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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 16,832

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7,145,011 Voters

Seven million, one hundred and forty five, and eleven citizens. That's how many Americans cast their ballots in the 2016 Democratic primaries that were held this year in the following eight states: New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont, Michigan, Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Those 7,145,011 citizens in those eight states collectively got to decide how to divide up 716 pledged delegates, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, to the Democratic Convention that will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this summer.

Somewhere between 715 and 719 unpledged delegates (commonly known as superdelegates) will also cast a vote at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. They get to decide for themselves who they want to elect to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee. Each one of them has roughly as much say in that decision as ten thousand regular voters who went to the trouble of voting in the eight primaries listed above. Ten superdelegates will collectively have more influence choosing the Democratic nominee than everyone who voted in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. One hundred and twenty of those individuals will collectively have more influence in that decision than everyone who voted in the Michigan Democratic Primary.

Of those 715 to 719 unpledged delegates, 435 are elected members of the Democratic National Committee (including the chairs and vice-chairs of each state's Democratic Party). Those 435 individuals, who did not have to run for any public office in order to earn their upcoming power at Philadelphia, will have more power at the Convention than the delegates selected by all of the primary voters of Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Tennessee combined.

Here is how the race for the nomination currently stands with delegates pledged to one of the Democratic candidates:

Hillary Clinton 1,243
Bernie Sanders 980

Here is how the race for the nomination currently stands with unpledged superdelegates:

Hillary Clinton 469
Bernie Sanders 31

Aren't you glad that we are talking about the Democratic Party?

About Hillary's boast of being 2.5 million "popular votes" ahead of Bernie

First, the obvious: Clinton is mixing apples and oranges by conflating caucus totals with primary totals. Sanders has been winning most of the caucuses to date and Hillary has won most of the primaries. For many reasons caucus vote totals are always suppressed by that specific format compared to voter participation in a primary, starting with the fact that voters must be present at their caucus site at a specific hour rather than having the entire day to make it to their polling place during a primary. We actually have a good case in point of the difference it makes in turn out: Washington State.

For some reason, Washington actually holds both a Democratic caucus and a primary. The caucus comes first and that's where delegates really are won, the primary comes later and is only a "beauty contest". In 2008 Barack Obama won both of them. But even though the 2008 Washington State Primary was essentially meaningless, Obama still collected ten times as many popular votes in the Washington primary than he did in the Washington caucus. Obviously Clinton got more popular votes in the primary than she did in the caucus there also - but factored in sheer raw numbers Obama defeated her by far higher popular vote numbers in the primary than in the caucus - in the same state. Though his ultimate winning percentage may have differed, either higher or lower, had the states that Bernie won in caucuses held primaries instead, there is no plausible reason to believe that the outcomes would have been different - Sanders has been winning those states in massive blow outs. Had they been primaries instead Sanders raw popular vote victory margins in them would have been much higher.

Second, the actual math. We are about mid way though the nominating contests, and the first half of the schedule strongly favored Clinton with its emphasis on Southern states voting early. In 2008 Hillary Clinton picked up over a million more popular votes than Obama won in the states that will be voting this year on April 19th alone. And no, one can not simply assume she will have an advantage in those states this year also. If one were to predict Clinton's 2016 results based on 2008 outcomes, she would be the one well behind in popular votes now based on Obama's 2008 performance in Southern states. Every election cycle is unique.

And of course the overall popular vote count doesn't include Wisconsin either, or a slew of other upcoming states including, for instance, California and Oregon. In 2008 Hillary won California - our most populous state. This year I believe it will be Bernie piling up the votes there instead.

Hillary's Surge Protector: Early Voting and the Sanders Campaign

So far analysts covering the Clinton - Sanders fight for the Democratic nomination have poured a lot of effort into viewing the race through some now standard prisms in an attempt to explain both candidate’s shifting fortunes. Patterns that emerge are used to forecast likely outcomes in upcoming primaries and caucuses. Some of those patterns have held up better than others. Once it was said that Bernie Sanders only performed well in states that were small, rural, and overwhelmingly white. That prognosis now has been battered. Washington and Michigan are neither small nor rural, for example, nor are they overwhelmingly white. Alaska and Hawaii are among the most racially diverse states in the nation in fact, with whites accounting for less than 22% of the Hawaiian population. While the Hispanic vote has favored Clinton overall, Sanders has come out ahead in that demographic on a number of occasions, so Clinton's advantage there has not yet proven decisive. Her strong showing with African Americans to date however has been pronounced and constant, even though Sanders has cut into her margin with that group somewhat in northern states.

So the presence of large numbers of Black voters in a state does indicate a clear advantage to Hillary Clinton as we move forward on the election calendar. Clinton has also been dominant in the South, but the bulk of Southern contests are behind us. Sanders has done well in the West, with California and Oregon still yet to come. First though loom a slew of states that don't allow early voting. Why that is significant I'll explore more below.

Basic election variables that have gotten close attention lately focus on how varying states select their convention delegates. Most notably whether that occurs through primaries or caucuses, and whether those contests are open or closed. Many have correctly noted that Hillary Clinton tends to do better in closed contests where only registered Democrats participate, while Sanders gains an advantage when Independents are able to take part too. Hillary Clinton has also run up a pretty good track record of victories in primaries, and Bernie Sanders has done the same in caucuses.

The election variable that seldom if ever gets much analysis is whether a State makes it easy or hard for voters to vote early, rather than wait for election day. All caucuses, it should be noted, are essentially election day only voting contests. The reason why the early voting variable matters so much for Democrats in choosing a candidate during the 2016 primary season can be boiled down to a pair of critical dynamics and the natural interplay between them: Voter Familiarity and Momentum.

Hillary Clinton has been a dominant force on the national political stage for decades now. She occupied the White House for eight years and is now campaigning in her fourth presidential election - twice for her husband and twice for herself. This is a first for Bernie Sanders however, who previously was known as the little known Democratic Socialist Senator from the small state of Vermont: A David vs Goliath type match up if ever there was one. For the whole campaign Sanders has been playing catch up with Hillary Clinton. In every contest in every state, be it a primary or caucus, Bernie has started out far behind. And in every state that he has seriously contested (with New Hampshire, and to a lesser extent Iowa, being the only exceptions) it has taken Sanders until the last week or so to significantly close that gap with Clinton, and in some cases actually surge ahead, in the final waning days and hours.

A hallmark of a long shot underdog insurgency candidacy is a difficulty in being taken seriously, first by the media and then by the voters. It's a cause and effect lethal dance that dooms most such efforts to failure. The only way out of that viscous circle runs through two long retail politics slogs. The fore mentioned Iowa and New Hampshire stand out as being unique, not just because of their rural white demographics, but also because for up to a year they are the only election games in “town” preceding the commencement of actual voting. Sanders was able to devote almost his full attention to those two states for months, and thereby break through a virtual media blockade against him through scores of personal appearances.

Bernie Sanders needed strong early showings in his race for President not only for the delegates they netted him, but also for the credibility they won him. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sanders had no firewall to count on if the media narrative and perceived momentum turned strongly against him after New Hampshire. Fortunately for Bernie, he virtually tied in Iowa and won resoundingly in New Hampshire. Unfortunately for him though he would no longer have the luxury of ample time to introduce himself to voters in upcoming states before their own election days came due.

Lets look at what happened subsequently, when the pace of the elections began to accelerate rapidly. Nevada was up next, a caucus state where Clinton was always strongly favored. Though there was little early polling for Nevada, whatever polling there had been before the Iowa and New Hampshire contests put Clinton up by strong double digits. With his attention freed to devote to the Nevada caucus, plus some positive momentum behind him, Sanders closed that gap, ultimately losing Nevada by only five and a half points - after Clinton got a last second tactical assist there from Harry Reid. Sanders contested Nevada hard until the caucuses closed their doors. There was no early voting to help Clinton bank an early lead there fully weeks in advance. But with his narrow Nevada loss, most of Sander's momentum was blunted heading into South Carolina and the Super Tuesday multi-state marathon that followed, terrain that was always more favorable to Clinton.

Sanders concentrated on five states that day where he thought he stood a chance. He didn't have the resources, with time being the most precious of them, to stretch further than that. Bernie ultimately won four contests; three caucuses and the primary in his home state of Vermont. Sanders lost the Massachusetts primary by a whisker. Some questioned why Sanders didn't try harder to narrow Clinton's margin of victory in the Southern states that she swept, if for no other reason than to deny her some delegates. The answer to me is obvious. At that point his viability as a candidate depended on being able to put some W's on the board. Sanders emerged from Super Tuesday stronger, having won four states, than he would have with an extra 25 delegates gained through more strenuous losing efforts in the South, if winning those added delegates came at the expense of two or three of his victories that night.

Momentum is a critical and frequently underestimated aspect of this Democratic primary season. It is anything but intangible, it is as concrete as it gets. Momentum for Bernie Sanders is an ability to show that he can defeat Hillary Clinton, one on one, in elections. When it starts to seem like he can't, virtually all serious media interest in him starts to dry up immediately. When he shows that he can, Sanders lives to fight on for another week in the media mind. And when a previously virtually unknown politician attempts to overtake the most famous woman in the world in 50 states, over a concentrated few months time span, then being taken seriously by the media, at least nominally, is an important aspect of that. Adding extra Town Hall meetings just will no longer cut it. Here is an example of how momentum works:

8:21 AM. PDT March 29, 2016
“NBC NEWS POLL: Bernie Sanders closing gap on Clinton

Fresh off three victories on Western state caucuses over the weekend, an NBC News National Poll of Democratic voters shows Bernie Sanders closer than ever to Hillary Clinton.

The poll shows Clinton at 49% support nationally while Sanders has risen to 43%. The 6% gap between the two candidates is half of what the difference was just a week ago, when Clinton had a 53%-41% lead nationally, according to the poll.

The NBC News/Survey Monkey poll surveyed over 6,500 adults nationally from March 21 to 27.”
http://www.king5.com/news/politics/national/nbc-news-poll-bernie-sanders-closing-gap-on-clinton/108356836

Some might note that the polling period indicated above included just 3 days that followed the 3 Saturday contests referenced, but it is important to also note that Bernie Sanders also won three of the four contests held the previous week as well, netting more total delegates than Hillary Clinton during that week also. Perhaps more important than the literal polling period though is the changing media narrative here on display. While this story goes on to mention that Clinton still holds a “huge” overall lead in delegates at this stage in the race, that message is buried below a Sanders friendly lead, and the descriptive term “nearly insurmountable” is nowhere to be found.

The media attention that Bernie Sanders received after the March 1st Super Tuesday was not anywhere near as positive as that above. Just one week later though, Sands pulled off probably the biggest upset of the year so far in the primary state of Michigan, where he campaigned strenuously up until the vote, overcoming a strong double digit deficit in the process. Fortunately for Bernie Sanders there were just two contests up that week, and he ignored the one in Mississippi so that he could spend more of his time in Michigan. Fortunately too for Sanders, Michigan didn't allow for early voting. If it did he would have lost that primary too and with it any remaining chance to win the nomination. Bernie was able to generate a very late surge in Michigan that narrowly carried him across the finish line. Virtually all of Michigan's voters voted on election day.

So what happened the next week when five more states came up in the rotation? Sanders lost all of them, though two of them only narrowly. Sanders entered that week polling far behind in each, prior to reaping some momentum rewards from his surprising showing in Michigan. Of those five states however just one of them did not allow early voting; Missouri, where Sanders only lost by one fifth of a percentage point. In OH, voting began 28 days before election day, in IL and FL it was 15 days prior, and in NC twelve. Voting was already going on in those states when the national media was filled with reports of Clinton victories and Sanders losses, before Sanders had a chance to campaign inside of them in earnest . Think that didn't matter? Think again.

Consistently Bernie Sanders outperforms expectations among voters who experience the full campaign inside their states before voting on Election Day itself. Hillary Clinton only won North Carolina among voters who voted on election day by four points – she won that state overall by almost 14 points. The same pattern held true in Arizona. Bernie Sanders came out ahead there with election day voters (those who managed to have their votes cast and counted in all of that confusion), while losing by 17 and a half percent overall – because of early voting. There are other examples but those sufficiently make the point: Sanders closes strong. Where Hillary Clinton eked out her narrowest victories they were in states, with the sole exception of Illinois, that don't allow early voting: the Nevada and Iowa caucuses and the Missouri and Massachusetts primaries.

Where does all this leave us now? When viewed though the prism of momentum and early voting the next phase of the struggle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination begins to look more favorable to Senator Sanders than most analysts have previously recognized. The Wisconsin primary falls a full 10 day after the Western Saturday caucus states that Bernie Sanders swept in massive landslides, after he had won three of the four contests in the week prior. For only the third week this year momentum now is clearly favoring Sanders (the others being the short one week windows after his New Hampshire and Michigan primary wins). So although Wisconsin allows for early voting, that does not work against Sanders in the same way that it has in prior contests.

Perhaps of greater significance though the primary calendar has suddenly become less frantic. Only Wisconsin will be doling out delegates on Tuesday April 5tth. Wyoming follows with a caucus on Saturday April 9th which should be favorable to Sanders, and no other states will vote again until Tuesday April 19th when New Yorkers will be the only ones going to the polls. That means that Bernie Sanders won't have to constantly hop scotch from one state to another in the run up to the Wisconsin and New York primaries like he had to during the crowded Super Tuesdays that happened in March. Bernie can more narrowly target his campaigning now to each state next up on the calendar – and that is when he always surges.

New York does not allow for early voting (though like virtually all states it maintains specific provisions for absentee balloting). Of the states that vote a week later on April 26th, neither do CT, DE, RI and PA. Only Maryland allows early voting for its primary held on that date. It begins on April 14th well after the Wisconsin results are in. But even though it's likely momentum will favor Sanders during the first days of early voting in Maryland, it still means voters will begin casting ballots there before Sanders finds much time to campaign in their state. Which is why it overall still favors Bernie Sanders that, aside from Wisconsin and Maryland, all of the contests in April are ones that are decided on Election Day only. If Bernie soundly beats current expectations in New York, the surge will be on. Just when Hillary's surge protector will largely be disabled.

“The Fix” is in with new political spin: “predominantly non-black states”

Leave it to the Washington Post for the latest in anti-Sanders political spin. In an effort to stay one step ahead in declaring the resilient Bernie Sanders political campaign still dead, they have updated the political lexicon with an innovative new term to describe Sanders favoring sates. After Bernie swept Western Saturday with three monumental landslides, their regular political feature column “The Fix” characterized two of those battleground states, Alaska and Washington, as “states with smaller black populations” in its headline. Fair enough far as that goes, but that phrase must have proved a little clunky for use as a snappy adjective, and so by the second paragraph it came to this:

“But Alaska and Washington had two characteristics that made them very friendly terrain for Sanders: They were caucuses in predominantly non-black states. And there aren't many more of those on the calendar.”

I believe that may well be a first in American political reporting, a piercing new demographic insight. No one else, far as I can figure, has thought to differentiate American states in that manner before. How many predominantly non-black states do you figure there are in the United States of America? Without crunching all of the numbers, my own rough guess would be approximately 50.

It's not that I can't understand the point that “The Fix” was trying to make there which, simply put, is that Bernie Sanders has been losing most of the African American vote to Hillary Clinton so far, and that he has beaten her most consistently in caucus states that don't have high percentages of black voters, and there aren't many places like that still coming up. OK, that's a valid argument to advance, one that I will take on more frontally soon in a subsequent essay that will look at the overall contest between Clinton and Sanders from an important different angle. There I will address the argument that “The Fix” is tying to make. But what interests me here and now is what their careful and awkward twisting of words says about a shifting political narrative. It wasn't so long ago that pundits who routinely wrote off Bernie Sanders talked about how he only tended to do well in states with overwhelmingly white electorates. If fact that was conventional wisdom up until last week, if my memory serves me well.

Now for the first time we see a naked new political formulation (one that I predict won't “grow legs” because of how patently dumb it is). Yes friends behold! It's the predominantly non-black state! And Bernie Sanders it is said is having trouble winning them. Previously it was said that Bernie didn't do so well with minority voters in general – just with (younger) whites. But Hawaii is only 24.3% white and Sanders won 70% of the vote there. He won 73% of the Washington vote which is over a quarter non-white. Sanders also won over 80% of the Alaskan vote which has a one third non-white population. But it is true that all three of these states have “smaller black populations”, it's just that none of them are “overwhelmingly white”, and thus it is no longer such a simple sell to say Bernie Sanders struggles to attract “minority voters”. Minorities, it turns out, is far too inclusive a term. It's those predominantly non-black states that Sanders still needs to work on.

Simple truth and common sense, if "the Math" proved Hillary has it won:

If so then Hillary supporters have nothing left to worry about, except for the Fall campaign against the Republicans. Sure her team has to follow through and not totally drop the ball, do their home work on voter turn out and the like, but that stuff is basic. She has a highly professional team in place. If they can't handle simple basics like that in what is being claimed is now a mop up campaign against an already defeated Democratic opponent, then God help us all in November if Hillary is our candidate.

If the Democratic race is really over then it is time for the winner to prioritize unifying Democrats. Not only is it much easier to be gracious when one comes out on top in a primary contest, it is also supremely self serving to be so. A winner needs the support of the loser at that stage, not the other way around. This is not a controversial thesis, it is Politics 101. In 2004 John Kerry knew he had the Democratic nomination well sewn up early in the race, once voters actually started voting. You never heard his camp calling on the Edwards team to throw in the towel though and "accept reality" - even though Edwards had only won one of 31 contests by the close of Super Tuesday.

That is not what politicians who are confident of victory do. They are in no hurry to force anyone out of a race that they are confident they have won. All the talk is about respecting the Democratic process and the importance of letting everyone vote. Political surrogates and campaign staff bend over backwards to quash negative statements being made by anyone associated with their campaign against their defeated primary foes.

That is what happens when a race is already decided. But that is far from what is happening now.

"But Sanders hasn't been attacked by Republicans yet!"

Yes, he may be polling stronger against all of the Republican candidates for President than Hillary Clinton does, but wait until the Republicans attack him. Yes, Sanders may have the highest favorability ratings of any major candidate for President, but you know, Republicans haven't attacked him yet. Yes, Sanders appeals strongly to Political Independents, who are more numerous than either Democrats or Republicans, but only because so far the latter haven't attacked him. Yes, the Presidential campaign has been going on now for almost a year, and the more the public finds out about Bernie Sanders the more they tend to like him, but just wait for those Republicans attacks. The fact that Bernie's won hundreds of thousands more youth votes than Hillary and Trump combined so far means nothing before Republican attacks. And the fact that Sanders wins sky high approval ratings from the voters in his home state where he repeatedly wins easy reelection, well that's only because Republicans there have never attac... umm, scratch that last one - everyone knows that Vermont doesn't really count.

Sanders hasn't been attacked by the Republicans yet? Oh, really? Bernie Sanders has spent his entire political career to the left of the Democratic Party. It's not exactly a secret. And the mainstream media was positively gleeful about introducing Bernie Sanders to those Americans who didn't already know him as "the Socialist Senator from Vermont." Bernie Sanders is the living breathing representation of the Republican sponsored Red Scare that's run nonstop for the last half century, that cat is already out of the bag, and you know what? Bernie doesn't scare anyone except the Super Rich.

If the Presidential election were held today in the neon red state of Utah, UTAH, Sanders would beat Trump there by double digits, while Clinton would be locked in a statistical tie. Bernie doesn't have sex scandals, he doesn't have money scandals, and he can't be ridiculed as a flip flopper because he's been so damned consistent for so damned long. You can't catch Sanders saying one thing to voters and another to his financial backers, because they are actually one and the same, and Bernie proudly says the same thing to everyone. He spins about as much as a Pre Global Warming glacier. AND Bernie opposed the Iraq War, damned straight he did.

But he'll melt when Republicans attack him. Uh huh.

How to Rig a Horse Race: Momentum as an Antidote to Full Democracy

There are two basic parts to this equation: timing and coverage. We see political analysts talk about this all the time but it tends to go in one ear and out the other. How many stories have you seen about how the DNC and/or the RNC tries to set up their primary schedules to predetermine the outcome of the nomination process? Usually it gets covered by pundits when something goes horribly wrong. So this year for example, the talk was about how the primary process was front ended by the Republican Party in an effort to unify the party around an acceptable main stream candidate early in the game - to avoid the messy situation the Republicans had in 2012. And how it all backfired when Trump jumped off to such a possibly insurmountable early lead before the establishment woke up to how much of a threat Trump was to walk away with the Republican nomination

A lot of insider thought goes into trying to line up which states vote when in the process in order to increase the likelihood of an overall outcome deemed acceptable. On the Democratic side the push for the original Super Tuesday early primary schedule was about maximizing the influence of centrist "New Way" Democrats in the overall nominating process; to give a leg up to moderate candidates over more traditional "New Deal" type liberal Democrats who it was reasoned would have more difficulty winning in the South. Not only would that give an early boost to centrist Democrats, but it would push all Democratic candidates toward more moderate messaging during their early campaigning in order to remain viable for Super Tuesday which was always designed to winnow out the Democratic field to at most two "acceptable" candidates.

South Carolina recently being moved up to vote alone one week after New Hampshire was always a separate story (as well as Nevada following a few days after SC). That was a much needed correction to the fact that the first two contests were fought in overwhelmingly white states that underrepresented African American voters, a key constituency. In 2004 for example South Carolina helped keep the John Edwards candidacy viable after he only came in fourth in NH. Super Tuesday however was designed to be primarily a defacto regional primary for the South.

The strategic timing of primaries used to have, as a result, funding drying up for most candidates who couldn't notch up multiple victories on Super Tuesday. With billionaire personal funders now in place for well connected candidates after Citizens United, and with the emergence of mega grass roots funding support for a populist candidate like Bernie Sanders, that part is less true now than it used to be. What remains fully intact and potent though is the effect of perceived momentum.

Maybe it would be different if we had a different media climate in America than the one we live with today. Maybe it would be different if we had major media committed to covering the substantive issues raised by different presidential campaigns rather than the latest polls and predictions about which ones were most likely to win. Today our press, in all of its mainstream manifestations, mostly covers the horse race rather than substantive debates. And all the oxygen tends to flow towards whoever is running ahead of the field. In truth actual media coverage of literal hose races is far more nuanced than the coverage of political ones. When it comes to the Triple Crown of Horse Racing pundits are less likely to overlook significant changing variables from one race day to the next, like differing lengths of the race tracks and changes in weather/track conditions that shift the advantage from one horse to another.

Does anyone seriously doubt that he entire tenor of the current Democratic Presidential race would be significantly different had the first Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses been centered in the Pacific and Mountain States rather than the Deep South? Had Colorado and Washington and California voted early in the process instead of Alabama and Georgia and Louisiana would we be looking at the race for the Democratic nomination the same way that we are today? Momentum drives coverage and coverage drives results and results then drive momentum and so forth. The timing of who gets to vote first is the hidden hand that helps determine the initial momentum.

Given the way that cycle has played out to date Hillary Clinton is now heavily favored by most to win the Democratic nomination for President. But a funny thing is about to happen on her way to the nomination convention. For the first time since the race began the primary schedule is about to tilt strongly against her favor. Starting on Saturday at the latest the terrain becomes much more hospitable to Bernie Sanders, and stays that way for weeks on end. What will happen when election victories stop going back and forth between the candidates, but potentially instead come in as a potentially unbroken long string of Sanders victories? We saw how the media narrative picked up on Clinton sweeping five contests in one day, even if two of those victories were extremely close. What happens if Sanders wins six or seven contests straight by significant margins, starting no later than in Washington State, in an unbroken run that lasts for several weeks?

The slope of the playing field has overall not favored Sanders so far this year, the Deep South put him in a deep hole that the Clinton camp is eager to keep pointing to. Is part of that eagerness due to a desire to call the contest now, in the minds of the public at least, before the double edge sword of momentum begins to cut in a different direction?

Of Course I Still Support Bernie

Why wouldn't I? I believe in the man, I believe in his message. I remain thrilled with every opportunity he gets, as a Democratic candidate for President, to deliver his piercing indictment of the status quo to a national audience. I will help him continue to do so in every way I can.

I think it highly unlikely that Bernie will win the Democratic nomination, but Hell, that's what I thought back when I was among those urging him to enter the race. Frankly I think his chances are still higher now than they were when he first declared: The man just lost Illinois by less than 2% - how many of us believed that was possible last spring? Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialist candidate from the small state of Vermont, has shown the world that he is a viable candidate to be President of the United States. The fact that Hillary Clinton seems likely set to win that nomination instead doesn't change that reality.

The campaign that Bernie Sanders is running continues to be a constructive one. If at times some of the themes he focuses on point to weaknesses in his Democratic opponent, trust me, he hasn't exposed anything that the Republicans aren't fully briefed on, and unlike them, Bernie doesn't get personal and nasty. If anything, being challenged from the left has helped Hillary shore up some of her arguments and positions to better be able to compete in a year when a strong populist fever is sweeping America.

To me it doesn't matter how small a chance Bernie has to actually win now. Yes it is very small, though it's far from inconceivable. Bernie has moved the political debate in America so remarkably far in only a few short months. That is what once seemed inconceivable. Let's keep this show on the road, I like where it has taken us so far, and look forward to miles to come.

Each day this race goes on helps build a progressive future.

I keep watching the flood of inspirational campaign ads and powerfully progressive campaign speeches released by the Sanders campaign daily, and pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming, then happily wince to know that I am not. No, this isn't a dream, it is really happening, my dream for America starting to actually come true. To finally witness an election campaign fought over the issues that fundamentally matter to the vast majority of our citizens, with wealth inequality for example not merely referenced in passing as an ill that we must improve on, but instead forcefully condemned as the malevolent goal of an economic oligarchy is, frankly, mind blowing. So is the Sanders shout out to all of America's better angels; peace, compassion, inclusion, justice, equity and fair play,

Bernie may be a Democratic Socialist but there is nothing foreign about his appeal. His belief in what makes us great is as American as apple pie, and people across our political spectrum are buying it, socialist label and all, which is frankly, yes, mind blowing.

Myths get shattered daily. Is a Super PAC essential to a Presidential campaign? Not when you appeal directly to the public. Is a major media news blockade fatal to a Presidential candidate? Not when social media goes over, under, and around it. Does it take a powerful political machine to take on a powerful political machine? Not when a powerful message and a movement is on your side. Are the young too flaky to propel a political revolution? HELL NO!

Can we make it over the top this time around? Stay tuned, To Be Announced, but the trend line now is unmistakable. The battle has been engaged and the demographics have spoken; America's future will be progressive. With every day that the Bernie Sanders campaign surges the message it carries propagates further. The progressive genie is out of the bottle and is out there pressing flesh. Issues are boldly spoken of on a national stage that are usually confined to PBS documentaries: Institutional racism, universal access to higher education, single payer health insurance, poverty rates in America, climate change, retirement with dignity, corporate friendly trade polices, the list goes on and on.

If Hillary Clinton's progressive supporters are so certain that she already has the Democratic nomination securely in the bag, what with delegate math and all, then they too should be hoping that this primary contest doesn't wrap up any time soon - because it is changing America in ways that few of us dreamed possible.

Hillary is having a very bad weekend.

Her comments about the Reagans having been leaders in opening up a public discussion on AIDS were inexcusable, but in some ways even worse; they were bizarre. As Dallasdoc pointed out in his extremely powerful Daily Kos Diary The Wound Has Been Reopened: " Imagine if Barack Obama had presided over 7 years of an Ebola plague which killed over 40,000 Americans without giving a speech on it — even now." Hillary Clinton wasn't just an average American while the AIDS epidemic exploded during the Reagan Presidency - she was living in the Governor's mansion in Arkansas where her husband was a Democratic Governor responsible for helping protect the health of millions of its citizens. An adequate government response to a lethal epidemic, or a lack of same, should very much have been on Hillary's mind then - daily. How do you get totally twisted on the facts regarding something like that when the lack of an adequate federal response once was killing you own constituents?

But it doesn't stop there. Polls show a number of state races starting to tighten, including one CBS poll showing Sanders edging into a lead in Illinois. Bernie drew a crowd to his rally in Tampa Florida more than 10 times larger than the one Hillary attracted on the same day in the same city. And it looks like Clinton is doing what she often resorts to when she starts getting nervous about upcoming results; she goes negative, but she did so this time in a way that made herself look foolish rather than Bernie looking bad. Where was Bernie when she fought for health care she asked? Standing right behind her comes one piece of photographic evidence - to go with another personal gift photo that she had signed to Bernie thanking him for his support on health care. at the time. When Hillary goes negative on Bernie she ends up driving up her own negatives, something she can ill afford to do given her high unfavorables, but she just can't help it it seems.

And then there is that other thing she does when she starts worrying about losing an upcoming primary. She tries to wrap herself in the issues that Bernie is running on, hoping to steal some of his thunder. But Saturday Night Live just called Hillary out on that brilliantly, in a spoof political ad that literally had her morphing into Bernie Sanders. Ouch. To make matters worse the real Hillary only offered up a pale imitation in real life, and the real Bernie promptly raised the ante on her. Hillary wants to tweek a provision of the TPP related to auto imports, but Bernie challenged her to join him in fully rejecting yet another disastrous international trade deal. And the once industrial Mid West seems to be resonating with Bernie's stance on that. To complicate things even further for Hillary, Bernie is also challenging Hillary to distance herself from unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, something she can not easily do which puts her at a disadvantage in the Democratic primary.

But that's not all. Just when Clinton most needs to blunt any momentum for Sanders going into the Tuesday races, suddenly the daily news cycle coverage has expanded beyond "all Trump, all day" to include, you guessed it, Bernie Sanders. Bernie is on message, standing strong as he turns aside a fresh slew of attacks on him now from a rattled Donald Trump, who is trying to blame Sanders for the ugliness his own crypto-fascist behavior at rallies has spawned. That drama should take us at least into Tuesday when the actual voting begins. Until then the optics are mostly Trump vs Sanders in the Presidential race - not exactly the type of framing that Hillary Clinton needs right now.

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