Bernie Sanders has momentum after a trio of wins in Western caucuses this weekend. The Vermont senator dominated Hillary Clinton in Washington state (73 percent to 27 percent), Hawaii (70 to 30 percent) and Alaska (82 to 18 percent).
Though Clinton remains the overwhelming front-runner to win the Democratic nomination, the results give Sanders a rationale to continue fighting through July and underscore lingering unease among base voters about the woman who will almost certainly be their standard bearer in the fall.
Sanders reiterated Sunday that he will not go quietly. Chuck Todd noted on "Meet the Press" that Sanders used to chastise his crowds whenever they booed Clinton. But the last time he did that was on Feb. 23. Asked why, Sanders said "no reason at all" before launching into an extended broadside against Clinton, from Iraq to Wall Street to fracking and campaign finance. Then he challenged Clinton to agree to details for an additional debate.
Wisconsin, which votes a week from now, is the next big prize. Bernie and Hillary are there today. As Anne Gearan notes, it shares borders with two states - Michigan and Minnesota - that Sanders won. The Badger State, however, also shares economic and demographic characteristics with Ohio and Illinois, Midwestern states in which Clinton triumphed.
But both campaigns are increasingly focused on the 247 delegates up for grabs in New York, which votes April 19, and Pennsylvania, which goes one week later and has 189 delegates.
The Sanders campaign on Saturday hosted a block party to open its Brooklyn field office - not far from Clinton's national headquarters. "Sanders plans an aggressive push in New York, modeled after his come-from-behind victory a few weeks ago in Michigan," Philip Rucker reports. "He intends to barnstorm the state as if he were running for governor. His advisers, spoiling for a brawl, have commissioned polls to show which contrasts with Clinton - from Wall Street to fracking - could do the most damage to her at home."
But here's why Hillary is the front-runner in New York: - There are more minority voters: Clinton has won every state with a big African American and/or Hispanic population thus far, including Arizona last week. Sanders has dominated in states that are overwhelmingly white.
- She represented the state for eight years in the Senate: "If [Sanders] sneaks up on her, then shame on the Clinton campaign," David Axelrod told Rucker. "The city is a bastion of progressivism, and there should be pockets of Sanders supporters. . . . But I have to believe that the relationships she's forged there in the last 15 years mean something."
- It's a primary, not a caucus: Clinton's median victory in primaries has been 23 points, and Sanders's median victory in caucuses has been 26 points, the Post's Philip Bump tabulates. "There are only five more caucuses on the Democratic calendar, all of them very small contests and only two of them U.S. states: Wyoming, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and North Dakota." Everything else is a primary, which works to Clinton's advantage.
But even if Hillary gets the nomination on the first ballot, the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia could be contentious. Or, at the very least, not the coronation that Denver was in 2008. The nastiness and coarseness of the attacks on the Republican side continue to overshadow the Democratic race. We talk constantly about the contested Republican convention in Cleveland. But Sanders's willingness to go after Clinton even as the race becomes mathematically more difficult to win suggests that he and his supporters could make a scene.
Clinton still has a huge lead in the delegate hunt: 1,243 to 975 among pledged delegates. When you factor in committed superdelegates, she's ahead 1,712 to 1,004.
Sanders expressed hope on CNN Sunday that "a lot of these superdelegates may rethink their position" when they come under increasing pressure from his supporters. "You have got superdelegates who are in states where we win by 40 or 50 points," he told Jake Tapper.
Sanders does not want to be vice president but he wants a robust debate over the Democratic platform. In an interview on the left-leaning web show "The Young Turks" last week, the democratic socialist seemed to outline a series of positions he'd want Clinton to stake out in exchange for his endorsement. Among them: a single-payer health care system, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, tougher regulation of the finance industry, closing corporate tax loopholes and 'a vigorous effort to address climate change.'"
Progressive activist Robert Borosage thinks Philadelphia could be like the Democratic convention in Atlanta in 1988, when he was an adviser to Jesse Jackson's campaign. "Respect must be paid," Borosage wrote for Sunday's Outlook section. "In Philadelphia, Sanders will . . . 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' ideas and graciously endure public debate on others," Borosage adds. ---
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