Bernie Sanders got some great news in the polls this week, with a sudden surge in California just as his opponent appears to be coming apart at the seams. The situation has given a glimmer of hope to a campaign that many had left for dead in recent days.
Sanders has endured a series of major losses against Hillary Clinton, failing to hold the momentum of a strong April as Hillary Clinton extended her delegate lead to nearly 300. With little time left until the final vote, Sanders is in need of a big move in order to have any chance of coming close.
He may now have that opening. A recent PPIC poll of California found that Sanders has slashed Clinton’s lead to just two points. Clinton had been up as much as 20 points in other recent polls, and while the PPIC poll could be an outlier, if it’s truly capturing the mood of voters, then Clinton’s recent series of missteps could be pushing voters back to Bernie Sanders.
Clinton has endured a difficult week, watching her lead over Donald Trump evaporate and getting in trouble with a State Department report on her use of an unauthorized email that could set the stage for an indictment recommendation in the FBI’s investigation into her email use.
As ABC News pointed out, the flap also showed that Clinton’s own campaign was not honest on the issue.
“If you visit Clinton’s campaign website, you will see talking points about her private email that say no rules were broken. ‘Was it allowed?’ her website asks about her use of private email. ‘Yes. The laws, regulations, and State Department policy in place during her tenure permitted her to use a non-government email for work,’ the answer reads. But yesterday’s report offered a more nuanced answer. It said that guidelines produced by the State Department during her tenure discouraged the use of private email and identified the risks of doing so, also saying that official State Department email should be used in ‘most circumstances.’ Clinton never used it in any circumstance. The report also says that Clinton should have handed over her official emails after leaving. ‘Because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,’ the report says.”
It’s too early to tell what effect the issue will have on voters. Polling after the scandal will not be out until next week, but it could spell trouble if Clinton was already on the downward track in California.
But for Bernie Sanders to somehow win the nomination, it will likely still take a convergence of factors, some within his control and some not. There is still virtually no chance of Sanders catching — or even approaching — Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates, but he will need to cut the deficit as much as possible in order to make the gap filled by superdelegates smaller. That means a win in California by at least 10 points to stave off what will likely be significant losses in New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.
But more importantly, Bernie Sanders will need to continue making the case that he is the strongest candidate to lead Democrats against Donald Trump in November. That argument may have gotten a bit easier after Clinton’s terrible week, but it is a point he will need to press in order to get superdelegates to flip to his side.
There will certainly be chances for him to do that. Sanders has called on Hillary Clinton to debate in California, an invitation she refused. Donald Trump has offered to step in and debate Sanders, though it’s not clear if his offer was genuine. Sanders can still gain by pressing Clinton’s failure to hold to their previous deal.
For Bernie Sanders, the coming week could be the most important week of the campaign. The coming polls will show if his movement in California is genuine, and if voters are ready to move away from the scandal-plagued Hillary Clinton or if the campaign will play out as it had for the last two months, with Clinton running away with the remaining races.
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