Editorial: Bernie’s not-so-bad Tuesday
America, Feel the Bern.
Hillary, certainly, is feeling the heat. Consider that if Sen. Sanders had collected an additional half percentage point in Massachusetts he would have won five primaries to Clinton’s six on a day that heavily favored Clinton’s strongest base of support. But for that half percentage point, the headlines would have been dramatically different.
Not that Vermont’s junior senator Bernie Sanders crushed it on Super Tuesday, but he survived a stacked deck of southern pro-Clinton states in the Democratic primary by winning convincingly in Oklahoma, carried the Hispanic vote (and the state) in Colorado, and prevailed in the more-liberal caucus in Minnesota, while placing a close second in Massachusetts (50 percent to 49 percent). In terms of a change in momentum, it is Sanders that has been surging from behind in state after state since the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, and he has done it with a respectful debate of the issues. It’s still a long shot for Sanders, but Super Tuesday was not his Waterloo.
Clinton did well, as expected. She doubled Sanders’ delegate count, and has a large lead in super delegates. And her substantial victories in the southern states highlight a real weak spot in Sanders’ path to the Democratic nomination. But in a general election, a Democrat is unlikely to capture the electoral votes in those southern states no matter what, so their significance in terms of who can win in a general election is minimized. What should matter is how the two candidates compete in Blue states and in swing states against the Republican nominee.
If that is Republican front-runner Donald Trump, most current polls show Sanders doing better in a head-to-head contest than would Ms. Clinton.
In that context and to counter the media’s narrative that Sanders had a bad day Tuesday, the fact he won four out of the 11 states and came within a whisker in Massachusetts gives Sanders real credibility as a national candidate. It also gives him the public support (and money) to keep going, as he says, all the way to the Convention in July. Money is a big part of any campaign, and one of the surprising strengths of Sanders is his ability to raise millions quickly. In January he set a record by raising $20 million in small donations. In February, he doubled that with $42 million. That is a remarkable feat few would have predicted a few months ago when Clinton was the presumed nominee.
Clinton still has the advantage, but Tuesday’s results suggest her shield of invincibility has been pierced. The $64,000-question is whether there is time for Bernie’s message to resonate with voters who are just tuning in to their own primaries.
This weekend, March 5-6, are primaries and caucuses in Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Louisiana for the Democrats (plus Puerto Rico for Republicans). That’s a tough slate for Sanders. On Tuesday, March 8, Sanders has a better shot in the Michigan primary, but not in Mississippi. The next big delegate-rich day is Tuesday, March 15, with primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. In those five states 792 delegates will be awarded proportionately.
From there through April, if Bernie stays strong and the delegate math does not yet make it impossible for Sanders, the demographics are more favorable, but it’s not until the next to last week of the primary contests on June 7 that California gets to weigh in with its 546 delegates, along with Montana, New Jersey, Mew Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. If California is Bernie country, that’s a long time to hang on before the troops arrive.
Angelo S. Lynn