Feisty debate but Hillary still likely to win New York
Thursday’s debate, in advance of Tuesdays primary in New York, underscored the main differences between Hillary and Bernie and are unlikely to change many voters’ minds.
Sanders promises more: free college tuition, universal healthcare, an immediate $15 raise in the minimum wage. He only vaguely offers details about how these programs would be paid for–basically financing for all of them boils down to taxing Wall Street and the rich. I would say the chances of any one of his programs getting through this Congress is zero. As would be bills for the taxes to pay for them.
Hillary, as the almost certain nominee, has to be more grounded and this apparently is not what the army of young activists that supports Sanders wants to hear. Bernie also brought up breaking up the big banks. He was asked in a recent newspaper interview about how he would do that and fumbled for an answer, that he never found. Hillary, on the other hand, has established herself as a pragmatic candidate, and has specific proposals that build upon The Affordable Healthcare act known as Obamacare, and proposed tougher bank regulations by adding teeth to Dodd-Frank, the bank regulatory law that Democrats put in place after the last banking crisis. She too supports raising the minimum wage, but in steps before reaching the $15 an hour level. Many of the congressman who would have to vote on such a measure come from states with quite a lower cost-of-living than those from New York and San Francisco, which led the fight for $15 an hour minimum wage. Hillary’s proposal will still have an uphill fight with the Republican Congress, but has a much greater chance of being enacted then Bernie’s. Republican candidates are vowing to eliminate both Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Defending those programs will be quite a chore and adding the incremental improvements Hillary proposes, will pose a significant challenge, one that would be made impossibly difficult by asking for the things that Bernie is suggesting.
Bottom line: the debate reinforced their images. It should keep their support intact. Hillary is the pragmatist. Bernie the idealistic visionary. Nothing new there. Nor, despite the shouting, was there much new presented by the candidates. They stayed pretty much on message, repeating lines used in previous debates or on the stump. They just repeated them more loudly. Hillary’s best line of the night was when she said, looking directly at Bernie, it’s easy to diagnose a problem, but, much harder to fix it. Those that “feel the Bern” are unlikely to be dissuaded. Nor are they likely to prevail. As everyone knows Hillary’s main challenge, for the general election, will be to keep Bernie’s young army enthused and she still has to woo their support for her candidacy after she wins the nomination.
The only thing that was said Tuesday, that is likely to change a few minds–away from Bernie-was when he doubled down on his recent criticism of Israel. Bernie has now taken the stance, that is so popular with the Noam Chomsky faction of the far Left, that Israel’s retaliation in Gaza was not proportional and therefore wrong. Most supporters of Israel, which include quite a number of New York Jewish voters, don’t see proportionality as a standard to go by. Israel pulled out of Gaza with the understanding that it would not be a threat to their land, and yet hundreds and hundreds of rockets, launched from Hamas controlled Gaza, rained down on Israeli territory nightly. Israel’s retaliation was not designed to match casualty for casualty but rather to strike a mortal blow to Hamas–at least enough of one to give them a respite from the nightly rocket attacks. Sanders also took a slap at Prime Minister Netanyahu. Many liberal American Jews have trouble with Netanyahu, who represents the far right in Israeli politics. Many of Netanyahu’s supporters are registered Republicans whose opinions won’t be registered in a Democratic primary. However, there are quite a few Democrats for whom Israel, even with Netanyahu at the helm, is an important issue for them. Sanders articulated a theme that is identified by many with anti-Israel propaganda. Going into the debate polls indicate that Jewish voters support Clinton over Sanders by a two to one rate, so one would guess that, if Bernie hurt himself by his stand on Israel it will change the results only marginally. Still, Bernie can’t afford even a few percentage points vote erosion.
Sanders is drawing huge Yooooge (huge) crowds to his rallies, but political pros reminded us that New York is not an open primary state, meaning that Independents, who in previous states have broken for Sanders by close to three to one, won’t be able to vote. Equally significant is New York’s diversity. There are a lot more non-white voters in New York than in the states that Bernie has won. Sanders has had difficulty in attracting minority voters. The latest polls, conducted before Thursday’s debate, seem to indicate that Hillary’s lead had shrunk to about 8 percent. I doubt that Bernie’s performance last night will enable him to make up that gap, and, indeed, he might even have lost some potential supporters. Turnout, as usual, will be important. In open primaries a large turnout favored Bernie, but it will have the exact opposite meaning in New York’s closed primary. A large turnout in New York will indicate that minority voters turned out–and that would be good news for Clinton. Despite the fact that, as polls indicate, it is a competitive race, I would be shocked if Sanders wins New York.