Bernie Sanders just won Wisconsin!
Bernie Sanders just won a key straw poll in Wisconsin!
Bernie Sanders just finished second to Hillary Clinton in some random straw poll in Wisconsin.
Judging from the headlines coming out of Hillary's 49-41 win over Sanders at Wisconsin's Democratic Party convention over the weekend, you might have thought that Sanders not only had won Wisconsin but in so doing had secured his party's 2016 presidential nomination as well.
"Clinton ekes out slim win in Wisconsin Dems' straw poll," read one. "Bernie Sanders wins shocking 41 percent of Wisconsin straw vote," read another. EKES! SHOCKING!
Except, not that shocking.
We are talking about 500 Democrats here. Five hundred Democrats who attended the Wisconsin party convention in an off-year. So yes, you might be right to assume that these are the base of the base of the base -- the most liberal people in a state that has a long tradition of liberalism and large enclave of it right there in Madison.
Bernie Sanders, as you might guess, appeals to those people. Throughout his career and especially since he announced he is running for president, Sanders has emphasized his liberal bona fides and sought to contrast them with Clinton's. If you are a liberal -- especially one who believes that President Obama didn't turn out to be as left-leaning as you thought/wanted him to be -- then Sanders is going to be your guy.
“Why should she be worried about a little competition?" asked Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. "Bernie Sanders is not a serious threat to the nomination, but he’ll help Hillary get in better campaign shape."
The issue with drawing too many conclusions off of the Wisconsin result is that there's little evidence in the broader data that suggests a liberal uprising. In the WaPo-ABC national poll last month, almost seven in 10 self-described liberals said they had a favorable opinion of Clinton, including 39 percent who said they felt "strongly" favorable to her.
So the Wisconsin results tells us two things we generally already knew: 1) In certain liberal enclaves of the Democratic party, there is a search for an alternative to Clinton, and 2) Those enclaves are, at the moment, not big enough to worry Clinton.
What's hard to know is whether the Wisconsin straw result is simply an anomalous bubble in the broader stream of the Democratic campaign or the first signs that that the Clinton dam is leaking. (Bad water metaphors are the best bad metaphors.)
Despite my skepticism above, it is possible that we might look back on the Wisconsin result in a year's time -- with Sanders having run a much more serious challenge to Clinton than anyone thinks today -- and say "The signs were there. We were just blind to them?" Sure.
Noted one well-connected Democratic consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly about Clinton: "In 1968, LBJ dropped out not because he lost New Hampshire primary to McCarthy but because he only won 49 percent to 42 percent. We should not be surprised Sanders got some vote, given the audience, but the level is surprising."
Maybe. I think we need several more data points before I throw this Wisconsin vote into the "leak-in-the-damn" theory. Let's see if we get them.