by James M. Wall
Clinton won, by comfortable margins, in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, In Missouri she finished slightly ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
In an unsettling display of her nagging vulnerabilities, Clinton had to hold off a late surge from Sanders, to gain a narrow victory in her home state of Illinois.
What really matters in these primaries, however, is not the popular vote, but the number of delegates won.
Clinton’s impressive victories in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida gave her enough delegates to leave her with an almost insurmountable total of delegates in her campaign to return the Clinton family to the White House. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, lived and served there from 1993 to January, 2001.
Clinton’s pro-Israel stance had projected easy victories in Florida and Illinois, two states with heavy Jewish voting pockets. She did win impressively in Florida but she almost lost Illinois in the popular vote totals.
One of Sanders’ weaknesses is that his Vermont-based political career did not call for extensive minority interaction. Sanders has been a civil rights activist while a student at the University of Chicago. In his political career his focus has been more on economic reform, not issues of peace and justice.
His economic focus is a strength, but he still runs well behind Clinton in endorsements from racial minorities and from women. That is a high barrier for Sanders to climb.
Sanders did gain one important female endorsement, which was reported by Washington Post political writer John Wagner before Tuesday’s primaries.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii, (pictured above) resigned from her post on the Democratic National Committee, to throw her support to Senator Sanders. Wagner described the campaign support Rep. Gabbard brings to Sanders:
KISSIMMEE, Florida—The thousands of people who have streamed to Bernie Sanders’s rallies around the country in recent days have been treated to an opening act — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii — who arguably does more to articulate Sanders’s views on foreign policy than he does.
Gabbard, 34, who resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee last month to endorse Sanders for president, has been tasked with introducing him at recent events, including one here Thursday that drew more than 5,000 people.
Unlike the Vermont senator, who focuses heavily on domestic policy at his rallies, Gabbard is talking about U.S. entanglements abroad. And she doesn’t pull any punches when relaying what she sees as a crucial difference between Sanders and her party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
“The choice before us is this,” Gabbard told the crowd here. “We can vote for Hillary Clinton and … get more of these interventionist, regime-change wars that have cost us so much, or we can vote for and support Bernie Sanders, end these counterproductive, costly interventionist wars and invest here at home, because we cannot afford to do both.”
A female member of Congress who supports Sanders’ stance against interventionism, should strengthen Sanders’ foreign policy credibility among progressive Democratic voters.
Clinton’s relationship to African American voters is one reason she has won easily in states with substantial African American voting bloc, especially among the older voters. In Illinois, Sanders aggressively attacked Clinton for not rejecting the endorsement of her long-time ally, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel had lost his support in the Chicago African American community following the Laquan McDonald police shooting. The Chicago Tribune reported:
The mayor’s fight to keep a police video of the shooting under wraps led to weeks of street protests, allegations of a cover-up, calls for resignation and a plummeting approval rating.
In the final days of the [Illinois] campaign, Sanders assailed Emanuel’s record as “disastrous.”
Sanders also criticized the mayor’s decision to close nearly 50 schools, which had a special impact on minority neighborhoods.
The narrowness of her home-state Illinois victory was a downer for Clinton, but she continues to build on her large delegate lead. Clinton’s stump speech of inspiration, unity and interventionism “to keep us safe” is well received by Democratic audiences.
Assuming this response continues in upcoming primaries and caucuses, her nomination now appears virtually assured. Sanders’ campaign rhetoric, however, has exposed vulnerabilities accumulated during her long political career.
Her interventionist stance, for example, disappoints many in the party’s progressive base. Her unrelenting pro-Israel stance is not encouraging to voters who believe Israel’s occupation is both immoral and destructive.
Donald Trump, her likely Republican opponent in the general election, has won strong support among what pollsters describe as “white evangelicals”. Trump stepped on the third rail of vulnerability in American politics when he promised to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue from a “neutral” stance.
That incongruity from a conservative Republican candidate has not slowed Trump’s momentum.
Trump’s vitriolic demeanor and his bullying style, places him among a long line of demagogues in American politics. His go-for-broke style appeals to a simmering undercurrent of disenchantment and anger that might take him to the White House
In spite of her vulnerabilities, Clinton now appears to be the last hope to prevent a Trump general election victory.
Trump added to his delegate total Tuesday, winning three states, including Florida, Senator Marco Rubio’s home state. Rubio lost to Trump by a two-to-one margin, which led him to suspend his campaign.
Governor John Kasich finally won a primary–his home state of Ohio–and quickly emerged as the Republican establishment’s new preferred choice over Trump.
Clinton’s vulnerability to Sanders’ strategy of linking her to political and public figures who have antagonized ethnic minorities, is a strategy that an apt and well-mannered candidate like Kasich, could use to cut into her voter base.
Assuming Clinton has locked up her party’s nomination, she could not have asked for a better sparring partner than Sanders to prepare her for her main bout in November.
Sanders, of course, still believes he would be a better nominee than Clinton. He plans to continue to persuade voters to give him that responsibility. Buckle up, it is going to be a wild ride to the two conventions, and beyond.
Correction: In an earlier version of this posting, I referred to states where Democrats follow a “winner take all” allocation of delegates. This was incorrect. All of the Democratic primaries and caucuses allocate delegates proportionally.
The picture at top of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, is from the Washington Post.