Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bernie vs. Hillary, the Democratic Establishment & Delegate Math

If the increasingly-heated tone of comments fired back and forth between the two leading Democratic candidates over the past couple days is any kind of indicator, it's clear that there's a lot at stake with the upcoming New York Democratic primary on April 19th.

It's been awhile since a presidential primary in the state of New York was this relevant to the White House aspirations of both parties.

As nationally-recognized Democratic political figures,both Hillary and Bernie lay claim to deep ties with the Empire State, and there's little doubt they're both feeling the pressure to win bragging rights for notching a victory in the media capital of the world.

The delegate count is obviously important, but the prestige factor is in play too as both Bernie and Hillary can arguably view New York as a "home" state considering Bernie was raised in Brooklyn and Hillary is a former New York senator who's called Westchester home for 16 years.

Hence the colder-than-normal exchanges between the two as of late.

It's not quite a "war of words" yet, but in the past week the verbal attacks and soundbites from the two remaining Democratic front runners (and members of their respective campaigns) has begun to veer into a much more "gloves off - politically ruthless" kind of territory.

Hillary & de Blasio joke about "CP Time" Saturday night
It remains to be seen whether Hillary's taking part in what some have perceived as an awkwardly-timed racist joke between her and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Inner Circle Dinner on Saturday night will really impact Hillary's chances in the NY primary.

But according to the results of a recent Monmouth University poll , Hillary currently leads Democratic primary voters over Bernie 51% to 39%

For the record, I don't know if you heard about the joke, but I don't see it as racist.

Black people do openly laugh and joke about "colored people time" or CPT, (or BPT) and we generally have a sense of humor about it, but frankly a white politician joking about it in the middle of a heated presidential primary season probably wasn't the best strategic move. Just sayin'.

Overall Hillary obviously still has a significant delegate lead, and her clear advantage in Democratic "super delegates" who've pledged to support her presents a real problem for Bernie.

But she's lost seven straight primaries and arguably (for the moment at least) the momentum has shifted to his campaign.

Where did the love go?
Unfortunately for Bernie, the battle for New York's delegates isn't the only uphill battle he has to climb to reach the nomination.

Hillary is a highly-intelligent and shrewd politician, and her recent comments about Bernie's stance on immigration and gun control will definitely resonate with some Democrats who are still on the fence.

Hillary's efforts to begin to attack Bernie on his core issues, like banking are going to have an effect - especially in New York.

As Mark Binelli observed in a March 9th article in Rolling Stone titled Hillary vs. Bernie Sanders: The Good Fight', thus far Bernie and Hillary have distinguished themselves from their Republican counterparts by engaging in actual policy discussion that's been substantive and revealing about what their ideas for the presidency and the direction for this nation will be in the next 4 years.

Republicans on the other hand, who were already deeply divided before the 2016 presidential campaign even started, are headed towards an epic implosion; a trajectory that hasn't been helped by their frequently-buffoonish televised presidential debates over the course of 2015 - 2016.

Paul Ryan announces he won't seek the presidency in 2016
House Speaker Paul Ryan running around the country giving policy speeches and waving the flag of party unity in what some journalists have described as his "mirage campaign" is not only too little too late to address the unwelcome disastrous monster that Donald Trump's campaign has become for the GOP.

It's also further evidence of subdivisions within the conservative voting bloc in America

Earlier at the gym today, I watched some of Ryan's press conference announcing that he won't seek or accept the GOP nomination for president and it was about as anti-climatic, predictable and uninspiring as his unrealistic budget proposals.

All that manufactured "suspense" is political theater. As for his speaking in front of all those perfectly-folded American flags, Ryan is running for the 2020 presidential nomination, and today's press conference was about distancing himself from Trump and Cruz, who are both about as popular with establishment Republicans as Jimmy Carter.

Ryan's efforts to stand up for Republican principles should have been done last summer when Trump was degrading Mexicans and preening like a nincompoop - too little, too late.

And that goes for the conservative billionaires who're now pouring their greenbacks into anti-Trump efforts - where the Hell where they last summer when Trump was making a laughingstock of the Republican brand?

Anyway, I digress.

DNC Chair & Hillary-backer Debbie Wasserman Schultz
To wrap up, I like Bernie but he's got a tall order in front of him.

Members of the Democratic establishment, like DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz who's currently in a race to keep her Congressional seat in for Florida's 23rd District, clearly prefers Hillary and that's affecting his grass roots campaign efforts in ways that the public doesn't always see.

For example, my sister is doing a lot of volunteer work for the Sanders campaign at their Brooklyn headquarters in Gowanus. She told me the Democratic party blocked Bernie's campaign from opening offices in the South Bronx and in Queens.

Last weekend my friend Geoff sent me this link to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog which breaks down the details of the delegate math that the Sanders campaign is facing - if you take a look at the analysis, it's sobering for Sanders and his millions of supporters.

There's no two ways about it. momentum is good, but from here on out Bernie is going to have to win key upcoming primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the big kahuna California - and he's going to have to win them big.

After all, Hillary has been in this game before and she's only just started bringing out the big political artillery - her master politician husband Bill Clinton.

The former president remains hugely popular in the eyes of Democrats and it's another advantage that's going to be hard for Bernie to match; even if he is able to score a big endorsement from someone like Oprah or Bruce.

For now he's got a tough fight in front of him in New York and it's going to be a challenge for him to keep his campaign focused on the issues and avoid the temptation to get personal and go after the more sordid corners of Hillary's track record.

After all, the ultimate goal for Democrats is to win the White House and challenge for the Senate; a cause that won't be helped by using the kind of ammunition on Hillary that Republicans will surely be firing in the fall.

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