After destroying her socialist challenger in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton sounded like she was ready to be done with the primary process and the persistent, surprising threat of Senator Bernie Sanders. Speaking from her victory party in West Palm Beach, Clinton was hoarse but resolute.
“We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November,” she said to rabid applause.
While Clinton was expected to win the two southern states, Ohio was a question mark leading into Tuesday. The former secretary of state was ahead in the polls, but her campaign was measured in their optimism. The stunning upset Sanders pulled off in Michigan last week was fresh in their minds, so her victory in the Buckeye State proved a bigger win than it might have otherwise been. And with that notch in her belt, Clinton appeared to be more focused than ever on an eventual showdown with Donald Trump.
“When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, when he embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong, it makes him wrong,” Clinton, debuting a line we’re undoubtedly going to hear a million times over the next couple of months.
It will be interesting to see how things play out from here. Sanders is almost – but not quite – against a mathematical impossibility. If he continues his campaign, as he has vowed to do, he could become less of a serious challenger and more of a message candidate. His supporters, young and prone to magical thinking, will undoubtedly stick by him. And that’s exactly what Republicans hope will happen. The longer he stays in the race, draining the liberal enthusiasm away from the frontrunner, the worse it is for Clinton. He’s already forced her much further to the left than she would have normally leaned, and her electability suffers with every shift.
Making things worse for her, a new poll shows that 33% of Sanders’ supporters flatly refuse to vote for Clinton if she turns out to be the nominee. Some of them will go third-party. Some of them will stay home.
But some of them are looking desperately for an outsider to go in and shake up the Washington establishment. And while an all-encompassing look at Sanders and Trump shows two candidates who could hardly be more different, they are unusually similar when it comes to issues like trade and D.C. corruption. If Sanders stays in till the convention and Trump wins the Republican nomination, we could see a small but significant exodus from the Democratic Party in November.
“We think she will be the nominee, we’d like for this process to obviously be resolved as quickly as it can, but that’s ultimately not up to us and we’re prepared for it to go on,” Clinton’s campaign manager said Tuesday.
Oh, so are we, baby. So are we.