Clinton vs. Sanders: Revenge of the Sparring Partner

No one, especially Hillary Clinton, ever thought Bernie Sanders could actually win the Democratic presidential nomination. From the Clinton perspective, a Sanders candidacy was merely a useful campaign tool. Sanders would provide the appearance that Hillary Clinton had actually competed for the nomination, would draw media attention to the mock debates and pseudo-campaign and would offer the rather creaky Clinton machine an opportunity to tune up for the general election.  In essence, Clinton viewed Sanders as a useful sparring partner.

This scenario is still likely to play out even though Sanders has been far more competitive than anyone expected. Sanders won in New Hampshire, ran well in Nevada, and boasts impressive national poll numbers. Clinton has had to campaign more vigorously than she ever expected and has had to deploy Bill Clinton who was to have been held in reserve for the general election. Yet, with a solid core of African American support and inexhaustible funding, Clinton will certainly win the Democratic nomination.

Some commentators attribute Sanders’s better-than-expected performance to the lure of his Socialist platform for young voters, discontented with politics as usual, and perhaps this is true.

However, there is an alternative possibility that does not bode well for Democratic prospects in 2016. This is Hillary Clinton’s weakness as a candidate. Large numbers of Americans, including many Democrats and many women, view Clinton as dishonest and untrustworthy. Some of this is Clinton’s fault and some the result of years of relentless attacks against the former First Lady launched by the GOP and conservative media outlets–the vast right-wing conspiracy, as the Clintons like to say.

Whatever the reason, Democrats must face the fact that Clinton is a wounded candidate, so weak that she can be seriously challenged by an elderly sparring partner like Bernie Sanders. The Electoral College currently seems to give Democrats an edge in presidential elections and they will need it.