New York primary: Let the pre-spin begin!

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders

    I am shocked — shocked! — that Bernie Sanders is pre-spinning his likely New York defeat by whining about the Democratic primary rules.

    Because he blames his second-place status on Hillary Clinton’s wins in the “very conservative” “Deep South” (ridiculous spin), New York is a real problem for him. Given its geographic distance from the Deep South, he clearly has needed to concoct a new excuse.

    Voila! Here’s Bernie now: “We have a system here in New York where independents can’t get involved.” And his wife, Jane, weighed in yesterday: “We have a lot of [people] not even able to vote in this election.” She denounced the rules as “silly.”

    Oh the horror. New York Democrats have the temerity to believe that registered Democrats should choose the Democratic presidential nominee. Those are the rules; they existed before Bernie, they will exist post-Bernie. It’s the same deal in the other “closed” primaries looming on the spring calendar — most notably, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Oregon.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    And that’s a big problem for Bernie, because, as we well know, he’s not popular with registered Democratic voters. He has lost all the closed contests, and in the open contests (where independents are allowed to vote), he has usually been waxed by members of the party base. Michigan was a classic example; even though he edged Clinton in the popular vote, he lost registered Democrats by 18 percentage points. Swing-state Ohio was another; Bernie lost big overall, mostly because he lost registered Democrats by 29 points.

    New York, tonight, is likely to be more of the same. How come?

    Because, lest we forget, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. He’s an independent who’s trying to engineer a semi-hostile takeover of the Democratic party. And a lot of Democrats are not pleased about that.

    Hillary Clinton is a Democrat who has been working for Democrats since the presidential election of 1972. Her current work for Democrats is on display in the campaign finance reports; during the first quarter of 2016, she raised $15 million for the Democratic National Committee and for state parties, to help down-ballot Democrats. She recently said that it’s important “to elect state legislatures, to elect Democratic governors, to elect a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives.”

    Care to guess how much money Bernie has raised for down-ballot Democrats during the first quarter of ’16? For the purpose of electing a Democratic Senate and House, and thus have even a remote chance of enacting his pie-in-the-sky policy dreams? Here’s the relevant statistic:

    He has raised nothing.

    All those Democratic superdelegates — the people he alternately denounces and covets — tend to put great value on party loyalty. Rest assured, they are well aware of Bernie’s non-fealty to the Democratic party.

    The loyalty issue surfaced last Thursday during the New York debate. CNN’s Dana Bash said: “You don’t appear to have raised any money for the party. Yesterday you did announce that you will help three members of Congress who have endorsed you. Why aren’t you doing more to help the party you say you want to lead?”

    Bernie replied, and I immediately Felt the Bull: “The truth is, and you can speak to my colleagues, we have raised millions of dollars to the DSCC. I have written letters that have raised, if I may use the word, huge amounts of money, so that’s just not accurate.”

    Note that he never disputed the fact that he has raised zero money this year for the national party and state parties.

    As for “the DSCC” — inside-the-Beltway politicians love to sling the acronyms — the average viewer probably wondered what that was. Bernie was referring to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money for the party’s Senate candidates. What’s hilarious is that while Bernie fancies himself to be as pure as the driven snow, he happily allies himself with a campaign committee that — wait for it! — is heavily financed by lobbyists, fat cats, and other special interest donors.

    From a recent press report: “[The DSCC] would wither without its largest donors, including industry lobbyists and wealthy individuals, who are feted at semi-annual DSCC retreats on Martha’s Vineyard and in Palm Beach, Florida …. Sanders has been one of the more frequent attendees since entering the Senate in 2007, including two last year …. To attend, [donors] had to donate the federal maximum — currently $33,400 a year — to the DSCC, or raise $100,000.”

    But I digress. The bottom line is that Bernie won’t win the Democratic nomination unless he can somehow erase his deep pledged-delegate deficit (not to mention his 2.4 million popular vote deficit), and he can’t do that unless he starts winning registered Democrats in close primaries. That has to happen beginning tonight, in New York. Shrugging off a likely defeat with a pre-spun excuse isn’t gonna cut it.

    After all, what good is a candidate who can’t pull the party base?

    Meanwhile, in tonight’s New York Republican primary, the key figure is 50 percent. If Donald Trump wins a majority of the tally, he wins all 14 statewide delegates and is well positioned to grab most of the remaining 81. That kind of haul would lower the odds of a contested multi-ballot convention. But if he’s held below 50 percent statewide, complex proportional delegate rules kick in. That would slow Trump’s march and raise the odds of what he calls a “rough” convention.

    Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader, clearly wants the latter. Yesterday he said: “I’m increasingly optimistic that there may actually be a second ballot.”

    You know the Republicans are seriously screwed up when their top elected leader’s definition of optimism is fractious chaos.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal