Campaigns and candidates have only so much they can control – their message and the medium they use to deliver it, their time and how they spend it, the attacks they choose to engage in and the responses they give. But there are two things they can’t control – the calendars steady march toward election day – and what happens in the rest of the world.
Those later two factors have sealed the fate of Bernie Sanders’ presidential aspirations.
Sanders’ road became more uphill after Vice President Biden’s decision not to run. But the terrorist attacks on France and Russia have moved the national debate to foreign policy. Sanders campaign message, what he can control, has been built on activating a progressive and populist movement around economic inequality and climate change. He said in the first Democrat debate that he sought to lead a political “revolution.” That’s all well and good when people feel safe in their homes. Calling for a revolution when bombs are going off and people are being gunned down – not so much. Events in the world – such as an upswing in terrorist activities – is beyond a campaign’s ability to control and making matters worse there isn’t much time before the voting starts to shift the focus back to domestic policy.
Mrs. Clinton already had a polling advantage before the tragic events in Paris. The RealClear Politics polling average showed Clinton leading Sanders by 24 points in Iowa. Twenty-four points. More importantly she leads with a solid majority (55%, 57%, 57%) in the last three polls averaged. Unlike eight years ago, Clinton knows she must, must, must win Iowa. If she does, the race is over.
Beyond Iowa, the Associated Press reported that Clinton has already locked up the support of 359 “super delegates” or 15% of the delegate total needed for the nomination – all of that before voting has commenced. Side note – I always find it ironic that the “party of the people” feels the need to have super delegates rather than just trusting the people to elect their own delegates. Aside from Clinton’s built delegate and polling advantage, the issue agenda has now tilted in her favor.
Remember the Clinton ad in 2008 – the phone ringing at 3 am, and who do you trust to answer it – expect that to be Mrs. Clinton’s theme until caucus day. While it will drive Republicans absolutely bonkers that after Benghazi she dares to trade on her foreign policy experience – in the Democratic primary its surefire gold.
Expect that Clinton will repeatedly tell the voters about all the times she’s been in the situation room. Expect to see pictures of her there when Seal Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden. And while that may not play with the “free college for all” progressive elements in the Democrat party – there are plenty of old school Democrats who that will resonate with. In fact, they will find it reassuring.
Clinton will pose herself as the competent adult in the situation room. She wont brag that she’d “bomb the shit” out of ISIS as some have done, but is a calm thoughtful decision maker. Unlike Sanders, the conscientious objector, she is someone with the experience to be commander in chief.
While the two parties are still in their primary process, Republican voters are going to get an early look at what a Clinton general election campaign is going to look like. Elections that turn on foreign policy typically favor the Republicans, but in 2016 the Democrats are going to nominate a candidate for whom that is a perceived strength. This gives Republicans the opportunity the choose their candidate wisely for the general election – who best matches up against Secretary Clinton come November 2016.