Hell No, Sanders Should Not Start Taking it Easier on Clinton
Bernie Sanders didn’t win a single state this past Super Tuesday, a development sure to escalate calls from corporate pundits and other Clinton supporters to either: A. shutter his campaign and go back to Vermont or B. if he insists on sticking around through the convention, to at least back off on attacking their candidate.
Edit: Did I call this or what?
A is off the table, and Sanders’ campaign has showed no signs of exodus as the campaign calendar shifts to ever-friendlier territory. He said as much himself last night:
Dropping out is something forced upon modern presidential candidates by a lack of money. (Jeb Bush would have stuck around longer, counting his election return percentages on one hand, except the money men turned off the spigot.)
Sanders’ ‘money men’ are small donors who believe deeply that his campaign is the only reason their concerns are being discussed at all and don’t want to see that stop. It’s possible, even likely, that some will be discouraged and stop donating, but the beauty of having millions of people supporting you is that other people will get fired up and give more.
As Clinton is the subject of a small handful of federal investigations right now, Sanders has more reason than most to press on against an opponent that could easily disappear through a trapdoor of her own making.
As for backing off drawing contrasts to the party’s presumptive nominee, that’s self-serving nonsense. No matter what Sanders says about Clinton, there is little question that he will raise the matter in a far more high-minded way than will Donald Trump. Still others will want Sanders to “go negative” and run nasty attack ads. That’s not going to happen and that’s not who Sanders is.
I personally think the more pugnacious Sanders 2.0 has the aggressiveness and the tone just about right. The problem is that there are no more scheduled debates and it’s a fair bet Clinton is going to want to try and choke off the oxygen to Sanders’ campaign in any way she can. I don’t see her agreeing, for example, to spend another hour on FOX News in a last-minute townhall.
There are many things the Sanders camp could do that would get him back on TV and in the headlines. For example, he could expand his influence peddling critique of Clinton beyond her paid speeches to the arms-for-donations scandal during her tenure as Secretary of State. The risk he runs with that is, having left it on the table so long now, picking it up while he’s behind could make him look desperate.
But the other choice is the status quo, with Clinton on a glide path to the nomination and Sanders winning most and possibly all of the remaining states, but not by large enough margins to pull it out. The question the Sanders camp has to be asking itself today is if it is willing to do what it takes to win the nomination, regardless of what it might do to Clinton’s chances in the general.