While conservative America wrings its hands over Donald Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton, let’s take a moment to anticipate an event next week that would objectively, demonstrably hurt her chances no matter what any Republican does. Let us pause to assess the delicious ramifications of a Bernie Sanders win in the California primary Tuesday night.
I get giddy thinking about it. Every day of my political life right now is geared toward attracting all hands on deck for the universal necessity of preventing her presidency. The bulk of that task currently involves luring to clarity those remaining rebellious souls who can’t get past their Trump gripes to realize the necessity of this mission.
Yet along this path comes an event which could wound her chances, even fatally. This is not just a right-wing fantasy; it is in fact respected Democrat pollster Doug Schoen who penned the Wall Street Journal column this week headlined “Clinton Might Not Be The Nominee.”
The mind fairly spins. If not, then what?
One step at a time. Could Hillary lose California? Sure she could. The realclearpolitics.com polling average shows her up by six, but that is wildly inflated by a possible outlier survey showing her up by nearly twenty. The other three current polls, including NBC/Wall Street Journal, each have her up by two.
So what is likely over the weekend? Imagine a split screen. On one side, Bernie will be washed in the loud adulation of grizzled hippies, communists and mush-brained college kids. He will be relaxed, confident and aggressive against Hillary, who for her part may not mention his name much at all.
She will be busy screeching through ill-delivered attacks on Donald Trump, on the gamble that it is wise to look past Bernie to put on the mantle of presumed nominee. She is probably right about that, but if Bernie’s amped-up legions are itching to deliver one last primary blow to her, there may be no stopping them.
So what then?
It all depends on the party loyalist upper-crusters who populate the thoroughly corrupt Democrat superdelegate system. Her 543-44 lead in those rarefied ranks is the only reason we have been told forever that Bernie has no chance. Without them, he would have a solid chance, since among delegates earned through real voting, he is only behind 1,769 to 1,501.
To win the Democrat nomination prize in Philadelphia at the end of next month 2,383 delegates are needed. She will win New Jersey on June 7 and thus most of its 142 delegates. But if he can snag a big bite of that California mother lode of 546, he might at least keep her from the magic number, which opens the door for what we thought the Republicans would have to navigate— an open convention.
But that would require a massive defection of superdelegates, a long shot even if Bernie delivers a wound in the California popular vote.
Sure, some superdelegates would bail. There is a natural inclination to follow the scent of a winner if the tide is turning. But remember that these are deeply rooted creatures of the Democratic Party machine, most of whom cast their fate with Hillary early on.
They may regret that decision back when it looked like a coronation lay ahead, but they must know the dire price to be exacted for anyone jumping from the Clinton ship if she eventually wins anyway. Don’t expect widespread willingness to burn that bridge. Bernie’s forces may offer a convention rule requiring superdelgates to vote for the candidate that won their state, but that will be a tough fight in a convention hall packed with Hillary’s power brokers.
But what if Doug Schoen’s speculations do play out? It is exhilarating to consider Hillary derailed from the prize she has expected since the day she announced. But be careful what you wish for.
If Bernie can find a way to claw his way to the nomination, Republican ads will run the next morning featuring his smiling face with a hammer and sickle alongside. His base will come out in November, but he will lose independents by historic margins.
If Democrats get to hit a reset button in Philadelphia, Joe Biden may literally ride out onto the Wells Fargo Center stage on a white horse, arriving to rescue the party from Hillary’s scandals and campaign clumsiness and Bernie’s unelectability.
Biden has relatability and a campaign skill set Hillary can only dream of. And while he does not inspire Sanders-caliber adoration, he can tap into the collective goodwill of Democratic voters who have generally appreciated his years as vice president and his previous 36 years of service in the U.S. Senate.
So sure, a Sanders clubbing of Hillary in California would be a night of glee for conservatives. But if it turns out to be the beginning of the end for her, we’d better hope he winds up the eventual nominee and not Biden, who is harder to beat than either of them.