April 15, 2016
In case you didn’t catch the debate or a clip or seven, Bernie and Hillary went at it. It made strategic sense for neither to back down, and they both pushed. Angry Uncle Bernie was at his best, for whatever good it may have done. Hillary won on points if that matters.
Over the next couple/few days, you’ll hear a loud narrative about the increasingly negative/bitter tone on the Democratic side. Both candidates are frustrated. Hillary wants him to go away. Bernie wants her to quit dismissing him.
While they definitely stuck to the issues as they threw punches, this was not the nice polite exchange of ideas we saw in the first few Democratic debates. Their respective weaknesses are now well known and both attempted to exploit the other’s.
Berners got fired up. Hillary partisans cheered their candidate’s tactical punching. When this happens, it’s tempting to imagine a scenario where the party does not come together in the fall, and Clinton loses because Sanders partisans stay home.
It’s possible some Berners won’t vote in November. Betting on younger voters to stay home is never a bad idea. But to cause major problems for Hillary, more would need to abdicate than if he’d never entered the race in the first place.
If Sanders brings extra people into the process and not all stick around for the fall election, that doesn’t leave Hillary worse off than if he’d never existed and she’d waltzed to the nomination as expected.
Most importantly, Clinton has moved completely to the left as the campaign has continued. She’s now guardedly for a $15/hour minimum wage. The only caveat is she thinks the national minimum should go to $12 first. The current level is $7.25. They’re arguing about $12 or $15. That’s all you need to know about where Democrats stand today.
They debated how they would go about breaking up large banks, not if it was an acceptable concept. They argued about whether fracking was always bad, or passable as an intermediate option to move from coal to solar and wind.
Both candidates have repudiated the 1994 crime bill that Hillary’s husband pushed and Bernie voted for. They’re arguing about whether Clinton is sincere or Sanders is capable of being effective, not what the approach is. Many will question if Hillary is likely to stay in this ideological box in the fall or will attempt to pivot back to the center, but for now, she’s clinging to the left wall.
Unless something else happens, most Democrats will pull together. Hillary’s ability to attract Independents will depend more on who her opponent is and how the race develops than anything to do with angry Sanders fans. He will continue until the convention and continue to win in favorable states.
He will get a prime speaking slot and have some influence on the final platform. He’ll declare victory, having brought the party further in his direction than any mainstream pundit could have imagined. You’ll notice this scenario is assuming a Clinton victory.
She entered the debate with a lead. Probably a smaller one than polls are showing, but a lead nonetheless. The newest poll from NBC4/WSJ/Marist has Hillary up 17 points. When they took a survey a few days before, her lead was 14. Even if they are wrong about the size of the margin, it’s growing, not shrinking.
Bernie did not hit her with anything approaching a knockout punch. He had a few opportunities to score points and didn’t maximize them. He failed to link the new $15 minimum in New York to his ability to make things actually happen. Hillary was able to continue to claim he was able to diagnose problems but only she could solve them.
Hillary did her thing and name checked plenty of local politicians and mentioned local issues, while Bernie stuck to his regular message. It’s all well and good that Sanders is so consistent, but you can link your principals to local issues without selling out. He did this a bit in the Michigan debate and beat his poll numbers by 20+ points.
None of that happened last night. If the polls are way wrong, and he isn’t really losing by at least 10, maybe 15 points, he can win on Tuesday. If they’re anywhere near right, he’s cooked. Nothing happened in the debate to change the course of events.