Sanders Was Not Well Served by His Campaign or Surrogates

On a day when the Sanders campaign should have been reveling in the fact that he not only won 5 of the last 6 contests with Clinton – but did so overwhelmingly last Saturday – neither his campaign staff or surrogates did him any favors yesterday.

As Greg Sargent wrote, here is the strategy Tad Devine (Sanders’ chief strategist) laid out to journalists yesterday about how they plan to win the nomination.

Devine said that it was likely the Sanders campaign would call on super-delegates to switch even if Sanders were only leading in the pledged delegate count at the end of the primaries, while still trailing in the popular vote. He even said Sanders would call for this switch if Sanders trailed in the popular vote and was very close behind in the pledged delegate count, too.

Beyond that, as Pema Levy reports, Devine made this claim about why Sanders is so far behind Clinton in earned delegates.

The crux of the campaign’s argument for why it can overtake Clinton in the remaining contests is that the Sanders campaign does very well in states where it chooses to compete. The campaign was willing to write off big losses in many southern states as part of its strategy of focusing on winning a majority in as many states as possible, rather than capturing as many delegates as possible in states it wouldn’t win.

“Her grasp now on the nomination is almost entirely on the basis of victories where Bernie Sanders did not compete,” said senior strategist Tad Devine. “Where we compete with Clinton, where this competition is real, we have a very good chance of beating her in every place that we compete with her.”

Devine named eight states where he said the Sanders campaign did not compete with a big presence on the ground or much on-air advertising: Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas. Clinton, Devine argued, “has emerged as a weak front-runner.”

On her show last night, Rachel Maddow (who has been very sympathetic to the Sanders campaign) documented why she called that claim “bull-puckey.” She based that on her own show’s reporting back in February that the Sanders campaign was actually investing early and more aggressively than the Clinton campaign in those states.

Finally, last night Susan Sarandon – one of Sanders most prominent surrogates – said this in an interview with Chris Hayes when asked whether she would vote for Clinton if Sanders loses the primary.

“I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens,” Sarandon said.

That bit of honesty prompted Hayes to stop in his tracks. “Really?” he asked incredulously.

“Really,” Sarandon said, adding that “some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.”

These are all things that the candidate himself should walk back immediately. And that is definitely not what a candidate attempting to build momentum wants to be doing.

Update: The above quote from Greg Sargent was the result of a direct interview he conducted yesterday with Tad Devine.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.