April 9, 2016
For the better part of the past year, Berners have pleaded for more coverage of their candidate. With Hillary Clinton the presumptive nominee for most of that time, and Donald Trump the equivalent of a media solar eclipse, he got way less run than you would normally figure.
Yeah, he’s an underdog and she’ll probably win. Ronald Reagan didn’t have any trouble getting coverage when he tried to upset President Ford in 1976. Ted Kennedy’s odds of unseating President Carter in 1980 faded quickly, but nobody forgot about Teddy.
Each of those candidates were vastly more famous than Bernie when the got started. Reagan first kicked the tires on a presidential campaign back in 1968. He’d served two terms as governor of the biggest state in the union and was a movie star. Kennedy was a Kennedy, plus a visible senator in his own right.
Bernie Sanders has never driven off a bridge with a young female companion and left her to drown. He doesn’t appear anywhere near as presidential as his more famous predecessors. They had their detractors, but that was more motivated by fear than thinking the subject was unworthy of their scorn.
Now Bernie is finally getting some run. He’s won several contests in a row, with Wyoming tomorrow another sure victory. The media needs a slight break from fixating on the upcoming contested GOP convention. The show has moved to New York, so it’s not like anyone needs to take a field trip to see how his political revolution is going.
Most importantly, the Trump Show is on hiatus. The Donald is in relative hiding, holing up in Trump Tower as he attends to his regular business. He’s also reorganizing his campaign. While there’s some good old-fashioned intrigue in this, the clips and sound bites are lacking.
So he’s getting attention. He held an event outside the Brooklyn apartment he grew up in. He had some controversy over answers about breaking up the banks when grilled by a newspaper editorial board.
Those answers were scorned by the Clinton campaign. After Hillary questioned his knowledge on a core part of his platform, Bernie responded by saying she was unqualified for the presidency.
His qualifier was that her acceptance of large PAC donations from Wall Street, oil companies, etc., overpowered her experience and knowledge. Regardless of the logic, her campaign ran with it.
This was a standard applause line for Marco Rubio a couple months ago. In his case, she was unqualified to serve as commander in chief because she lied to the families of the four Americans killed in Benghazi. It’s more than ok for Republicans to say things like that. Bernie wound up walking his statement back.
His latest kerfuffle concerns the Vatican. Sanders is exiting the campaign trail right after the debate on Thursday to attend an economic forum. This will keep him out of New York for most of the final weekend before the vote.
The campaign made it seem that he was attending at the invitation of the pope. Though they disagree on social issues, Sanders and Pope Francis are on the same page on economic policy.
A trip to meet with him would seemingly bolster Bernie’s foreign policy/head of state credentials, while also scoring points with the Catholic voters who make up a large part of the electorate in the remaining April contests.
It’s a logical risk. One problem. At least one Vatican official says Bernie broke protocol and invited himself. Another source says differently, but either way, at the present time there is no guarantee of an individual meeting with the pontiff.
This could turn out ok after all. It could wind up being a complete embarrassment. Bernie is new to the world stage. If he pulls it off, he will have helped close his largest remaining gap. If he fumbles, he can kiss New York and his remaining ultra narrow path to the nomination goodbye.
While Bernie needs a bit of a Hail Mary to catch up (He’s yet to cut his Empire State deficit to single digits in a single poll), we simply have no idea how well he and his team can handle the extra attention and scrutiny.
Normally a contender is put under the microscope far sooner in the cycle. But the inevitability train was running downhill at a high rate of speed once Hillary escaped Nevada and broke 70% in South Carolina.
Bernie was covered as a curiosity. Wow, look! Larry David is raising huge sums of money from college kids! How fun. Hey, he’s doing the bit about the billionaires again. Gee, who’da thought Hillary would have so much trouble putting the ancient socialist away?
Back in 2015, even Sanders didn’t think he could win. While Clinton was organizing in places like Nevada, Bernie was making sure not to miss Senate votes. He visited Iowa several times, but didn’t camp out there like many underdogs would.
His own campaign team is regretting the consequences of not doing just a bit more last year. Regardless, Bernie is running to win now. He might be too late, but is giving it a full effort. He’s getting converge now. He’s got five more days in New York before the debate.
With no recent debates, they should get good ratings on Thursday. A chunk of media will accompany him to the Vatican. With limited rehearsal, he needs to hit all his marks on opening night and get that sit down with the pope.
The New York primary and the future arc of the Democratic race may depend on whether the pope meets with Bernie. If it doesn’t happen, he’ll likely wish the media was still mostly ignoring him.