The general consensus is that Hillary Clinton will beat out Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination. The almost general consensus is that Clinton may not make it to the White House without Sanders. The numbers and the states that she has won are the starting point to figure out why. She's trounced Sanders in Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Arkansas. With the very iffy exception of North Carolina and Virginia, these are states which she has absolutely no chance of winning in November. She also trounced Sanders in Florida, Ohio and Arizona. These are states that will at best be a tough slog to win. All three have GOP governors, and top heavy GOP controlled state legislatures. All three have been deeply implicated in putting on the books blatant voter suppression initiatives, laws, and ploys. The states that she has a lock on are the states that are lock down Democratic states anyway such as California and New York. George Bush Sr. was the last GOP presidential candidate to win California in 1988. Ronald Reagan was the last GOP presidential candidate to win New York in 1984.
Clinton will net close to 200 electoral votes from the Democratic lock states. But after that she'll need to find 60 to 70 more electoral votes in states that have gone either way in general presidential elections the past two decades. That makes it a brutal, grind em' out, numbers game to bag enough of those states to put her over the top. She'll make a huge, all out drive to squeeze every African-American and Hispanic vote that she can get out of the swing states. That's absolutely crucial. But that won't be enough to insure a win in a state such as Michigan also with a GOP governor, embattled yes, but still a GOP governor, and a state in which the GOP candidates combined got 130,000 more votes than Clinton and Sanders in that state's primary.
There's only one place she can get the votes from to close the gap and that's from Sanders' impassioned backers. Yes, there's lots of loose talk and some polls that claim that if Sanders isn't the nominee, many of his supporters will write in Sanders name, stay home, or vote for a Green Party candidate.
Some may well do just that. The betting odds, though, are that most won't. However, that doesn't tell the story of what Clinton needs to do to insure Sanders' supporters are on board with her. They have to be mobilized to actually believe that Clinton will be a president who will fight not to extend Obama's programs, but fight for Sanders' program. As it now stands, Clinton would be hard pressed to find many Sanders' backers who believe that she will crack down on Wall Street, reinstate the Glass-Steagall firewall on the banks, fight for hard-nosed regulations on the financial industry, and back Sanders' oft stated demand that the big banks be broken up. There's disbelief that she would try to slap a hefty tax bill on the wealthy and major corporations and that she can deftly pivot and call for a single payer health care plan. Clinton's answer to each of Sanders' proposals has been a mix of cautious reform and protest that his programs are too starry-eyed, costly, and absolutely impossible to get through any Congress.
But that's the dilemma. These are the exact proposals that Sanders repeatedly has shouted to crowds that stand in line for hours to see and hear him, and that pack arena after arena in the states; the very states that top the list of the handful of states that will decide the White House. The passion and inspiration that Sanders has injected into the Democratic primary campaign has been a sight to behold. Clinton can't duplicate that with the Sanders' faithful, but she does have to inch just close enough to his positions on Wall Street, the banks, and health care to give his most impassioned backers enough of a reason to not only show up on Election Day for her but to gently prod others who believe in Bernie to do the same.
Trump and Sanders have shown in their own way that a presidential candidate can have a seemingly radical program or no program at all and still fire up millions and actually get them to go to the polls and vote for them. The operative words are passion and disgust with beltway politicians who many believe routinely lie, cheat, cut deals, rake in king's ransom in cash from special interests, and don't give a hoot for the people. Clinton unfortunately is seen by a big swatch of those angry, frustrated, and alienated voters as one of them, Sanders isn't. This is a big part of his appeal. Clinton can't match that, but by imbibing some of Bernie's message she can convince many that she is a good bet to keep sending out some of that message in the White House. The election will hang heavily on whether she can do just that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is From Sanders to Trump: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primary Battles (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Saturdays 9:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network