WASHINGTON, May 24, 2016 — Hillary Clinton’s decision not to debate Bernie Sanders is a turnaround from her 2008 “anytime, anywhere” debate challenge to Barack Obama. Promises made when a candidate is losing aren’t infrequently jettisoned when the candidate is winning. And, of course, candidates do evolve.
In 2008, Sen. Clinton attacked the Obama campaign for its reluctance to take her up on an offer to debate Sen. Obama “anytime, anywhere.” Now she is tantalizingly close to being the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders and his voters believe that is thanks in part to a rigged selection process engineered by Clinton ally and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz. But this political fix appears to be peeling around its seams.
Clinton’s campaign considers the move politically smart. They said in a statement, “We believe that Hillary Clinton’s time is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands.”
That statement is plausible, but Sanders and his supporters aren’t buying it. The fix was in when Clinton took over 400 super delegates before a single primary was fought, thanks to Schultz. Shultz also dramatically limited the number of debates and scheduled them for weekends and other viewer-challenged times, to minimize viewership.
What does she have to fear? Clinton holds a commanding lead over Sanders in the delegate count, even when super delegates are excluded, and according to the most recent Real Clear Politics poll average, she leads Sanders among Democratic voters by 8.6 percent.
This lead misses the Sanders enthusiasm edge, his greater appeal to independent voters, and his growing string of primary wins. Sanders’ populist Kryptonite has left the “inevitable” Clinton juggernaut looking anything but. As successful as her march to the nomination has been, it has left her looking increasingly damaged.
Sanders turns out to be no joke, but a real threat. The Sanders campaign jalopy has been transformed by Millennial voters into a combination race car-Mack truck that looms huge in Clinton’s rear-view mirror, over the words, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
When Clinton declined to face Sanders in a Fox News debate, she seemed to give California voters and Sanders supporters the proverbial finger. Her debate dodge underscores her image for insularity and untrustworthiness.
This won’t help Sanders win the nomination, but it will help one man: Donald Trump, who is reuniting the GOP ahead of the Cleveland GOP convention.
Trump, who coined the “Crooked Hillary” campaign meme, has more ammunition for his effective political attacks against the once anointed DNC queen. Clinton claims that she ignores Trump’s attacks, but her campaign is certainly preparing and strategizing how to defend against them.
Clinton’s campaign staff must know that Trump’s camp is eagerly awaiting the next ill-considered soundbite that erupts from Clinton. Her comments about putting coalminers and coal companies out of business have been campaign gold for Trump.
When Clinton hides from Sanders, she almost shouts to the GOP and Donald Trump that she is terrified of stumbling at a Fox News debate. Unlike her once-highly skilled and politically savvy husband, Hillary Clinton does not possess the warm and endearing personality that helped Bill Clinton escape conviction after his impeachment.
On the debate stage, Clinton has let her resume do the talking while prodding her male opponents to be politically incorrect as they try to hold her female feet to the fire. When they attack her directly, she whips out her “woman’s card” on them and makes them pay a political price. She does not want it both ways; she wants it all ways.
For Clinton to bug out of debating Sanders is a sign of weakness, and it highlights her brittleness. When she faces Trump in a debate, he won’t show Sanders’ squeamishness over her “damn emails.” He’ll demand to know why she attacked her husband’s female sexual assault victims.
Political correctness is no shield against Trump. He ignores it. He will unleash an open and sustained attack on her character, lack of decision-making skills and her own war on women.
On June 7, Clinton and Wasserman Schultz will once again receive the voters’ verdict at the polls. Unfortunately for Clinton, even a win will not end her Sanders problem. He has pledged to take his movement and his fight to the Philadelphia Democratic National Convention, where Clinton will be pilloried by his delegates in the convention hall and his protestors on the streets.
Trump will go to the Republicans’ Cleveland convention in command. He will come out ready to battle Clinton. He will watch her in Philadelphia as she laughs nervously inside the convention hall while Sanders supporters rage against her outside.
The Republicans started the campaign season as the fractious clown car and political freakshow. Democrats looked forward to the Great Republican Crackup in July. But there’s a new show on the marquee. Bring the popcorn, but the big show won’t be in Cincinnati, but in Philadelphia. The Hillary and Bernie Show promises to be the main event.