In the category of least surprising news developments, let’s drop this just-released statement from Clinton campaign aide Jennifer Palmieri:
We have declined Fox News’ invitation to participate in a debate in California. As we have said previously, we plan to compete hard in the remaining primary states, particularly California, while turning our attention to the threat a Donald Trump presidency poses. We believe that Hillary Clinton’s time is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands.
As this blog reported, Fox News on May 17 sent letters inviting both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to a debate that would take place before the June 7 primary in California. It looked like a long shot, considering that the Democratic National Committee hadn’t exactly endorsed Fox News as a debate sponsor and the network hadn’t served as one in 12 years. Furthermore, the fate of the last — and still unscheduled tilt on the Democratic debate plan — has been in doubt ever since Clinton emerged as the prohibitive favorite to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
Fox News maneuvered cleverly in a failing effort, however. In sending out those invitations, it put the debate on the public agenda, if not quite on the agenda of the DNC. It’s instructive that the Clinton statement bagging the event cites the campaign’s refusal of “Fox News’ invitation.” The move helps draw a contrast between the two campaigns, too, as the Sanders campaign agreed to participate in the Fox News event. Earlier this election season, Fox News’s Bret Baier hosted both candidates separately in a town-hall event.
In deciding that her time is best spent “meeting directly with voters,” Clinton has also bagged the advice of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who advised her last week on the Fox News airwaves, “It would be to your advantage, Madam Secretary, to do this debate, even though we know you have the nomination locked up — that’s true. Lots of folks who may be skeptical about you will be watching that debate, and you might impress them and get some votes in the general election, so let’s wrap this whole deal up. Call me tonight, we’ll confirm Bernie v. Hillary on FNC in California.”
Meta-pundit prediction: TV talking heads will talk about how this move confirms that the Clinton campaign is “protecting its lead” and “running out the clock” on Sanders.