The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Clinton just sharply rebuked Sanders. She made some good points.

(Reuters/Brian Snyder)
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THE MORNING PLUM:

With Hillary Clinton almost certainly on track to large wins in Maryland and Pennsylvania today, both sides’ supporters are revved up in a big way over a sharp exchange she and Bernie Sanders had at last night’s MSNBC town hall meeting, in which they battled over how the endgame of this contest should unfold.

In a statement that angered Clinton supporters, Sanders seemed to suggest that it’s all on Clinton to win over his supporters if she becomes the nominee, arguing that it will be “incumbent on her to tell millions of people” who have “serious misgivings” about her that she will be better on goals that matter to them, such as universal health care and getting big money out of politics.

In her reply, Clinton reminded the audience that she worked hard to unite the party behind Barack Obama after a bitter, hard fought primary in 2008 that ended with Obama leading her by less than she currently leads Sanders. Clinton added:

“We got to the end in June, and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘you know what, if Senator Obama does X, Y, and Z, maybe I’ll support him.’ I said, ‘I’m supporting Senator Obama, because no matter what our differences might be, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Republicans.’ That’s what I did.
“At that time, 40 percent of my supporters said they would not support him. So from the time I withdrew, until the time I nominated him — I nominated him at the convention in Denver — I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I’m happy to say the vast majority did. That’s certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year.”

Clinton generally has the history right here. Of course, it should be noted that in the weeks leading up to Clinton’s exit, things were very contentious between them. Clinton’s team worked very hard to persuade super-delegates to support her, regardless of the pledged delegate outcome. According to the book Game Change, the two camps actually did enter into negotiations about some matters, in particular questions over how the convention should be handled and whether the Obama team would pay off Clinton’s campaign debt, with at least one senior Clinton person arguing internally for a vigorous effort to extract concessions from Obama.

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At the time there was a lot of talk about John McCain possibly being able to win over Hillary Democrats. (As Politifact has shown, it’s true, as Clinton says, that huge chunks of her supporters said at the time that they wouldn’t back Obama.)  And the Obama team was genuinely worried that Clinton might fail to deliver a full-throated call on her supporters to get behind him as the Democratic Party’s standard bearer.

But Clinton put those doubts to rest for good when she delivered her still-remembered concession speech in June of 2008 endorsing Obama. The speech itself is still worth a read today: Clinton not only endorsed Obama unequivocally and called on all her supporters to work “as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me.” She also — crucially — made it absolutely clear that as hard fought as their disagreements during the primaries had been, in the general election, their broader values, political aspirations, and overarching goals for the future of the country had merged and were one and the same.

This is the argument that Sanders — judging by yesterday’s appearance — might have a tough time making. His statement yesterday was not quite a demand that Clinton meet his conditions in exchange for his support. It was more an argument about what his supporters might need to hear from her in order to get behind her in November. Whether Sanders has this right or not — the prospect of President Trump or President Cruz could very well be enough to make that happen — it remains to be seen whether he will be willing to go as far as Clinton did in emphasizing that their broadly shared goals dramatically overshadow their lingering differences. His campaign has repeatedly vowed that he will do all he can to unite the party against the GOP, and that still seems likely. However, we still don’t know how messy things will get along the way.

But in 2008, Clinton did do what she is now claiming she did — and what she is now demanding of Sanders. As former Obama adviser David Plouffe put it in his memoir of the 2008 race: “Her endorsement of Barack — and more important, her call for all those who supported her to follow suit — was unambiguous, clear, and compelling….Hillary campaigned her heart out for us throughout the fall.”

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* THE FINAL FORECASTS, DEM SIDE: FiveThirtyEight’s final forecasts of today’s elections give Hillary Clinton a 97 percent chance of winning Maryland; a greater than 99 percent chance of winning Pennsylvania; and a 77 percent chance of winning Connecticut. Bernie Sanders has a 60 percent chance of winning Rhode Island.

The polling averages suggest she could win Maryland and Pennsylvania — the big delegate prizes — both by double digits; Connecticut and Rhode Island are much closer (there’s no good polling of Delaware). Clinton will probably win either four out of five or sweep.

* THE FINAL FORECASTS, GOP SIDE: FiveThirtyEight’s final forecasts give Donald Trump a greater than 99 percent chance of winning Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The polling averages suggest Trump is on track for very lopsided wins in all three of those, plus Rhode Island.

Even so, on the GOP side, the specifics of how delegate allocation shakes out will matter, since every delegate is crucial to any hopes of denying Trump that majority he needs to win the nomination before a contested convention.

* WILL HILLARY BLOW OUT BERNIE? Alexander Burns spotlights a key thing to watch:

Mrs. Clinton’s greatest strength in the primary has been her support from black and Hispanic voters, partisan Democrats and older women of all backgrounds. These groups are often most powerful in big cities, and Mrs. Clinton’s winning record has often correlated with the strength of the urban vote….If she keeps up that streak in Baltimore, Bridgeport, Philadelphia and elsewhere on Tuesday, Mr. Sanders could wind up getting crushed. His best shot at avoiding a shutout might be Rhode Island.

If Clinton wins decisively, the question becomes whether Sanders tones down his criticism of her and/or becomes clearer about his intentions for the endgame of the nomination process.

* BERNIE’S ROAD TO THE NOMINATION IS STEEP: The latest NBC News delegate count: Clinton needs 29 percent of remaining delegates to win the nomination; Sanders needs 71 percent of them.

Yes, that count includes super-delegates, who overwhelmingly back Clinton, but why would they switch to Sanders? And this gap for Sanders will get even wider after tonight’s results.

* BERNIE WILL PRESS ON UNTIL THE VERY END: His campaign manager is still telling reporters that he will take it all the way to the convention:

Asked whether he expects a contested national Democratic convention, Weaver told reporters in Connecticut, “Absolutely, 100 percent.” Weaver said, “This is a powerful movement he’s built and we’re going to take it to the convention.”

Sanders himself said all over the Sunday shows that he’ll fight on until California, which isn’t the same thing.  At some point, his campaign will have to reveal just what they mean by “taking it to the convention.”

* AND A GREAT BLOW AGAINST VOTING — ER, VOTER ‘FRAUD’: A federal district court judge has upheld North Carolina’s restrictive voting law nixing same-day registration, early voting and much more. This will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit, but:

The ruling could have significant repercussions in North Carolina, a state that Barack Obama barely won in 2008, and that the Republican Mitt Romney barely won four years later….If the Fourth Circuit or the Supreme Court does not intervene, the changes will be in force when voters go to the polls this autumn. North Carolina voters will also elect a governor in what is expected to be one of this year’s most competitive state races.

But election law expert Rick Hasen predicts the Fourth Circuit could reverse key parts of the decision, after which a deadlocked four-four Supreme Court might leave that ruling in place.

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