This last week of May was not a good one for Hillary Clinton. The Inspector General of the State Department sharply criticized her for her private email arrangement, keeping a contentious issue alive that the former Secretary of State would rather love to put behind.
On the primary campaign trail, she still cannot put away her Socialist rival Bernie Sanders, despite his zero chances to wrest the Democratic nomination away from her. The latest poll from California (Public Policy Institute) which holds its much-awaited primary on June 7th sees her once comfortable lead over Sanders shrunk to just two points.
On top of that, the country is suddenly thrilled by the prospect of a televised debate between Sanders and Donald Trump who on Thursday officially clinched the Republican nomination.
Appearing on a late night show that aired Wednesday, Trump said he would be willing to debate Sanders if proceeds from such an event went to charity.
Within minutes of the statement airing, Sanders had agreed to the idea. ‘Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary,’ he tweeted early Thursday morning.
It was not clear on Thursday whether the Sanders and Trump campaigns were actually following up on the debate idea. At a press event in North Dakota, Trump said he would like to debate Sanders “for 10-15 million dollars”.
From Clinton’s perspective, it better be a prank. A Sanders-Trump debate would generate a massive media interest, elevate her rival Sanders to Trump’s prime national opponent and undermine Clinton’s status as (very) likely Democratic nominee.
In short, it would totally sideline Clinton who recently declined a Sanders offer to a debate in California next week.
The idea of a Sanders-Trump debate, even if it didn’t come from Sanders, is just another embarrassment the senator from Vermont is causing Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment.
They would love to see Sanders drop out of the race, rally himself and his supporters behind the Clinton candidacy and unite the party in the fight against Trump.
But Sanders shows no sign of doing so and stays in the ring until the very last moment – despite the mathematical near-impossibility of undoing Clinton’s lead.
Clinton is so far ahead in the delegate count that she needs less than 80 of the remaining 921 delegates to become her party’s nominee.
Given that there are primaries in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico on June 4th and 5th with combined 79 delegates at stake, it will be New Jersey with its 142 delegates that will put her over the top on June 7th, three hours before polls close in California.
In other words, even if Sanders beat Clinton 100–0 percent in the Golden State plus in all the remaining states on June 7th (Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota), he would still not have enough delegates to win the nomination.
Sanders’ rather esoteric argument is all about “momentum” and the unrealistic prospect of getting the Democratic Party’s “super-delegates”, elected and party officials who can vote for whomever they want and who have massively endorsed Clinton, to flip sides.
“I believe that if we win here in California,” he said at a rally in Santa Monica, “and if we win the other five states that are voting on June 7, we’re going to go marching to the Democratic convention with a hell of a lot of momentum. I believe that if we do well here in California, we’ll march in with momentum and we’ll march out with the Democratic nomination!”
In addition, Sanders wants his followers to believe that even with less than 50 percent of the delegates at the convention in Philadelphia, he still has a shot. When he told the Associated Press earlier this week that the convention would be “messy”, he sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party leadership ranks.
The effect was felt so much that his campaign has since insisted that the reference was merely to the democratic process and not a subliminal message to his supporters to create chaos in Philadelphia.
“The media often takes words out of context. The context of that was that democracy is messy. That people will have vigorous debate on the issues,” Sanders told NBC. Asked whether the convention itself will be messy, Sanders replied, “Well of course it will be. But everything — that’s what democracy is about.”
Sanders also bristled at the suggestion that his staying in the race would hurt Clinton against Trump, snapping, “I guess if we take your assumption, and Clinton supporters’ assumption, that that is the logical conclusion, we should go back to a monarchy and not have any election at all.”
Whether Sanders will pursue a confrontational strategy even at the convention or whether he will finally recognize his defeat and support Clinton, is currently one of the best guessing games among America’s pundits.
Some political observers in Washington believe that the senator from Vermont is already vying for influence in a post-election Congress to promote his left-of-center agenda – possibly in cooperation with a Clinton White House.
“He’s grown a movement, and he is the leader of it, although there are others,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz told Politico Magazine. “I think his voice is louder and stronger than ever.”