the race enters the next round of contests.

And while that may yet happen, the calendar is unforgiving. Sanders is excelling – winning by enormous margins, making sizable net delegate gains – in caucus states with low turnout among African-American and Latino voters. There are a few more of these contests remaining – Wyoming and North Dakota stand out – but there aren’t many, and the number of delegates at stake is quite modest.

Saturday’s caucuses were practically custom made for Sanders, and he took full advantage, winning by enormous margins. But what he needs is a calendar full of caucus states like these, and they don’t exist in a quantity that would make a real difference. The alternative is racking up big wins in competitive primaries, which could happen, but which recent history suggests is unlikely.

I’m not saying his nomination is impossible – it’s been an election cycle full of unexpected developments – but even after the weekend, the Democratic race doesn’t look much different than it did a couple of weeks ago. Sanders was a long shot before his latest round of caucus wins, and he’s still a long shot now.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Revolution Incorporated”: How Clinton Can Bring Sanders Supporters Into The Fold

With the Republican presidential race careening toward a fractious convention in Cleveland and Donald Trump warning of riots, the coming Democratic convention has garnered little comment. But don’t expect Philadelphia to be all brotherly love. Reconciling Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and their respective camps, will take some work.

Yes, modern party conventions have been turned into slickly packaged made-for-TV unity fests: Carefully vetted speakers deliver carefully crafted messages, while any disagreements are settled off-camera. And yes, Barack Obama and Clinton made amends after a bitter primary season eight years ago. But there’s far more ideological conflict between this year’s candidates than between Clinton and Obama in 2008.

The most likely scenario at this point is that Clinton will be the nominee but Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with a formidable number of delegates. In that case, the closest parallel is when Michael Dukakis overcame Jesse Jackson’s insurgent movement in 1988. That year didn’t end well for the Democrats, but it offers some useful lessons about achieving party unity, allowing ideological differences and generating passion.

Like Sanders, Jackson stunned the party establishment with a strong showing in the primary race. He won 13 primaries and caucuses and 7 million votes, amassing 1,200 delegates. Also like Sanders, he electrified young Americans. He helped register legions of new voters and outperformed Dukakis with voters under 30.

Going into the convention, Jackson and his followers demanded recognition for what they had built. They wanted Dukakis to acknowledge that they were integral to the Democratic coalition. They sought debate over the direction of the party and the country. And they thought Jackson had earned serious consideration for the vice presidency. Jackson delayed his endorsement, waiting for respect to be paid.

Dukakis, meanwhile, was eager to focus on the general election. He was tired of dealing with Jackson and intent on proving that he would stand up to him. He snubbed Jackson in his running-mate selection, and, by blunder or calculation, failed to tell Jackson before news leaked that he’d tapped Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. When Jackson learned of the pick from a reporter, he didn’t hesitate to broadcast his grievances, capitalizing on the six busloads of reporters that accompanied his caravan from Chicago to the convention in Atlanta. He suggested that he might contest Bentsen’s nomination at the convention. When he arrived, he was greeted by thousands of activists ready to march at a nod of his head.

Only as the convention got underway did Dukakis finally meet with Jackson. At a negotiated “unity” news conference, Dukakis promised that Jackson would be involved in the campaign “actively and fully in a way that will bring us together and that will build the strongest grass-roots organization.”

Jackson met with his delegates that morning and convinced them to keep their powder dry. “We came looking for noble works, not fireworks,” he told them. “Not show business, but serious business.” As William Greider wrote at the time for Rolling Stone: “Jackson’s speech was as deft as anything I’ve ever seen a politician achieve with his listeners — building their commitment to future struggles and simultaneously cooling them out about the one they had just lost.” A less-skilled orator might not have been able to pull it off. And a less-committed Democrat might not have wanted to.

Sanders, too, will finish the primary contest with an army of impassioned supporters eager for recognition of their revolution — some even urging a third-party run. Clinton’s campaign operatives will want Sanders to step back, salute and turn his fire on the Republican nominee. But Sanders will be in a position to determine what happens in Philadelphia and will have major influence on whether his supporters turn out for the nominee. Respect must be paid.

In contrast to Jackson in ’88, Sanders has no interest in the vice presidency. His focus is on the direction of the party. “When people respond by the millions to your message, then that message is now mainstream,” Sanders recently told the New Yorker. “That changes political reality. Smart politicians like Hillary Clinton and anybody else have got to move where the action is, and the action is on those issues that I’ve been raising.”

Like Sanders, Jackson built his campaign around a fundamental challenge to the party’s timid agenda, calling for raising taxes on the rich and corporations, reducing military spending, increasing social spending, and barring the first use of nuclear weapons. When Jackson continued to press this agenda beyond the primaries and ahead of the convention, some Democrats accused him of being divisive. Jackson countered: “We grow through debate and deliberation. We can have unity without uniformity.”

The Dukakis camp incorporated some of Jackson’s agenda into the party platform, though it was often masked in vague language. At the convention, three additional measures went to the floor for debate, including the first call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. And in his prime-time speech, Jackson challenged the party’s direction, even as he praised Dukakis. Disagreements were aired, but the convention ended with Jackson’s family joining those of Dukakis and Bentsen on the stage in unity.

In Philadelphia, Sanders will demand a debate over the platform. He’ll push for rule changes, particularly curbing the role of unelected superdelegates. He will seek floor votes on key issues in dispute. His ideas, in fact, will have the support of most of the delegates. And he’ll get a prime-time address to make his case.

The Clinton campaign would be well advised to embrace some of Sanders’s ideas and graciously endure public debate on others. Endorsing tuition-free public college would generate excitement. Banning super PACs in Democratic primaries would acknowledge Sanders’s challenge to big money. Floor debates on issues such as breaking up big banks, national health care, a $15 minimum wage and the right to a union may be inevitable.

As 1988 demonstrated, unity doesn’t require the suppression of conflicting ideas. In fact, the nominee may be better served by being big enough to allow an airing of the party’s differences. Sanders has won a staggering percentage of young voters, the future of the party. They are more likely to stay engaged if they see their champion and their causes given a hearing and making headway at the convention.

One final lesson from 1988: While unity at the convention provides peace, it doesn’t promise passion.

Dukakis left Atlanta with a double-digit lead in the polls over George H.W. Bush. He was hailed for unifying the party and for “handling” Jackson. Jackson stumped across the country for the ticket, registering black voters and rousing audiences wherever he went. But Dukakis continued to frame the general election as a question of — and this may sound familiar — competence, not direction. As Rolling Stone’s Greider warned at the time: “Running for president on a promise to be competent and honest is thin gruel.”

Indeed, Dukakis sank after the convention, undermined by his own missteps and a viciously negative Bush campaign, featuring the infamous race-based Willie Horton ads. In November, he lost in a low-turnout election, with black participation falling even more than that of the general population.

Sanders has vowed to endorse Clinton if she gets the nomination. But he can’t transfer the passion he has generated to her. She’ll have to figure out how to inspire those voters or depend on the Republican nominee to terrify them into the voting booths.

 

By: Robert Borosage , President of The Institute for America’s Future; Opinion Page, The Washington Post, March 25, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bernie Sanders’s New Plans To Win The Nomination”: Convince The Corrupt Establishment That He’s Their Man

After a less-than-super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders’s campaign faces a virtually insurmountable deficit in pledged delegates. With her blowout wins in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio — and narrow victories in Illinois and Missouri — Clinton could lose the vast majority of remaining states and still earn the nomination. But to keep his political revolution churning as the primary shifts to friendlier pastures, Sanders needs to offer his supporters and donors some vision for how a come-from-behind win could come about.

The best one his campaign has come up with is … not great. According to Politico, Sanders’s plan is to get as close in the race for pledged delegates as possible, and then convince the very Establishment that he’s been disparaging for months to override the consensus of voters and throw the primary to a socialist insurgent.

“The arguments that we’re going to muster are going to be based on a series of facts,” Sanders campaign manager Tad Devine told Politico (emphasis ours). “People will look at different measures: How many votes did you get? How many delegates did you win? How many states did you win? But it’s really about momentum.”

The Sanders campaign is not explicitly calling for superdelegates to negate the democratic will — a notion that it recently condemned. But Devine’s emphasis on momentum implies as much. Sanders has little chance of overcoming the delegate advantage that Clinton wracked up in her southern landslides, but he has a decent shot of winning more states than the front-runner between now and the nomination. Which is why, in Devine’s view, “it’s really about momentum.”

It seems doubtful that Sanders has genuine faith in this cockamamie scheme. The superdelegate system pretty much exists to prevent the nomination of someone like Sanders, a socialist insurgent looking to chase the money lenders from the Democratic temple.

Most likely, his campaign is merely looking for any narrative that can keep its supporters mobilized from here to the convention. Even if Sanders isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee, his political revolution has plenty to gain in collecting as many delegates as it possibly can. Sanders’s surprising strength in the race thus far — and, in particular, his dominance among millennial voters — has led many pundits to predict that his social-democratic vision represents the future of the Democratic Party. The next month of primary contests looks like the most Sanders-friendly stretch of the race thus far. According to FiveThirtyEight’s demographic projections, Sanders is favored to win seven of the next eight primaries or caucuses. If Sanders wishes to demonstrate the broad appeal of his ideology, there’s little sense in dropping out with those potential victories still on the table. Thanks to his campaign’s incredible fund-raising apparatus, the democratic socialist should have plenty of cash to keep fighting, even if donations slow down in the wake of last night’s losses.

Sanders is not going to convince the Democratic Party’s elders to back the candidate with fewer pledged delegates and Establishment connections. But suggesting that such a thing might be possible will allow him to send a louder message to the party’s younger politicians and operatives: Economic populism works. Clinton, for one, seems to have heard that message quite clearly.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 16, 2016

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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