Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekend At Bernie's


So much for netting only 20 delegates. One week after having a "good" weekend, Bernie had the weekend of his political life. He swept all three state caucuses by convincing margins. The biggest haul was in Washington, where he took 73 percent of the state's 101 delegates.

This was the win Bernie has been looking for ever since he took Vermont, and it couldn't have come at a better time for him. With the upcoming schedule looking daunting, Sanders needed a strong showing not only to keep his supporters energized, but to keep his nomination hopes alive. Over the last week, he has shrunk Hillary Clinton's delegate lead from 306 to 230. That lead should shrink even more when the balance of the delegates from Washington get apportioned.

Wisconsin is up next and it is a state Sanders desperately needs to win. At present, he's still trailing by 6 points, but the demographics favor him. If he manages to win, even if only by a small margin, he will have some serious momentum going into New York. And he will need it. The RCP polling there shows Clinton with a very sizable lead. Indeed, the rest of the calendar heavily favors her.

Which makes the decision by Sanders to actively campaign in New York puzzling.  Why on Earth would he waste precious resources in a state he has no chance at winning when there are states he could actually turn, like Pennsylvania. Even though Clinton has a huge lead there, most of that is due to the support she's getting from the Philadelphia area. The rest of the state is open and contestable if Sanders puts up a fight.

If I were his campaign manager, immediately after the Wisconsin primary I would move him into the state and shuttle him back and forth between Scranton in the northeast, Harrisburg in the central and Pittsburg in the west. I also would schedule a rally at PennState. In fact, I wouldn't let him leave the state until the polling was within the margin of error. Of all the large states remaining, Pennsylvania is the one Sanders could most likely steal. If it's delegates he's looking for, the Keystone state is the best place to pick them up.

It's time to face facts. While Hillary has had a number of missteps in this campaign - chief among them was the ridiculous comments she made about Nancy Reagan leading the charge against AIDS - Sanders has suffered from a lack of strategic planning. Put simply, he's been all over the map. Instead of focusing his resources where they can be the most effective, he's spread himself a little too thin.

Case in point, after his stunning upset victory over Clinton in Michigan, Sanders, rather than build off of that momentum in Ohio, another important Rust Belt state, decided for some unknown reason to move down to Florida, a state he was trailing badly in and had no chance at winning. While he was doing that, Clinton went on the offensive and buried him in the Buckeye state. And Florida? Oh, yeah, she cleaned his clock there too.

Part of this is due to a lack of experience. Sanders has never been in a presidential race before, whereas Clinton has. Indeed, she's learned a lot from her '08 loss to Barack Obama. She's actually borrowing his play book and adapting it brilliantly. While Bernie continues to draw large crowds at his events, Hillary is piling up more votes, two million more in fact. And while he may have more cash on hand than her, he hasn't spent it as wisely. Buying ads in states where there is no reasonable chance of winning just isn't smart. If you've got that kind of financial advantage, you're best move is to saturate states that you can win. That would force Clinton to spend money she doesn't have defending those states.

Here's what I would do. I'd pick three or four states that I thought I had a chance at that I was trailing. Then I'd triple the ad buys in those states. The states I would choose besides Pennsylvania are Maryland, California and New Jersey. It still might not be enough but it would be significantly better than what Sanders is currently doing. If he persists in this present strategy, he's playing right into Hillary's hands.

With all due respect to Sanders and his supporters, Clinton is winning the states with the most diverse populations. She is winning with African Americans, Hispanics and women. All three demographics will be critical to the success of the Democratic Party come November, especially going up against Donald Trump. While Bernie's win in Washington was impressive, it only confirms what the pundits have been saying about him for months: that for all the enthusiasm his candidacy has generated, he still can't get break out of his comfort zone and attract the voters he needs to win the nomination; indeed the voters he needs to win a general election.

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