Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hillary Rounding Third?

Let's face it: Thursday night's Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders - the ninth and probably last - was hardly a game changer. Yes, it was the most contentious - by design, I suspect - but neither candidate moved the needle much. If you're a Hillary or Bernie supporter, you probably heard nothing that made you reconsider. And with just two days left before New Yorkers go to the polls, there just aren't enough undecided voters to alter the likely outcome. The only question left to be answered is how large will Clinton's margin of victory be. Right now, RCP has her ahead by 13. Anything less than 10 points will be disappointing.

The same goes for Pennsylvania where she is ahead by 11, Maryland by 23 and Connecticut by 6. All three vote the following week. Together with New York, the total number of delegates up for grabs is 586. If the current polling holds, Clinton would net 78 pledged delegates increasing her lead to 288 going into May. And that's without factoring in Delaware and Rhode Island, both of which have no polling to go on. Should she win by 10 points in both, her lead would increase by another four delegates. In other words, we'd be pretty much back where we started before Bernie had his run.

And that would just about seal it for Clinton. Sanders wouldn't just need a hail Mary; he'd need two of them. He would have to win all the remaining contests by almost 70 percent just to catch her. Given that two of them - California and New Jersey - are states where Clinton is expected to do well, that is a herculean task. Statistically speaking it's game, set and match for Bernie.

So if I'm the Clinton team, I start going general in May. Don't make it too obvious - you still need all those Bernie Bots to come out and vote - but the focus has to be stopping Donald Trump in November. We're already beginning to see ads attacking Trump's stance on immigration. Expect a lot more in the months to come.

And regarding the general, now would be a good time to address Clinton's one vulnerability that could be problematic for her. It reared its ugly head in the debate and you can bet the ranch it will come out in the fall. Part of it had to do with her role in the Libyan War. While it may be a tough pill for his supporters to swallow, Libya was a foreign policy disaster for President Obama. Not nearly as bad as Bush's debacle in Iraq, but still bad. And, like it or not, Hillary's fingerprints are all over it.

Clinton had better come up with a better explanation than the one she offered up on Thursday: that is was Obama's call. While she is technically correct, it's a lame excuse for one and a copout for another. For much of her campaign, Clinton has wrapped herself up in the Obama Administration the way conservatives wrap themselves up in the flag. She has vehemently supported and defended everything Obama has done throughout his two terms, so it was troubling to see her throw him under the bus like that.

She did the same thing with her husband over the crime bill. Instead of taking ownership of it, she pawned it off on Bill who signed it into law and Sanders who voted for it. Put succinctly, Hillary has an ownership problem. She simply can't bring herself to say she was wrong on anything she had a part in. Even the back and forth between her and Sanders over the minimum wage issue was a clusterfuck. She was evasive when she didn't need to be. There was an argument to be made that Bernie's proposal for a $15 minimum wage is impractical and unworkable. She did a piss-poor job making it. She eventually got around to pointing out that the New York law Andrew Cuomo signed has a faze in period for upstate, but not before she made herself look stupid.

If Bernie could do that to her, what do you think Trump will do once he gets her on the stage? Between now and the fall, the Clinton campaign has to come up with a strategy that allows Hillary to admit what everyone already knows: that she isn't perfect and that she's made her fair share of mistakes. It's one of the reasons why people don't think she's authentic. She's way too calculating in her responses, as though she's looking for the best way to make something bad look good. It's also the main reason why Bernie Sanders has hung around for as long as he has. Admit it, if Bernie was running against say Elizabeth Warren, this race would've been over by February. Conversely, if Hillary was up against another Obama she'd be trailing just like she was at this stage eight years ago.

While it's certainly true that she's learned a thing or two about running a presidential campaign since her last foray, the one thing Hillary Clinton still hasn't mastered is the ability to be open and transparent with the voters. There's no doubt she's qualified, in spite of the ridiculous charge Sanders levied against her and then retracted. But an awful lot of qualified candidates have lost general elections before. Clinton has six and a half months to ensure she isn't one of them.

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