Bernie Briefing: Is this Sanders’ ‘bounce-back weekend’?

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ Twitter feed last week included a photo of the candidate speaking to an overflow crowd outside a rally in Lincoln, Neb.

(Editor’s note: “Bernie Briefing” is a weekly campaign-season look at how Vermont U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is playing in the national media.)

First the political press wrote about “a Super Tuesday that proved to be something less than super.” Now it’s reporting on “Bernie’s bounce-back weekend” in which “Sanders lives to fight another day.”

Media watchers, in turn, are facing whiplash, what with journalists elegizing U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders after the Vermonter lost seven big states (and won four small ones) in Democratic presidential contests March 1, only to resurrect him with news of success in three of the four states voting March 5 and 6 on “Sub-Super Saturday and Sorta-Significant Sunday.”

“A strong Sanders performance this weekend won’t dramatically improve his chances of winning the Democratic nomination or close the delegate deficit he currently faces against Hillary Clinton,” Politico reporter Daniel Strauss writes. “But a series of victories would provide a burst of momentum on the eve of the Michigan primary (Tuesday), a contest that the Sanders campaign has identified as pivotal.”

Sanders won caucuses Saturday in Kansas and Nebraska and is expected to do the same Sunday in Maine.

“If you could put those together and win Michigan,” Joe Trippi, campaign manager for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, tells Politico, “I think you’ve got the beginnings of ‘Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be closing the door yet.’”

Then again, Sanders has his work cut out for him. On Sunday, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” the candidate faced questions about Clinton’s large lead in delegates and among black voters.

“I think we have a path toward victory,” he told ABC. “We’re still fairly early in the process. We think we have an excellent chance to do well out on the West Coast, in California, state of Washington, Oregon. We think we have an excellent chance to do well in large states like New York. I think that time is on our side. The more people hear our message, the better we are going to do.”

“One of the goals of our campaign is to revitalize American democracy,” he added on CNN. “Every state has the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. We are going to stay in this campaign to the convention in July.”

In other news:

— In its story “Sanders keeps raising millions — and spending them, a potential problem for Clinton,” The Washington Post reports the Vermonter is on the cusp of collecting his 5 millionth contribution, “a record-breaking figure and more than double the number of donations that Clinton has received.”

“Sanders is airing TV and radio ads, or has plans to, in virtually all of the states on the calendar between now and March 15, including some that his aides concede he has little chance of winning, such as Mississippi and Florida,” reporters Anne Gearan and Matea Gold write.

— In its story “Bernie Bogs Down Hillary,” Politico notes that Democrats are divided on whether his continuing campaign helps or hurts them fight Republicans and their front-runner, Donald Trump.

Contends Sanders’ senior strategist Tad Devine: “If Bernie can turn out voters all across America, that’s very important for the nominee, it’s important for Democrats up and down the ballot. If not, you cede the ground to the opposition in the months ahead and they’re putting on quite a show.”

Counters Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf: “Senator Sanders remaining in the race allows his anti-Wall Street anti-elite rhetoric to target Clinton constantly. Bernie Sanders helps Trump, the angry populist, every day he remains a candidate.”

— And finally, in its story “Inside Bernie’s Wild Ride: How Sanders Went From Socialist Also-Ran To Nearly Overthrowing The Democratic Party,” Politico reports that the campaign — first announced in a short and seemingly spontaneous Capitol Hill news conference in April — is actually two years in the making.

“From those very first meetings, according to the accounts of two dozen people in and close to the campaign, Sanders and his staff have been more organized than the unfettered image they convey,” reporters Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti write. “But they’ve also been more haphazard and accidental than a presidential campaign should be. It’s a campaign where aides are grateful for the Secret Service protection that kicked in after Iowa, because that’s the only thing that forced Sanders to agree to travel plans more than two days in advance.”

If Sanders doesn’t win, he’ll go to the Democratic National Convention on July 25-28 with a 10-point fallback plan, Politico says, “including killing Obama’s trade deals and changing the super-delegate process that they’re going to organize around and try forcing into the Democratic platform.”

Says Larry Cohen, former Communications Workers of America president and current senior campaign adviser: “Worst case, we’re going to Philadelphia with 1,500 delegates. Best case, we’re going to win. Either way, we’re going to change things.”

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Kevin O'Connor

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  • Norm Etkind

    Although he is not really a Democrat, Bernie Sanders decided to run his third party campaign within the Democratic Party to prevent a Nader-like giveaway to the Republicans. They let him do it, probably for the same reason.

    If he can defeat Hillary in the primaries, that leaves a head to head battle with the Republican candidate.

    But – –

    What if the Republican candidate is Ted Cruz and the Trumpeter decides to run as an independent?

    And Hillary wins the Democratic nomination due to super delegates – – the party faithful. Now Sanders is not looking at a third party independent move but a fourth party run. That somewhat evens the playing field and reduces the idea of a spoiler role.

    Just speculating . . . .

    • Karl Riemer

      This year, that’s astute speculating. It would be an almost anticlimactic dénouement to the Cyclone ride we’re on.

      One note: unpledged delegates are only 15% of the total. So many declared their allegiance so early this time around that they loom large in the calculations right now, but as more states are counted and more pledged delegates are tallied, the so-called superdelegates will be less and less significant. Probably, their delegate votes will be superfluous before the convention starts.

  • William Geller

    Ken Langone’s passion for education Republican billionaire agrees with Bernie on college

  • Ron Pulcer

    I caught the second half of Bernie’s rally at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI on C-SPAN late Saturday night / Sunday AM. One of his lines that received the best applause and cheers was:

    “We will beat Donald Trump because …. the American people know that the community helping each other trumps divisiveness. Love trumps hatred.”


    BTW, this was the same venue in Warren where The Donald appeared the day or two before.

    BTW, I used to deliver the Macomb Daily newspaper when I was in high school. I also started college at Macomb CC, back when tuition was only a mere $14.50 per semester credit (yes less than $15).

    While Macomb County was famous for being home of the Reagan Democrats, I suspect their children and grandchildren might be more supportive of Bernie. Bernie’s focus on education, ridiculous tuition rates and high student loan interest rates obviously resonate with this group of voters.

    “One rally-goer who did not want to be named said it’s “cool” among young people to support Sanders; it’s “not cool” to support Clinton.”

    I suspect this will be a very tight race. Even if Bernie does not win, it is going to be very competitive. Given Bill & Hillary’s support for NAFTA, and their Wall Street ties, I really think that Bernie could at eke out a win in Michigan.

  • John Fairbanks

    Michigan tomorrow and the Ides of March, including Ohio, Illinois, and Florida, will harden the picture. Sanders does well in white, rural states. Clinton does well in diverse, urban states. African-American vote is crucial. My personal feeling is if Bernie doesn’t win at least one of the four states above, he can keep going, but he can’t win.

    • Ron Pulcer

      Perhaps winning the DNC nomination isn’t the ONLY factor:

      Demonstrating that you can be a viable candidate despite not having your own SuperPAC, and highlighting the issue of Citizens United SOTUS decision is a “win”.

      Raising money from over 5M individual donations including many small or micro donors, without having to rely on large donors, corporate donations and Wall Street donations is certainly a “win”.

      Getting many donations from citizens from across the U.S., even in states that have not yet voted in a primary is a “win”.

      Hearing HRC Super Tuesday victory speech peppered with lines paraphrased or parroted from Bernie stump speeches is a “win”.

      Getting many young people involved in the political process is a “win”.

      Getting 87% of your home state’s vote will not get you the nomination, but it says something about the candidate. Cruz won TX, but not by that margin. We will have to wait and see how well Cruz (FL), Kasich (OH), Trump (NYC) and Hillary (NY) do in their own states. i doubt any of the above will beat Berni’s 87% vote in home state.

      Even if Bernie does not win nomination, he has certainly shown that campaigns can be run for the people, rather than the party and large donors. Hopefully, 4 or 8 years from now, the media will start to question candidates more about their “donor base”. If that happens, then Bernie 2016 will chock up a win on that issue.

      Not to mention hot having to rely on Super-Delegates to inflate your delegate count (even if you are already winning the normal primary delegates).

      Just because Bernie might not have a chance to win in the DWS-rigged primary system, does not mean he should just “quit”. Quitting is what “half-a-term” Governor Sarah Palin did.

    • Ron Pulcer


      If you look at state populations and percentage that is African-American citizens, you can easily find states that have “more” African American voters than is the case with South Carolina, even though SC has a relatively higher percentage of population that is African-American. See below the comparisons of South Carolina, Michigan, California and New York.

      Traditionally, many candidates would drop out after Super Tuesday losses because they were running out of campaign funds, or donors were pulling back, or SuperPACs focused ad spending elsewhere. In Bernie’s case, he is not beholden or dependent upon large donors, corporations and Wall Street for campaign funding. If citizens suddenly stop contributing, then it would certainly be over. But that is not the case, at least so far.

      Why shouldn’t the voters in ALL 50 States have a chance to vote in 2016 Primary? Whatever their race, ethnicity, background, in a true democracy we would not have our primary elections unduly influenced by minority of states, who nearly always get an early chance to weigh in, while people in other states never get that chance (or they might get a “narrowed” list of choices).

      There are more African-American voters each in Michigan, California and New York than there are in South Carolina, or even in other Southern States. So whether Bernie wins or loses, he is attempting to give every U.S. State a chance to participate in the process.

      Based on July 2015 estimates from U.S. Census

      South Carolina
      State Population: 4,896,146
      African-American Pct.: 27.8%
      African-American Pop.: 1,361,129

      State Population: 9,922,576
      African-American Pct.: 14.2%
      African-American Pop.: 1,409,006

      State Population: 39,144,818
      African-American Pct.: 6.5%
      African-American Pop.: 2,544,413

      New York
      State Population: 19,795,791
      African-American Pct.: 17.6%
      African-American Pop.: 3,484,059