Hillary Clinton is still the way to bet for November. Just ask your local bookie. Heíll give you very attractive odds for putting a dollar on the Donald.
But if youíre a party chief you would rather not put up a candidate, even an early betting favorite, who is regarded by nearly everyone as a crook, a cheat, a fraud, and somebody who nobody, but nobody, likes.
Hillary is suddenly campaigning in familiar circumstances, up to her neck in muddy water and toxic debris, the inevitable nominee once more who canít win for losing. The Democrats should be measuring her head for the crown but the jeweler is all out of rhinestones. She was supposed to be so far ahead of Donald Trump by now that the pollsters and the bookies would be closing the book. Instead, Rasmussen Reports, the most reliable pollster over the past few cycles, shows the Donald up 5 points, 3 more than a fortnight ago.
Itís still early but senior Democrats are trying to choke back panic, and the Harold Stassen Memorial Home for Inevitable Nominees is keeping a bed warm for her.
Only yesterday the press and tube were awash in obituaries for the Grand Old Party, chortling that the Trump phenomenon had finished off the Republicans for a generation and that Hillary, for all her fits, starts and coughing fits, was on her way back to the White House and taking her wayward husband with her. It seemed like old times were at hand. Now Donald Trump is talking about his list of prospective nominees, conservatives all, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Only yesterday the Trump campaign was mocked for his campaign rallies, often marred by fist-fights and screaming matches. Now, itís the Donald who stands above the grit and bluster, busy with his list of judges. Itís the Democrats who are screeching, screaming and banging each other over the head with signs and banners on a stick.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of Hillaryís most faithful campaign surrogates, was all but booed off the stage at a party rally in Las Vegas and insists that she was frightened to within a half-inch of her life, and the word got out. What happens in Las Vegas no longer stays in Las Vegas.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the other half of the California twins, is a Hillary surrogate, too, and the good news for Hillary is that she knows how to stop the bleeding and restore Hillary to fighting mode against a Republican: Bernie should drop out. Disarray only hurts Hillary. "Thatís what Donald Trump should want, a schism in our party," she says. "Itís the responsibility particularly of [Bernie] to see that that does not happen."
The bad news for Democrats is that Bernie isnít buying. He promises to take the fight all the way to Philadelphia and the convention floor. He may not dislodge Hillary from her catbird seat, but the prospect of a little pushing, shoving and cat-calling on the convention floor might panic enough super-delegates, who are not bound to any candidate, to give Bernie a shot at the prize. The suspense of a convention roll call would be a ratings sensation.
The really bad news is that the populism that divides both parties this season is shared by both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and their followers. It might be enough to transfer the Berniemania in the Democratic ranks to the Donald when the real campaign begins after the party conventions are done.
"If it was only right-wing populism, I donít think this race would be close," Bruce Cain, a Stanford professor who reflects the concerns of the San Francisco Democrats, tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "The big question mark is where the Bernie [liberals] go. Are they going to stay home? Are they going to vote in high numbers? Where are the young voters going to go? What level of turnout will you get from the minority voters? Those will all take a lot of work on Hillary Clintonís part."
The public-opinion polls show that Hillary is just about as unlikable among millennials and Hispanics as she is among the rest of us. Enthusiasm counts, even among blacks who are counted on by Democrats to vote for her all but unanimously. Donald Trump cuts that percentage significantly in the early polls. "When asked randomly on the street or in focus groups who they are voting for," says Ford OíConnell, a Republican analyst, "people respond, ĎI like Trump,í or ĎI hate Trump.í I donít hear anyone saying, ĎIím pulling the lever for Hillary because she just gets it going for me.í "
Nobody hurts Hillary like Hillary herself.