Things looked rosier in March, if you were a Bernie Sanders supporter. The socialist from Vermont got 59 percent of the votes in crowded Democratic caucuses around Colorado and picked up three other states on Super Tuesday. Then a week later came an unexpected squeaker of a victory in Michigan. Maybe this thing was actually going somewhere.
Sanders had momentum, but he was never able to pull ahead. The day before the nation’s largest state was set to vote, the Associated Press called the nomination for Hillary Clinton, setting off a storm of outrage, but then California voters confirmed journalists’ judgements and gave 56 percent of their votes to Clinton.
Clinton picked up three other states, while Sanders won North Dakota and Montana, yet more largely rural, mostly white states where he seems to do the best.
Why didn’t it work out for Bernie? The Washington Post was on the case this weekend, with “How Bernie Sanders missed his chance to defeat Hillary Clinton.”
Sanders might have won the nomination, the piece argued, if he had realized earlier that he had a real shot at it.
Perhaps the campaign’s biggest mistake was not realizing early on that Sanders could win. That led to a slow start, both in building the infrastructure needed to run a national campaign and in Sanders’s own presence among voters who knew little about him.
“I don’t think anybody had figured out how to win when we got in,” said senior strategist Tad Devine. “It was ‘How do we become credible?’ ”
Where the Post paints a portrait of a candidate who swung hard and missed, Politico put forward a less flattering picture of an angry man frustrated at being denied his prize.
“Inside the bitter last days of Bernie’s revolution,” we see Sanders holding grudges, not playing nice with party leaders who tried to extend an olive branch and taking political attacks very personally.
And don’t blame aides or advisors. This campaign was the Bernie Sanders Show, written, directed and starring Bernie Sanders, Politico says.
Describing the aftermath of an ugly fight at the Nevada state convention:
His guiding principle under attack has basically boiled down to a feeling that multiple aides sum up as: “Screw me? No, screw you.”
Take the combative statement after the Nevada showdown.
“I don’t know who advised him that this was the right route to take, but we are now actively destroying what Bernie worked so hard to build over the last year just to pick up two fucking delegates in a state he lost,” rapid response director Mike Casca complained to Weaver in an internal campaign email obtained by POLITICO.
“Thank you for your views. I’ll relay them to the senator, as he is driving this train,” Weaver wrote back.
(Politico also provides the back story on that debate challenge to Donald Trump that went nowhere.)
If you’re thinking “but the superdelegates,” let’s take a look at that.
The argument that the superdelegates should switch their allegiance is usually based on “respecting the will of the people.” But a lot more people voted for Hillary Clinton.
Here’s Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, writing before California and New Jersey even voted.
FiveThirtyEight’s pledged delegate count, which does not include superdelegates, has Clinton with 1,8111 pledged delegates to 1,526 for Sanders. The Sanders campaign said its “job from now until the convention is to convince superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”
But Sanders’s statement — and the AP’s call — distract from the larger point. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee because substantially more Democrats have voted for her. In addition to her elected delegate majority, she’s received approximately 13.5 million votes so far in primaries and caucuses, compared with 10.5 million for Sanders.
Even a stunning upset for Sanders in California would not have changed that, and instead, Clinton won handily.
With math like that, why would a superdelegate jump ship? And in fact, no superdelegates have.
The other argument is that Sanders has a better shot against Donald Trump in the general election. That’s more complicated than just looking at a few polls. But nonetheless a challenge for the Clinton campaign as she moves into the general and tries to bring disgruntled Sanders supporters back into the fold, if they ever were there at all.
Or that Clinton is going to prison any day now because she’s a crookedy crook crook who crooks all day, and the Dems need an ace in the hole.
Here’s Politico again:
There are many divisions within the Sanders campaign … But more than any of them, Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect — all while holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention.
But on Wednesday morning, even as Sanders promises to press on the convention, some supporters are telling him “it’s time.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and a superdelegate who supports Sanders, told the Washington Post after Tuesday’s results that he does not support a contested convention.
“Once a candidate has won a majority of the pledged delegates and a majority of the popular vote, which Secretary Clinton has now done, we have our nominee,” he said.
And: “The super-delegates are set aside when you make the judgment that you have a majority of the pledged delegates. I would not support a battle that involves trying to flip superdelegates.”
In Denver, former state House Speaker Terrance Carroll, also a Sanders supporter, said on Facebook that it’s time to get face reality.
I’ve been a Bernie guy, but I believe that after tonight and for the sake of our country we need unite behind Hillary Clinton. Is she the perfect candidate? No. In fact, none of them are. However, I do believe that it is time, that we put aside the pettiness of the primaries to defeat the vile, xenophobic, and racist nature of Donald Trump. The cost (of) holding petty grudges is too high in 2016. I’m officially with her.