Upcoming primaries give him reasons to believe.
By Daniel Strauss
05/06/16 05:14 AM EDT
Here’s one reason Bernie Sanders is reluctant to give up the fight: May is shaping up to be a pretty good month for him.
On the heels of his Indiana victory Tuesday, Sanders is well-positioned for wins in the upcoming West Virginia and Oregon primaries. That might explain his it’s-just-a-flesh-wound approach to the nearly insurmountable delegate math confronting him, and his dogged insistence that he’s taking his long-shot presidential campaign all the way to the July Democratic convention.
“We're going to stay in until the last vote is counted, and that will be in the [June 14] primary in Washington, D.C.," Sanders said in an interview Wednesday with NPR's Steve Inskeep.
For Hillary Clinton, the prospect of additional Sanders wins is more headache than threat. But even if there’s little chance the Vermont senator can win the nomination, every victory raises new questions about why Clinton can’t finish him off.
"It's a nuisance, it's a distraction, because he can't win the nomination and every dollar that he spends and every time she has to defend against an attack or answer some accusation of his is money and time not spent defining Donald Trump and the Republican nominee" said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "That's all it is at this point. I think people gave him a wide berth when he had a numeric chance but there is no math that ends up with his being the nominee, so at this point I think even the wins don't do anything but continue the inevitable problem of he can't get there from here."
Sanders points to his record of winning 18 states and the narrow margin separating him and Clinton in national polls as cause for remaining in the race. He contends that he’s the strongest Democratic candidate against presumptive GOP front-runner Donald Trump, and holds out hope that more super delegates in the states where he won will ultimately line up in his camp.
Wins in West Virginia and Oregon, following his victory last week in Indiana, would bolster his argument, which is why the senator is highlighting them in interviews but doesn’t mention Kentucky, which votes on May 17 along with Oregon but doesn’t appear be a Sanders-friendly state.
“We’re going to fight in West Virginia. I think we’ve got a shot to win there — we’ve got a good shot to win in Oregon, and I think we’ve got a good shot to win in some other states so…. We’re in this race till the last vote is counted,” said Sanders.
West Virginia, where Sanders led Clinton in a recent automated Public Policy Polling poll, appears well-suited for the Vermont senator. With its large union presence, small African-American population, and high level of poverty, Sanders' campaign officials see the state’s May 10 primary as a ripe target for the Vermont senator's message of economic inequality.
"Yeah I think we'll do well there. Just 30,000 feet up, I see very good public polling and we usually run ahead of the public polls," said Pete D'Alessandro, Sanders' Indiana state director, adding that Sanders’ focus on inequality would be a potent argument in the state. "It's been resonating in West Virginia for even longer than it's been resonating in Indiana, so I think those are just working people that are going to be ready for that message."
Sanders has another edge in West Virginia — Clinton didn’t do herself any favors with a March comment where she said “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” during a March town hall. That comment, which received widespread news coverage, resurfaced earlier in the week when she was confronted at a West Virginia roundtable discussion by an unemployed coal miner about the remark.
“How you can say you are going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs and then come in here and tell us how you are going to be our friend? Because those people out there don't see you as a friend,” the miner said.
Clinton apologized for her choice of words, but they continue to resonate in the state: Beth Walker, a candidate for the non-partisan West Virginia Supreme Court, used the comment in a recent ad.
Sanders is using the same playbook as in Indiana by emphasizing a pillar of his policy platform that connects to local economic circumstances. In Indiana, he zeroed in on manufacturing and trade; in West Virginia’s coal country, he has focused on poverty. His first stop during a multi-event swing on Thursday was a poverty forum in the McDowell County, one of the poorest counties in the state.
West Virginia Democratic Party vice chairman Christopher Regan, who has endorsed Sanders, said the senator will do best in the college communities around the state.
"Huntington and Cabell County where Marshall [University] is. There's also Morgantown for WVU [West Virginia University]," Regan said, ticking off several other regions with colleges where he expected Sanders to do well in. "But I honestly think his support will be broad and deep in West Virginia. I'm confident that he will find that he has a great deal of support here…I think this is Bernie country."
Kentucky and Oregon, on May 17, are next up on the primary calendar. Kentucky is the harder sell for Sanders. Both are closed primary states but Clinton has long relationships there and solid support from top Kentucky Democrats.
"Except for small pockets and Louisville, I believe that Kentucky Democrats will heavily support Hillary Clinton," said former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Patrick Hughes, who is unaligned. "I think even if this isn't true, that [Kentucky voters] view Bernie Sanders as way too liberal for Kentucky. He's going to have a harder time culturally and politically convincing Democrats in Kentucky to get behind him."
Oregon, however, is far more fertile ground for Sanders. Like the other Northwestern states where Sanders has won, its population is overwhelmingly white. And, in places like Portland, it embraces Sanders’ brand of progressive politics — the state’s largest city ranks third among big cities in per-capita contributions to his campaign. Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley is the lone U.S. senator to have endorsed Sanders.
There's also the fact that Oregon's vote-by-mail system helps a grassroots-oriented campaign like Sanders’, argued Stacey Dycus, an Oregon-based Democratic strategist.
“Because we're a vote-by-mail election state we have a three-week-long Election Day and that's where the grassroots campaigns really make the difference,” Dycus said, adding that that voting system allows grassroots-based campaigns “to get on the phone and call people who are their supporters and say ‘your ballot hasn’t been received yet.’”
Clinton allies shrug off the prospect of impending Sanders victories, noting that they won’t affect the ultimate outcome. And the campaign itself has already begun shifting into general election mode.
"Even the people who support Bernie, I think, at this juncture see that the outcome is going to be that Hillary is the nominee, they just want to be treated respectfully and they want Bernie treated respectfully," Clinton donor Jay Jacobs said. "They want, I think, a recognition that his message was an important and a valid one and I think that we should do that."
In briefings, the Clinton campaign has stressed to donors that no single primary left on the calendar can alter the course of the primary or bring Sanders over the finish line. Rather, the delegate count is what matters. Clinton is just 178 delegates short of the 2,383 total delegates she needs to clinch the nomination while Sanders needs close to 1,000.
"It's not about necessarily winning every single caucus, every single primary, it's about amassing the lead in the pledged delegates and that's what we've been doing," Jacobs said. "We're getting closer and closer, we're under 200 to go. And you take a look at that and that's what you keep your eye on. You keep your eye on the ball."
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/one-reason-bernies-staying-in-oregon-and-west-virginia-222844#ixzz47uouQd8R