Wednesday, June 08, 2016

5 Random Thoughts on Last Night's Primaries

Last night we had one of the last major primary days of the season and truly the last major primary day of the presidential season.  As is our tradition on TMROJ, we will recap yesterday's results with five random thoughts I had about last night's returns.

1. This is Hillary Clinton's Moment

I wrote last night about my personal feelings about Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman ever to win a major party's nomination, but now it's time for the more electoral side of my brain to decipher this turn-of-events.  Clinton's victories, and they were substantial (including big wins in New Jersey and California, and a surprise victory in South Dakota), were a great way to largely end her campaign for the nomination (there's still one primary left next Tuesday in the District of Columbia).  She now pivots full-force into the general election, trying to both ensure that Bernie Sanders' supporters (more on them in a second) get behind her campaign in the next couple of months while also nabbing as many moderates and Republicans-on-the-fence as is possible in the wake of what has been a truly devastating couple of weeks for Donald Trump's campaign.  Clinton underlined the history of her moment last night, name-checking Seneca Falls and her own mother's struggles, but also I was struck by her push across all fifty states.  I took this as a sign from the Clinton campaign that they're going to start looking at not just the traditional battleground states, but perhaps expanding to places like Arizona, Missouri, and Georgia.  This could have a major impact on down-ballot races as well-almost every "leans Republican" state that the Clinton campaign might look at has a Senate race this cycle, and the DSCC has done a relatively strong job of getting credible candidates in these races, setting them up for success if Clinton can increase her national lead, which seems likely after last night.

2. Bernie Sanders' Time is Over

I thought one of the most striking moments of last night was watching longtime Clinton surrogates Patti Solis Doyle and Paul Begala on CNN making great strides to underline how well Bernie Sanders had done and how much he had helped the party with his debate-even Clinton herself did the same thing.  However, the implicit reason for them shifting their support and praise onto Sanders is that they know this is over, and every day Sanders waits is a day they aren't fighting Donald Trump.  The reality is that Clinton has now won the most contests, the most popular votes, and the most pledged delegates, and keeping the race going toward a convention that everyone already knows how it ends is going to be a waste of time, money, and energy.  Sanders has a meeting on Thursday with President Obama, and I suspect he will underline to the Vermont senator the danger of staying in the race to progressive causes, as well as how to find common ground and come-to-terms with the Clinton camp.

I will say this about the Sanders' campaign, because I see two sides of this sword.  One, I have been on the losing side of a campaign before (I stumped for Wesley Clark in 2004, and was a Hillary Clinton backer in 2008-this is weirdly the first time I've actually supported someone who won the nomination as an adult) and I know how hard this moment is, but I will also say that I never resorted to illogical arguments when I was at the end of the gate.  The idea that they're attacking the media for calling this because the superdelegates haven't technically voted yet is ridiculous.  The superdelegates are definitely a ridiculous notion that only serve the Republicans in my mind and should be axed immediately following Philadelphia, but they are not a normal slate of voters-they are major party officials who have voiced their support publicly.  This is not a case where the media is declaring the race over based on polls-they have the actual vote results, they just haven't been cast yet.  Sanders has yet to change one single superdelegate's mind while out on the campaign trail to switch from Clinton to himself, and it's very hard to do-Barack Obama only changed thirty in 2008, and he was winning the race while Sanders was losing.  While there were moments that didn't favor Sanders this cycle (the debate schedule, Clinton's early lead), there were also moments that very much did (he was rarely attacked by the GOP, the caucus states clearly gave him an unfair advantage by limiting the voter pool as indicated by the "political scientist's wet dream" of the Dakota results last night) so in some ways this washes out.  Clinging to ridiculous notions to try and justify him staying in the race when he has lost literally every single metric is not dignified-it's time to move on, grieve if you need to, but move on and admit defeat of a worthy cause.  And if you don't see that getting behind Clinton over Trump is the right thing to do, I don't believe you when you say you are a progressive or a liberal, because you're not. /end rant

3. Donald Trump Doesn't Know Where to Go

Last night was a great one for Clinton, and as is now the case going forward, a good night for Hillary Clinton means a bad night for Trump (and vice versa).  Trump's speech early on was mannered in the first half, but hardly what one would call particularly inspiring, and Trump appeared tired and bored having to read from a teleprompter (and it didn't go unnoticed by social media that the man who admonished Clinton for using such a device decided it was good for the gander).  Trump's campaign has had arguably its worst week since that brief moment months ago where it looked like Ted Cruz would outmaneuver him to the Republican nomination through random delegate rules.  He has lost support of major Republicans (namely Mark Kirk and Lindsey Graham, though with Graham it's hard to tell where he stands on Trump on any given day), and is being admonished as racist by members of his own party.  Paul Ryan's endorsement is worth little when it is coupled by severe attacks and feels about as heartfelt as a Yankees fan cheering for the Red Sox.  Trump also didn't look like he was having fun, and the guy who gave that speech last night is not someone the media is going to fawn over and decipher.  Plus, his first congressional endorsement (Rep. Renee Ellmers) lost big-time in her primary in North Carolina.  Trump certainly is being urged to run a more traditional campaign, but he likely doesn't have the personal discipline to do so, and it's not what his core supporters, whom he clearly adores and feeds off of, want to see from him.  That leaves him in a precarious spot, one that Hillary Clinton will not have to endure as she pivots to attack him directly and tries to shore up as many of Trump's potential back-up options (like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) as possible in the next few months.

Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D-IA)
4. Democrats Have Success Down-ballot

Outside the sphere of the presidential race, the Democrats also had a lot of success last night in their primaries, with a number of congressionally-approved Democrats gaining.  In California, Democrats like Bryan Caforio and Salud Carbojal, both endorsed by the DCCC won their fights, while in Iowa we saw Monica Vernon and Jim Mowrer do the same in competitive seats.  And the DSCC continued its hot streak by landing Lt. Gov. Patty Judge in the Iowa primaries, their preferred candidate who not only clobbered, but has also developed arguably the best campaign line I've seen so far this cycle ("The Judge Chuck Grassley Can't Ignore" feels like something even Don Draper would compliment).  This is important as the Democrats are trying to make as much of a play for down-ballot races, capitalizing on the Hillary Clinton campaign, as possible.  The reality is that they didn't get all of their candidates, though.  Daniel Parra in CA-21 was not the DC-backed player in that district, though the Democrats may not be able to be picky there considering the strong Hispanic and Democratic-leaning of that district in their quest for thirty, and incumbent Rep. Mike Honda seems to be very much the underdog in his CA-17 race thanks to an ethics scandal, though there it's against a Democrat so it's a wash either way, but by-and-large last night was about everything that the Democrats could hope for on a congressional scale, particularly in California's Senate Race...

Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-CA)
5. Harris vs. Sanchez Could Be a Huge Coup for CA Democrats

On the surface, one might argue that Harris vs. Sanchez could potentially alienate some Democrats.  After all, having two Democrats attacking each other between now and November isn't normally a recipe for success.  However, that line of thinking is only reserved for primaries, not general elections, and thanks to California's strange top-two style primaries, that's what's happening in November.  For the first time since the passage of the 17th Amendment, the Republican Party will not have a Senate candidate on the ballot in November in the Golden State, as Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, were the top two finishers.  Harris will start out as the favorite, but Sanchez will likely be able to do well amongst business-minded moderates and draw out strong support from the Latino community in her quest to become the first Latina US Senator.  The bigger question now in California is-what gets Republicans to the polls?  With a presidential candidate with sky-high disapproval ratings, a solid-blue state where he wouldn't have won anyway, and a Senate race between two Democrats, the question becomes will this hurt the Republicans' GOTV effort?  It's hard not to see that happening, which would have a major impact on the House.  Having less Republicans come out would certainly help Democrats like Parra and Michael Eggman in CA-10, both of whom are already running in districts President Obama took in 2012.  Even someone like Rep. Darrell Issa, thought unbeatable but who did relatively poorly last night, could be in trouble in this situation.  A strong showing in California would be a big step in delivering the House to the Democrats, and with so little to excite Republicans, I suspect turnout will be a problem.

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