Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Hillary Clinton has never been closer to winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Counting her support from party insiders, she now claims a nearly 700-delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and only needs to secure a third of those remaining to clinch. After a disappointing run in recent contests, she stands poised to clean up Tuesday in New York’s primary, launching her into a series of Northeastern states in which she also leads. This goal, eight years deferred, is nearer than within reach — it’s looking evermore inevitable.
None of that was in evidence from Clinton’s performance Thursday night on a Brooklyn debate stage. In her ninth and potentially final head-to-head with Sanders, Clinton was combative from the start. And she kept the heat on over the most contentious two hours of the campaign to date. Clinton repeatedly derided Sanders as a bystander to history who nitpicks the progress she earned scars to achieve (“Describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it,” she sniffed at one point). Compare our five-minute supercut of the East River slugfest to the gauzy, upbeat video Clinton rolled out a year and two days earlier to announce her bid, and you’ll get an unmistakable sense of what the primary has wrought.
Clearly Sanders has posed a stiffer challenge than even he himself could have imagined. Now there’s an urgency behind Clinton’s effort to retire him. His continued appeal with young voters, his piles of campaign cash, and his belief, delegate deficit notwithstanding, that he can still win mean he will try to carry the fight into the convention. The ultimate outcome may not be in doubt, but there’s an opportunity cost to Clinton in forestalling it. She’s eager to pivot to the fight against the Republicans.
Yet no matter when it concludes, the crucible of the primary has already formed Clinton as a general election candidate. She previewed that contender at the debate: An unapologetic wonk with a lawyerly nose for weakness in the opposition’s argument and an apparently diminishing interest in leavening her presentation with poetry or uplift. Charming? Nope. But potentially formidable.
• Pro-Clinton super PAC to spend $90 million
A super PAC backing Hillary Clinton is bumping up by $20 million the amount it plans to spend on television advertising following California’s June 7th primary. The move by Priorities USA Action means it will shell out $90 million between the end of the primary calendar and the general election in November to air ads in seven swing states.
• Trump leads in New York
Donald Trump looks set to dominate in his home state of New York on Tuesday. A new poll shows him pulling in 54 percent of the vote, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich a distant second at 25 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz comes in third, with 16 percent. The NBC/ Wall Street Journal survey shows Trump’s support remained steady over the course of the week. He’s aiming to sweep the state’s 95 delegates in hopes of getting back on track to secure the Republican nomination before the party’s national convention in July.
• Sanders goes to Rome
Four days before a crucial primary in the state where he grew up, Bernie Sanders jetted off to Rome to deliver a speech at the Vatican on income inequality. Sanders has made common cause with Pope Francis, who likewise had made a critique of the global economic order a centerpiece of his message. The two didn’t meet, however, and Sanders was scheduled to return to New York on Saturday to resume campaigning.
Around the Water Cooler
• Trump’s process complaints are bunk
Donald Trump has made a new pastime of whining about the rules governing the Republican presidential primary. The front-runner claims the GOP establishment is trying to game the system to deny the will of the voters and snatch the nomination from him. In truth, he’s simply getting out-hustled by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, which bothered to master a delegate allocation system that’s been clear since the beginning of the contest.
• A tiny number of individuals are supplying a lot of campaign cash
A group of about 50 people and their relatives are supplying close to half the money that super PACs have raised so far for the 2016 election. Thirty-six of those individuals are directing their giving to Republican groups, but the biggest donor of all, former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, is a Democrat who’s given $17 million to a super PAC he formed to fight climate change.
• There are at least a couple Hillarys
A reporter who covered Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and then transitioned to writing about her tenure as Secretary of State saw two distinctly different versions of the leader. Where Candidate Hillary was stiff and guarded, Diplomat Hillary was warm, engaging and effective. Clinton herself has spoken openly during the current campaign about her struggles to connect on trail the way her husband and President Obama do naturally. And the notion that a wooden candidate is actually a bag of fun in private is a well-worn trope (see: Gore, Al and Romney, Mitt). But the writer offers some revealing — and humanizing — anecdotes.