(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Opinion writer

THE MORNING PLUM:

Yep, it’s official: Bernie Sanders will campaign alongside Hillary Clinton at an event on Tuesday, meaning the process of Dem unity will now begin in earnest. Here’s one place where that could really help Clinton: In dealing with her email mess.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that a majority of Americans disapprove of FBI director James Comey’s recommendation that Clinton not be charged with a crime over her email arrangement, by 56-35. Americans say by 57-39 that her handling of it makes them worry about how she’ll handle the presidency.

What’s striking, though, is the degree to which this is driven by differences between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are nearly unanimous in their disapproval of Comey’s decision, by 88 to seven. But according to the crosstabs, Democrats are substantially more split: 31 percent of Dems also disapprove, versus 63 percent who approve. Similarly, Dems say by 31-68 makes them worried about her presidency. Among independents, those numbers are 59-31 and 63-34.

In other words, nearly a third of Democrats disapprove of Comey’s recommendation against charges and say it makes them worried about her presidency, and a whole lot of Dem-leaning independents say the same.

What’s more, the crosstabs show that this is particularly pronounced among young voters and liberals:  A majority of voters under 40 disapprove, by 55-32. And nearly half of liberals (43 percent) disapprove, while 49 percent approve. Similar percentages of those groups say this worries them about her presidency. Given those demographic breakdowns, it is possible — though the polling doesn’t say one way or the other — that there is substantial overlap between those Democrats and Dem-leaning independents who disapprove of Comey’s decision and those who support Sanders.

As you may recall, one of Sanders’s biggest moments during the primaries came when he publicly exonerated her over the email mess at a debate last fall, to great cheers from the audience. Since then, of course, during the voting throughout the first half of this year, Sanders emerged as a real threat to Clinton, and he amassed unexpected support among Democrats and Dem-leaning independents. A lot of those voters probably came to see Clinton more negatively, amid increasing criticism of her ties to Wall Street and fundraising, and perhaps came to adopt a similarly dim view of her email arrangement, as it received more and more media coverage. So one thing to keep an eye on will be how, or whether, Sanders goes about reassuring his supporters — and other Democrats and Dem-leaning independents — that Clinton’s email arrangement should not weigh on them.

Now, it’s true that in our new poll, a majority of Americans — 60 percent — say that the outcome of the email issue won’t effect their vote, while only 30 percent say it makes them less likely to vote for her. But it would be folly to dismiss the possibility that the email story could nonetheless subtly reinforce negative perceptions of her, particularly since it will apparently continue, as Republicans vow to push for an investigation of Clinton’s statements to Congress about it during the Benghazi probe, which, while unlikely to produce proof of perjury, will at least keep the issue in the news. It’s also very possible, of course, that GOP overreach on this issue could end up mitigating the impact of it. But the Clinton campaign can’t count on that happening.

And so, with concerns about the email story running higher than expected among Democrats, Sanders could perhaps play a key role in addressing them.

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* BERNIE TO CAMPAIGN WITH HILLARY (FINALLY!): Just in, from the Sanders campaign:

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday will join Hillary Clinton for a campaign event at Portsmouth High School to discuss their commitment to building an America that is stronger together and an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.

There are a number of questions about how Sanders will now proceed, but the unifying process will now begin in earnest.

* HILLARY WILL PICK UP BIG LIBERAL ENDORSEMENT: Today the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s political action committee is set to endorse Clinton, sources confirm to me. The group — which is called the Progressive Action PAC — is headed by two of Sanders’s most prominent supporters in Congress, Representatives Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, and works to elect progressives to Congress.

This means that Sanders’s biggest surrogates will now be freed up to go out there and make the case for Clinton to Sanders’s voters. That makes this another key moment in the Dem unifying process.

* BERNIE WINS MORE CONCESSIONS: Over the weekend, the Sanders camp won new party platform concessions: Firmed up language on the $15 minimum wage and on climate change, but not language nixing a Congressional vote on TPP. Dave Weigel comments:

The Democratic Party shifted further to the left in one election than perhaps since 1972, embracing once-unthinkable stances on carbon pricing, police reform, abortion rights, the minimum wage and the war on drugs…. What else did the Sanders forces win? Support for the senator’s college-tuition plan (also backed by Clinton) and tough new antitrust language.

As Weigel notes, the Sanders camp didn’t get a fracking ban or Medicare for all. But overall, this shows the Sanders movement is succeeding.

* BERNIE SAYS THE CAMPAIGNS ARE ‘CLOSER AND CLOSER’: Sanders also may have been partly responsible for new, firmed up language from Clinton on health care:

On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton also inched closer to Mr. Sanders on the issue of health care, encouraging Congress to add a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act and calling for additional support for community health clinics. “I congratulate Secretary Clinton for this extremely important initiative,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement, referring to her expanded health care outline. “The proposal, in a very significant way, addresses the crisis we now face in primary health care.”

Sanders told reporters: “I think it’s fair to say that the Clinton campaign and I, our campaign, are coming closer and closer together.”

* GOP PLATFORM SHIFTS ON GAY MARRIAGE: CNN scoops this about the latest draft of the GOP party platform:

In a major shift, the platform would drop the pursuit of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, opting instead to oppose the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and calling on the matter to be decided by the states.

Baby steps…

* HILLARY CAMP HITS TRUMP’S AFFECTION FOR DICTATORS: The Hillary campaign is out with a new web video that features a bunch of footage of Trump praising various and sundry dictators, including Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin. It concludes: “If these are the leaders Trump admires, what kind of president would he be?”

He’s be a very strong president who would smash the enemy, of course. This is a new front in the battle to portray Trump as temperamentally unfit for the presidency and his self-ascribed “strength” as dangerous and unhinged.

 * AND TRUMP’S HANDLERS MANAGE TO KEEP HIM QUIET: The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Alex Burns report that Trump’s handlers managed to keep him from saying too much publicly after the killing of police in Dallas, and comment:

The episode was a kind of experiment in how Mr. Trump, under certain circumstances, can be sculpted into something resembling a conventional presidential candidate. Yet it also highlighted just how limited Mr. Trump has proved in the general election — a figure so volatile and hard-line that simply speaking in public can be a risk.

Yes, and that’s exactly what you want in a president.