I had the lead for this column all lined and ready to go -- and then Maureen Dowd beat me to it: the oddity of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders heading in opposite directions following Thursday’s Brooklyn debate (in Dowd’s words: "acrimony, cacophony, sanctimony and, naturally, baloney").
For Hillary, it was a journey 2,500 miles west to hang out with the likes of George and Amal Clooney and rake in big bucks (at one San Francisco event, $353,000 a couple for the right to sidle up to the tabloid item).
For Bernie, a journey 4,300 miles to the east to the Vatican and a five-minute encounter with Pope Francis.
We’ll cut Bernie some slack for the textbook sin of abandoning New York in the closing days of a primary that he trails. Why affix conventional wisdom to a campaign that’s already an affront to common sense -- the notion of a vibrant free-market nation run by a democratic socialist?
Instead, it’s Hillary’s California adventure that merits discussion. For these three reasons:
She’s Not That Golden In The Golden State
The most recent California Field Poll (it surveyed Californians from March 24-April 5) had Clinton six points ahead of Sanders.
The latest numbers: 47%-41%, 12% undecided. About a year ago, Field gave Hillary a 66%-9% lead. She hasn’t cracked 50% in the past six months. Doesn’t smack of enthusiasm, does it?
What could be trouble for Hillary come California’s June 7 primary: Sanders holds a 20-point lead among non-partisan voters (unlike California’s closed GOP primary, independents can vote in the Hillary-Bernie race). Asked their impression of the two Democrats, 55% of voters said they have a favorable view of Sanders compared only 47% who liked Clinton (48% having an unfavorable of her).
In short, should independents and younger voters swell California’s usually sparse primary turnout -- Sanders leads Clinton, 77%-18%, among under-30 voters; 69% of Latinos under age-40 also are pro-Bernie) -- then Clinton could be in trouble.
By the way, an analysis by Political Data Inc. found that registration among Californians ages 18-to-24 was up 72% in the year-to-date, compared to the same period in 2012. It’s one reason why Sanders’ California team thinks it can carry the state.
Then again, in theory all Clinton has to do is turn on the charm and turn out the stars, which leads to her second California primary.
Is Star Power What It Was?
Eight years ago, George Clooney was asked by CNN why he wasn’t campaigning for Barack Obama.
Calling it a "slippery slope," Clooney justified his non-public participation thus: "I feel that at time you can harm the person that you are trying to help. I don’t want to damage anybody."
Back in 2008, Clooney arguably was at the height of his powers. A recently named UN peace messenger and an Oscar nominee for Michael Clayton just two years after winning a supporting Oscar for Syriana.
Not that Clooney is no longer a force in Hollywood -- indeed, he has a film coming out: Money Monster. It’s the tale of a cable-television money sage who gives bad investing advice to a working-class viewer, only to have the viewer take him hostage on-air and prove that the investing class was the victim of a systemic conspiracy.
Does that sound Hillary or Bernie?
Speaking of conspiring, look for more of it one the part of Sanders’ California operation. And that leads up to Hillary’s third challenge in the Golden State:
Bernie May Outwit Her Out West
On Saturday, Clinton attended a fundraiser at Clooney’s Studio City home. As she arrived, Sanders supporters showered her motorcade with 1,000 $1 bills.
Meanwhile, a pro-Sanders event was held next door to Clooney’s spread, at the home of Howard Gold, whose family started the 99 Cents Only franchise. The "99% Party" sold tickets at $27 a head ($27 being the signature Sanders donation).
Where else was Sanders’ presence felt in California on Saturday? Try the Coachella festival, with a videotaped Bernie handling the intro for hip-hop’s Run The Jewels ("I thought the least I could do for both of you is help you out by bringing a few young people together," he joked).
Will little gestures like this make a different in a voting giant like California? Maybe not. But it does indicate that Sanders’ campaign is thinking more creatively than Clinton’s paint-by-the-numbers approach. And Team Sanders may do its best to keep Hillary on the defensive with clever little stunts that drive home the question of money and character.
Sort of like another Clooney film: Intolerable Cruelty.