March 10, 2016
The eighth time was the charm. Media consensus is Bernie Sanders won the Univision Democratic debate in Florida this past evening. You may wonder why it matters what the media thinks.
Most observers thought Hillary Clinton won Sunday’s debate in Michigan. All pollsters thought Hillary was leading in Michigan. Bernie won Michigan.
If we’re actually going to have a real nomination race, something that appeared off the table once South Carolina happened, it’s important for Bernie to move a bit forward in the war of perception.
He can win a bunch of states and his share of delegates by preaching to the choir. As we know, there are plenty of dedicated Berners opening their wallet for the home team on a regular basis. Defeats in the South didn’t get in the way of caucus wins in places like Kansas, Nebraska, and Maine.
But he’s got a delegate shortfall to make a dent in and places like New York and California to win if he’s truly serious about this. I’m too lazy to do the math, but it’s safe to assume he needs to win between 53 and 58 percent of the remaining votes to catch up.
The truth is probably to the higher end of the range, particularly if he’s not going to get the majority of Hillary’s super delegates to desert her, or to gain enough momentum to start having them consider it.
He’s not getting 56% of the vote in California on June 7 merely by turning out his strong supporters. That involves capturing undecided voters and some Hillary leaners. Some of those people care what the media thinks.
If you’ve watched every Democratic debate and just about every town hall, I can both relate and feel your pain. Though demolition derby is a little more fun, the same holds true on the GOP side.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that people who write or read about politics on a regular basis consume more of these “events” than the average primary voter. In turn, the average primary voter is paying more attention than the average general election only voter.
Univision gets a wider viewing than many realize. At least some of the audience this evening wasn’t watching all/some/most of the previous debates. This was the first one with questions asked in Spanish.
We’ve heard a ton about African American voters, and with good reason. It’s a huge part of the Democratic coalition, especially in many of the states that voted in the past couple of weeks.
It’s a factor on March 15, and then again starting in mid-April. But eventually we get to the part of the calendar where Latino voters have almost as much, sometimes more influence on primaries and caucuses than African American voters.
We already know from Nevada, Colorado, and Texas that depending on the state, Latino voters respond differently to the two candidates. If we trust exit polls, Bernie is doing better with Hispanic voters than African Americans, but not to the point where it’s a strength for him yet.
If tonight was someone’s first major exposure to the Bern, he acquitted himself pretty, pretty, pretty well. Even the improved debating version of Sanders isn’t everyone’s taste. He’s still not a traditional candidate, much as many of us are now used to him.
It’s not like Hillary did a bad job, and she gutted her way through questions on emails, Benghazi, and the public having a hard time trusting her. Moderator Jorge Ramos disclosed his daughter is a Clinton campaign employee and then segued into asking her about emails.
In previous debates, many commented on Bernie’s intermittent discomfort in talking about black issues. He’s more consistently comfortable on topics like immigration. Can’t speculate on why this is, but the switch in targeted ethnicity helped him a bit this round.
There weren’t any knockout punches thrown. Much as Democrats have clips of the GOP food fight queued up for the fall, Republicans are splicing various comments from Sanders and Clinton that have them well to the left of where we perceive the median American is.
At this point, Bernie is Bernie. Hillary is Hillary. He showed a little better version of himself than she did, but only by a bit. It was a modest step forward for him, one that should help on March 15 in states where things are close.
At the moment, the campaigns have agreed to debates in April and May, but nothing is officially scheduled. Perhaps Hillary was hoping they wouldn’t actually happen. After Michigan, any illusion on that front is gone.
Originally, she wanted to limit them, then wanted more after she realized they were advantageous and she needed to catch up before South Carolina. Now, the Clinton campaign is likely back to viewing them as a nuisance.