A fairly meaningless straw poll came out of Wisconsin over the week-end. No delegates to anything go with the result nor does any space on a debate stage. However, in Democratic circles, the poll result does give everyone something to consider. Hillary Clinton, the all-but-anointed nominee, secured 49% of the vote among the 511 delegates at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention in Milwaukee on Saturday. Not only did she fail to get a majority, but also Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders secured 41%. While Mrs. Clinton is the inevitable nominee on paper, the nomination doesn’t always go to the candidate who looks best on paper. There remains the small matter of the actual campaign.
The other candidates trailed by huge amounts, as arithmetically they had to given the 90% shared by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders. Politico.com reported, “Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who announced his candidacy late last month, each received 3 percent of the vote. Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is considering a bid, won 2 percent, while former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who announced his long-shot candidacy last week, received 1 percent.”
This is significant because Mrs. Clinton’s path to the nomination is much easier if there are three to six challengers dividing the non-Hillary, or anti-Hillary, vote. That is not what this poll shows. What it shows is that Mr. Sanders is the alternative around whom that vote is coalescing. If his campaign becomes the vehicle for that vote, he may well surprise her in a few primaries. And surprises are something she cannot afford. As this journal wrote on January 4, 2008, after she finished third in the Iowa Caucuses, “the big selling point all along was that she was the inevitable nominee. That doesn’t square well with losing, let alone coming in third. Mrs. Clinton is snake-bit, and it’s hard to see how she can reclaim her mantle of invincibility.”
Politico also reported:
Robert Hansen, the Wisconsin Progressive Democrats of America coordinator, said the state party is receptive to Sanders’ left-leaning message, in part because of Democrats’ anger over Gov. Scott Walker’s aggressively conservative tenure. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has a very progressive agenda that aligns very much with Bernie,” Hansen said. “The majority of people behind the scenes are far more progressive or liberal than what you’d see in some other states.”
Hansen added that since Walker’s push against unions, organized labor has “re-engaged” with the state party more than in the past and progressive activists have gotten more involved in the Democratic infrastructure.
In other words, this Wisconsin result just might be a fluke. However, the Clinton campaign is making the usual noises made after a surprise like this. Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email Monday, “She looks forward to talking to Wisconsin voters in the months to come and competing in the Wisconsin primary.” In truth, an “inevitable” nominee would have scored in the 80+% range.
Clintonista Hank Scheinkopf said, “If you’re Secretary Clinton, you can’t write anything off,” and he expected the stress level within the campaign after not taking a majority was “high.”
Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Sanders attended the convention, and a personal appearance might have swayed a dozen or two delegates. Mrs. Clinton had a letter read to the convention, while Mr. Sanders’ video address played only after the voting. Clearly the organizers had a desired outcome in mind.
That said, one must agree with Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs who wondered, “Just imagine if we had really worked it.” And that may be how Mrs. Clinton wins, due to other campaigns failing to score when the goal is open as it was in Wisconsin.
This journal sees no reason to think Mrs. Clinton will fail in her bid for the nomination. Nor does this journal see any reason to think she will succeed. The campaign has yet to begin in earnest. However, it is clear that she is going to have to pressure the Sanders vote by moving to the left of where she has been over the years to win. This journal is quite content with that. The nominee of the Democratic Party ought to sound like a Democrat, and not like a Rockefeller Republican, which is what Mrs. Clinton is.