In reality, the Democratic primary was over several weeks ago when Hillary Clinton clinched strong wins in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri. Tonight’s result from New York isn’t yet another nail in the coffin of Bernie Sanders’ campaign as much as it is a memorial several weeks after the fact.
Emboldened by a series of victories in late March and early April, Sanders’ campaign encouraged the narrative that the Senator had a real chance of beating Clinton in the New York primary. Certainly, the huge rallies that Sanders held in the lead up to the primary perpetuated the myth that the pre-election polls were drastically wrong, hoping for another Michigan-style upset.
As it turns out, the polls weren’t wrong. Additionally, Sanders outspent the Clinton 2:1 in advertising, to no avail. This aggressive spending is turning into a trend for the Sanders’ campaign and it continues to burn through its cash reserves. This is most likely for two reasons: a) Sanders is playing catchup, and needs to spend more to match Clinton’s superior organisation, and b) Clinton is conserving her funds for a general election campaign.
It’s difficult to see what sort of victory Sanders can claim from New York. He was decisively beaten by Clinton in the minority vote, in every single age group except 18-29, education levels, and income levels. This is exactly what Sanders needed to avoid as the race heads to states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, and California.
Sanders’ own blunders made New York an even steeper hill. At a rally in Philadelphia, Sanders unleashed his bluntest attack on Clinton, outlining the reasons why he thought she “wasn’t qualified” to be President. The uproar was immediate and immense, with FiveThirtyEight noting,
While 2016 campaign discussions of sexism have largely been preoccupied with Donald Trump’s blunt force assaults on modern notions of manners, let alone gender equity, Sanders’s remarks and their interpretation play into discussions of the subtle, pernicious forms of sexism that women in positions of power must deal with.
Sanders was also widely mocked for an interview he did with the New York Daily News, wherein he was unable to move past his talking points and articulate the specifics of a number of his campaign platforms including breaking up the banks and regulating Wall Street.
Finally, in the last days before the primary, Sanders left the country to speak at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in Rome, ostensibly on the invitation of Pope Francis. Until it turned out that the Pope had sent no such invitation and there was “no expectation that there will also be a meeting with the pope.”
Whatever the real story, it certainly wasn’t the made-for-TV moment that the Sanders campaign may have hoped for, with widespread reports that many of Sanders’ senior advisors were unaware until the last minute that the candidate was leaving the country and that the Senator’s meeting with the Pope was simply a “common courtesy”.
Despite reports to the contrary, Clinton was never in danger of losing New York to Sanders. A hallmark of this campaign is that Clinton has done well in large, diverse states across the country. That didn’t change tonight and isn’t likely to change in the future.
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