(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
The chattering classes latest take on the Democratic presidential race is that, while Hillary Clinton will surely clinch the nomination on June 7 in California and New Jersey, Bernie Sanders’ sweep of such interim contests as Indiana and West Virginia and his probable upcoming victories in Kentucky and Oregon on May 17 will leave her a badly wounded candidate against Donald Trump in the November contests.
Of course, not long ago these same infallible oracles assured us that neither Sanders nor Trump were serious candidates. And already there are strong reasons to doubt their confident conclusions about Bernie’s “winning streak.”
For one thing, Bernie’s streak is already over! After he won in Indiana and West Virginia, Hillary won the Guam caucus May 7 and the Nebraska primary May 10. Tiny Guam only netted her one delegate and Nebraska — which was purely advisory — awarded no delegates at all. But if the “momentum” so beloved by the pundits matters, Hillary’s 59-40 win in the Cornhusker primary is a marked reversal over Bernie’s 57-43 edge in that state’s caucuses, with their much smaller voter turnout.
But assuredly, sayeth the conventional wisdom, Bernie will regain his balance with a thumping victory in Kentucky, where so many out of work coal miners are expected to take out their woes on Hillary — as West Virginia miners already have. That may yet happen but the only recent survey, a Public Policy Polling effort, has Hillary ahead by five points, 43-38.
Five points isn’t much of a bulwark against Bernie’s patented tactic of sweeping into a state, holding large rallies to fire up voters, then leading a surge of independent voters to an upset victory. But as we have noted in the past, that tactic only works in an open primary, where those fired up Independents can vote for him. Alas for Bernie, Kentucky is a closed primary — and he has never beaten her in such a contest. West Virginia was an open primary where Bernie’s 15 point final margin stemmed solely from his yuuge popularity among Independents. Hillary beat Bernie by 4 points among Democrats living in “almost Heaven.”
These facts are no surprise to a now-aroused Team Hillary, which has already dispatched the “Big Dawg” to campaign for her in Kentucky and which is also belatedly increasing its spending. As much as it would love to pivot wholly against Donald Trump, Hillary’s campaign seems resigned to fighting a two-front war at least until California and New Jersey settle things on June 7. None of this means Bernie can’t win in Kentucky but it does mean he can’t catch Hillary napping there, as he did in Indiana where she spent nothing on advertising to counter $1.6 million in Sanders’ ads.
But even if Hillary does hold on in Kentucky, Bernie will pummel her in mostly white and traditionally liberal Oregon, the pundits purr. It could happen. But once again the chattering class is ignoring both the polling and the format of the contest — another closed primary. The most recent survey puts Hillary up by 15 points, 48-33.
A 15 point lead in a closed primary looks formidable. But the primary might not be as closed as it looks because there is a major wild card in those calculations — newly minted Democrats. Between January and April, 140,000 Oregon voters are said to have changed their party affiliations – with an estimated 90,000 having switching to the Democratic Party. If those newbies lean heavily to Bernie and vote in higher than expected numbers, Bernie might yet overcome the odds. But again, if he wins Oregon, he’ll have to fight for it. Hillary Clinton seems determined not to give him any more free passes in this nomination fight.
Even if Hillary gets the majority of Kentucky’s 61 delegates and Oregon’s 73, she’ll still need delegates from California and New Jersey to lock up the nomination — though a trifling ten percent share of those two states’ delegate bounty would put her over the top. Her all-but-certain victory in the final contest, the June 14 District of Columbia primary, would be a delicious frosting on another of those chocolate cakes African American voters love to give her.
But Sanders’ fund-raising fell off precipitously after he lost New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. His once overflowing money machine has since been forced to lay off staff and cut back on advertising in ultra-expensive California. And if Hillary does defy the pundits by winning both Kentucky and Oregon, her triumphs will be a hard rain that could put out the Berne even before its first flames reach the Golden State.