On Monday night, Iowa was surprised to find that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were locked in a literal 50-50 battle for Democratic voters. Now, the Associated Press marks the official results as Clinton – 49.9 percent, and Sanders – 49.6 percent (with Martin O’Malley taking 0.6 percent before dropping out of the race altogether). The race was so close that, in an unusual scene even for American politics, six separate coin flips were needed to decide where the last remaining delegates would be assigned.
So in a race that close, why is the Clinton campaign acting as if they’ve got momentum?
Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, sent a memo to top donors detailing the mathematical route to the Democratic nomination, saying that “. . . while the first four states receive a lot of attention, they only represent 4% of the delegates needed to win the nomination . . . primaries and caucuses in March represent 56% of the delegates needed to win the nomination.” He brought the point home by saying that “. . . Sanders needed a decisive victory in Iowa in order to have a viable path to the nomination.”
The general point? Clinton and her camp don’t want supporters to get cold feet, but would prefer to let cooler heads prevail. Let all on the Clinton side remind themselves that the demographics of the First in the Nation states do not reflect the demographics of the majority of the United States. Comfort yourself by knowing that the Iowa primary was supposed to favor Bernie, but he lost. Everyone knows he lost, everyone’s saying he lost, Hillary won and will continue to win. Ignore the fact that “razor thin victory” has never been more accurate, and come quell the Bern with us. By putting out this message, the Clinton campaign is continuing the same flawed thinking that nearly lost them Iowa.
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In a victory barely better than her last trip to Iowa, Hillary Clinton is trying to paint the picture that she’ll be able to win the election in a race that will be largely decided in states with “majority-minority turnouts,” according to Mook. That’s ignoring the fact that Sanders took the youth vote from Clinton by a margin of 70 points. Keep in mind that Hillary wants to paint herself as the heir to the Obama presidency, which was so buoyed by the youth in 2012. Obama received 67 percent of the youth vote over Romney’s 30 percent, and Politico reported then that “. . . if Romney had achieved a 50-50 split, he could have flipped [Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio] to his column.” If Clinton isn’t able to bring Sanders youth vote into the fold, she may be the one facing a mathematical problem in November.
Why should she worry about that? Well, because the Sanders campaign unintentionally revealed a truth about its voters on Monday night. With the Clinton victory speech broadcasting at Sanders HQ, the voters broke into a chant at Hillary’s statement that “I’m a progressive.” Their response? “She’s a liar.” Time will show if this disdain solidifies into a refusal to support Hillary Clinton, if she should be the nominee. If it does, the last memo out from Robby Mook to donors could be “We now have no chance at victory, thank you for your support.”
Kevin Dawson is Deputy Operations Manager for the American Principles Project.