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.”

Kevin O'Connor

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