Here’s the setup. Hillary Clinton has been pointing out her opponent Bernie Sanders, the darling of the left, actually has opposed gun control. I’ve been pointing that same fact out to folks for some time, and it’s quite compelling. It’s clearly had an effect on polls.
It’s apparent Sen. Sanders is feeling the heat. His recent response was to criticize Clinton for “shouting” about guns.
Presidential politics are never easy. And with his remark, Sanders fed a softball over home plate to an experienced politician. As she has done repeatedly during the last two weeks, Hillary Clinton showed what a formidable candidate she is.
“I’m not shouting,” Clinton replied calmly. “It’s just that when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
Show me a successful woman older than 40, and I bet you dollars to donuts she’s “difficult” — at least according to some of those who work with and for her. I wager almost every woman has been told, while standing up for herself, to keep her voice down — by her boss or co-workers, her boyfriend or husband, or all of the above. In other words, lots of women could connect with what Clinton was saying. It was a reminder of the historic nature of this election. It will be the first (knock on wood) in which a woman is a main party’s nominee for president.
And by the way, have I mentioned Sanders is against gun control?
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run seems to have sealed Sanders’ fate, politically speaking. Conventionally, you’d think Sanders would be better off with Biden out, leaving Sanders as the only alternative to Clinton. But it isn’t working that way, nor should one expect it to now. With Biden in the race, Sanders would have had two juicy targets who are emblems of a more moderate Democratic party, a nomination that would be viewed as up-for-grabs, and the possibility of carrying the day with 30 percent to 40 percent of the vote.
But Biden is not in the race because, as he honestly admitted, it was too late by the time he was ready. In other words, he couldn’t beat Clinton at this point. With Biden’s departure, sandwiched between two strong outings for Clinton (in the first debate, and in her marathon Benghazi testimony), the deal was sealed. You could hear the collective sigh of relief. No more stories of donor unrest. No more chatter about “what’s wrong with her staff.” In 10 days’ time, the frontrunner reasserted herself, and her only plausible opponent pulled out.
That doesn’t mean Sanders disappears. He already has had an impact on the Clinton campaign. He doesn’t need a lot of money to stay in. And under the party rules, if he stays in, he’ll collect a proportionate share of delegates. This will at least get him a good speaking part and some bragging rights on the platform. Tad Devine, his top strategist, has been in the business of collecting delegates for presidential candidates since the 1980s, and he’s as good at this game as anyone on Clinton’s side.
But with not a single vote cast, it certainly feels like the race is over. And the latest polls seem to bear that out. In Iowa, Clinton has opened up a 41-point lead over Sanders in one of the polls out Tuesday. I don’t expect 41 points to hold, but I also don’t expect Sanders to retain his support in New Hampshire if he crashes in Iowa. Not to mention all the party leaders and elected officials, automatic delegates to the convention, who will be committing to Clinton in droves in the weeks to come. And then the states start falling like dominos.
In the interval, for a striking contrast, turn to the Republican race.
Susan Estrich is a columnist, commentator and law and political science
professor at USC.