For months the political punditry class was either blind or pretended it couldn’t see things that should have been clear when it came to Hillary Clinton’s strengths.
When someone as well known as Hillary starts the race with 60% of the vote against a bunch of Democrats no one has ever heard of, two things are true: some of that vote is soft, based on name identification, and someone else is going to get the 35% of the vote that isn’t with her.
Yes, Bernie Sanders has emerged as that candidate. But he has a long, long way to go to be the threat to her nomination that some pundits continue to pretend he is.
Iowa is 92% white and New Hampshire is 94%. More than any other states that come after them, a higher percentage of Democrats in these two states are white progressives, a group Sanders has energized.
IA and NH Ain’t the Universe. These two states are great to give underfunded or unknown candidates a chance, but they’re not a good gauge of how that candidate will do in the much broader and more diverse Democratic party in post-New Hampshire states.
Consider a few facts should have been clear from the beginning and should still be clear.
One of Hillary’s core strengths is her strong appeal to that much broader electorate. She does well with progressive Democrats, she’s strong with moderate Democrats and, importantly, she runs even stronger with non-whites.
The most significant fact the punditry continues to overlook is that unless and until Sanders shows an ability to expand his support among non-whites and the broader Democratic electorate he poses no threat to win the Democrat nomination. Period.
Joe Biden is the sitting vice president of the United States. As he started to openly express that he was thinking of entering the race, and as the Draft Biden Committee cleverly kept his potential run at the center of political speculation (something the punditry loves), of course he was going to rise in the polls and of course some of that increase was going to come at the expense of Hillary.
Blind Pundits Persist. But what the punditry kept pretending it did not see was that no matter how much they speculated, Biden never got higher than 20% or so in most polls and never got above Sanders in most of them. The pundits could ignore these facts. But as someone who likes Biden a lot — one who thinks he would make a great president — I am glad he didn’t.
Finally, the barrage of attacks the GOP has aimed at Clinton month after month is clearly because they fear her most as an opponent in the general election. The fact is, no matter how self-inflicted the original opening may have been, the punditry has ignored from the start the fact that the GOP would not relentlessly attack Hillary during the Democratic primary if they thought those same attacks would win them the White House in the general election.
Clinton is so strong that the GOP is using everything from one more investigation on Benghazi to the self-inflicted mistake of her emails to attack her as hard as possible right now. It’s politics. That’s all it ever was. She has said she made a mistake in how she set up her emails — after the last five months, does the punditry think it’s a mistake she will ever repeat?
On October 13, Hillary took the stage at the Democratic Party debate in Las Vegas and for the first time in months it didn’t matter if the pundits could see or not. Clinton’s strengths were self- evident and were clearly at a level above the rest of an able field – a field that also displayed a stark difference with the GOP field and their two recent debates.
Days later, Hillary’s strengths beyond Iowa and New Hampshire were on display as U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina urged Vice President Biden to stay out of the race and 50 black mayors, half of them from South Carolina, endorsed Hillary Clinton — making it clear that Biden, let alone Sanders, would be hard pressed to win there.
On Wednesday, October 21, Biden, the only Democrat who had a conceivable but steep uphill path to actually challenge Hillary for the nomination, announced he would not run.
Kitchen Sink is Empty. Then on Thursday, October 23, Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee failed to produce the smoking gun Clinton’s detractors were hoping for. Instead the reality was revealed, once and for all, that what two GOP congressman and a conservative former investigator for the committee had been saying was true: the committee was politically motivated and designed to weaken and destroy the Democratic frontrunner.
This set of conditions had been there for months. But it took 10 days in October to reveal it. And now the punditry is proclaiming Hillary has risen from the abyss.
Of course, I am reluctantly a member of the pundit class too, But I have been saying this for months. And there is one more thing I am pretty sure I’ll be right about: having failed to destroy Hillary in the primaries (although they are not going to stop trying) the GOP is going to unleash one of the longest and most sustained attacks on a Democratic nominee in history.
Joe Trippi, who began working in politics in San Jose when dinosaurs roamed the earth, is a Democratic campaign strategist who was Howard Dean’s campaign manager for president in 2004 and served as a senior strategist and media consultant for Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor in 2010. He writes for the L.A. Times and is a Fox News contributor.