Published on TheHill.com on September 8, 2015
Don’t assume that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be able to win in a walk against Bernie Sanders. Indeed, she might not win at all.
Sanders’s lead in New Hampshire and close second-place standing in Iowa show his appeal and staying power, as does his constant uptick in national polls of the Democratic presidential race.
The revelations about Clinton’s emails are going to continue, monthly, as more are released. The Benghazi hearings will do her no good. And her lies and deceptions are just future traps into which she will fall as they are exposed.
Clinton should have a huge financial advantage over Sanders, but even this advantage might not materialize as she overspends on overhead and her donors become increasingly skittish in the face of her plunge in the polls.
And while she may have the money, she lacks the message. A testament to the ineffectiveness of her paid media is her continued fall in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, despite having spent $2 million there and visited both states repeatedly.
There is no real enthusiasm out there for Clinton. How does a candidate recover from losing more support each time she speaks out and with each visit to battleground states?
She could turn into what President Nixon called “a pitiful, helpless giant” as her TV ads prove ineffective. She can’t attack Sanders for being too far left without alienating the left-wing core of her party. She has a few shots she can take over episodic issues like gun control, where Sanders is conservative, but she cannot convincingly portray Bernie as to the right of herself.
Her only worthwhile line of attack on Sanders would be to say that he is too far left to be able to win. But, in the face of her own declining poll numbers, and a surge in Sanders’s, this message, too, would be blunted.
Clinton can’t use paid media to defend much less to defuse the various scandals that are destroying her credibility anymore than Nixon could when scandal closed in.
Any social program she can propose, Sanders can top. So the advantage her superior’s financial position confers on Clinton may prove more apparent than real.
And don’t underestimate Clinton and her staff’s political ineptitude. Nothing illustrates their collective myopia so much as seeing Clinton last week under attack from Democratic populists, citing her lead among establishment superdelegates.
By contrast, Sanders has a real message. And he’s generating big crowds and lots of enthusiasm. He is not concentrating on Clinton’s negatives. They are the backdrop to his act. Instead, he is crafting an entirely new Democratic left, staking out turf onto which Clinton cannot follow.
How is Clinton, awash in Wall Street money, to attack its financial shenanigans? How can she, who advanced Keystone at the State Department, flank Sanders on green issues?
By focusing on expanding Social Security to help Americans forced out of their lifelong jobs a few tough years before their legal age of retirement, Sanders has a great issue. He has another in backing a single-payer healthcare system.
These issues will have lasting appeal to the new left for the entire length of the primary season and beyond.
Finally, Clinton is susceptible to seeing her support erode after a few early defeats. Her candidacy is so based on inevitability that when she shows signs of weakness, much of her support will collapse.
Bottom line: Sanders could take this nomination away from Clinton.