Bill and Hillary Escalate Smear Campaign With Dishonest Attacks on Sanders

MILFORD, NH - FEBRUARY 07:  Former U.S. President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, during a campaign event at Milford Junior High School February 7, 2016 in Milford, New Hampshire. New Hampshire holds the "first in the nation" primary on February 9.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Clintons have escalated their dishonest smear campaign against Bernie Sanders, including attacks from Bill Clinton which are reminiscent of his racist attacks on Barack Obama eight years ago. Both Bill and Hillary have raised what Truthout calls The Most Disingenuous Attack on Bernie Yet over the vote for the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. Hillary Clinton raised this at the last Democratic debate.

But here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton isn’t telling a true story about Bernie Sanders and his vote for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, or CFMA.

As Robert Scheer has pointed out over at Truthdig, then-Congressman Sanders voted for the CFMA, not because he wanted to, but because he had to.

The CFMA had been shoved into an omnibus spending bill at the last minute as part of a deal between Republicans and President Bill Clinton, and because this was a time when, you know, Congress actually did its job, Sanders bit the bullet and voted for the whole package – CFMA included – to keep the government open.

Only four members of Congress ended up opposing the final spending bill that included the CFMA, and one of them was Ron Paul, who opposed pretty much every spending bill. But that’s just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how dishonest Clinton was being when she called Bernie out for voting for the CFMA.

Even if Bernie had a good reason to vote for that omnibus spending bill – like preventing a government shutdown – Sanders was angry that he been forced into deregulating Wall Street.

Bill is also attacking Bernie over the data breach with an inaccurate account of the incident, calling it like stealing a car with the keys in the ignition. Bill left out important details such as that it was the Sanders campaign which both reported that the data breach and fired their staff member who was involved. In return, the DNC violated their contract with Sanders, only backing down in response to a lawsuit. Imagine the cover ups which we would be seeing if it was a Clinton staffer involved.

In what was probably his biggest strategic blunder, Bill Clinton jumped on highly exaggerated attacks on Bernie Bros. The attack line, which is reminiscent of the Obama boy attacks of eight years ago, is largely based upon myths spread by the Clinton campaign. While there is no doubt that some Sanders supporters have acted inappropriately on the internet, Sanders has already condemned such acts.

If bad behavior from supporters on the internet was a reason not to vote for a candidate, there are also plenty of cases coming from Clinton supporters, both on line and from more prominent supporters. While hardly a serious argument against Sanders, this resulted in an increase in discussion of Bill Clinton’s predatory behavior towards women. This will haunt the campaign through the general election should Hillary win the nomination. Reuters reports that one of the women who is accusing Clinton of sexual assault is planning to campaign against Clinton.

Meanwhile, Hillary continues to have problems with her speaking fees. At Huffington Post, Les Leopold writes Hillary Not Truthful About Wall Street Speaking Fees.

Hillary is veering from the truth when she suggests her $225,000 per speech fee, paid three times by Goldman Sachs, was “what they offered.”

It was not what they offered — it was what Team Hillary demanded.

A review of her 2014 tax return posted on her website shows that $225,000 was her minimum fee…

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame and Hillary biographer, commented on CNN that the White House is “horrified that Clinton is blowing up her own campaign.” He said they can’t believe she took the money and didn’t see the ethical problems that would dog her.

It is not credible for her to argue that she took the money because she wasn’t sure she was going to run for president or that she was “dead broke.” She and Bill hauled in $139 million from 2007 to 2014…

The pundits point out that she has created a “perceived” conflict of interest, whether real or imagined. In essence they are saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking the money. It’s not really tainted.

Hillary states that she never changed her vote due to campaign contributions. But evidence is mounting via previous accounts by Elizabeth Warren, that Hillary may have switched her position on bankruptcy laws to please her Wall Street contributors after becoming the Senator New York.

But these attacks miss the most basic question: Is money tainted? Is it blood-money?

Sanders believes it is by arguing that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

There is considerable data to support him.

The most disturbing factor here is that Hillary Clinton really seems to believe that there is nothing unethical about the situation. How can she ever be trusted to work to get money out of politics if she does not recognize the problem and this is how she thinks?

Clinton makes matters worse by refusing to release the transcripts as she previously refused to release the email until forced to.  McClatchy points out that Clinton did require that transcripts be kept.

With all the chaos surrounding the Clinton campaign, as well as Clinton losing her lead in the latest national polls from Quinnipiac and Reuters/IPSOS (which may or may not be outliers at this point), Politico reported that Clinton is considering a shake up of her staff. Hillary denied this report, but there is no information as to whether her nose grew during the interview. Regardless, the staff is not the problem. As was also the case eight years ago, the problem is the candidate. Democrats are insane if they want to go into a general campaign with her on top of the ticket.

Clinton Attacks Sanders With Series Of Bogus Sound Bites At MSNBC Democratic Debate

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.  The Democratic presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reached an agreement in principle on Saturday to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire and three more later this spring.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Wednesday’s one-on-one debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (transcript here) was probably the best debate yet, and unfortunately the lowest rated. Unlike the CNN Town Hall the previous day, Clinton did not struggle to come up with answers. Instead she repeated a serious of prepared sound bites which made her seem ingenuous.

Clinton, an old DLC Democrat, is making a huge mistake in getting into a debate she cannot win when she claims to be a progressive. She has already admitted to being a centrist, and she just shows her propensity for changing her views based upon political expediency when she claims otherwise. She also opens herself up for mocking by actual progressives, such as at Common Dreams, when she claims to be a progressive. As I recently pointed out with this graph, Clinton is much closer to the Republicans ideologically than Sanders and his supporters:

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

If Sanders made any mistake on this line of attack, it was to give the impression that holding certain views are a litmus test of whether one is a progressive. Certain individual progressives might disagree on one or more positions. It is the overall world view which counts, with Clinton opposing progressive viewpoints on a wide range of issues.

Clinton is also fighting a losing battle when claiming not to be part of the establishment because she is a woman. By that logic do we vote for Carly Fiorina? Citing support from Howard Dean does not also help her considering how Dean has sold out to be a lobbyist for they pharmaceutical industry.

Clinton’s sound bites on so many issues are total nonsense. Despite what she claimed, HillaryCare was not ObamaCare. HillaryCare was a highly flawed plan which failed both due to its flaws and her unwillingness to compromise on the details.  Her bungling of health care reform was the first sign that she is a progressive who gets things done. She also got far less done in the Senate compared to Sanders who was influential on passing many amendments.

Clinton repeated her nonsensical attack on Sanders’ proposal for free public universities in saying, “What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids, get to be able to afford college.” Donald Trump’s kids are not going to go to free public universities.

In attacking Medicare for All, she falsely claimed, “Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again.” Expanding Medicare, a highly successful program we have now, is not starting all over again. And, in any event, Sanders is not going to take away ObamaCare before Medicare for All is available as the Clinton camp has suggested. Meanwhile, Clinton has no serious proposals to handle the high costs of health care which persist under ObamaCare, despite its improvements to the system, while Medicare for All would provide a solution.

Clinton continued to distort Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA. She now claims to be more liberal, despite having described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton was put on the defensive regarding her ties to Wall Street and the speaking fees she received from Goldman Sachs. Back when it was seen as a race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, leaders of Goldman Sachs made it clear that they saw Clinton as being on their side. She evaded a question as to whether the transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to them will be released to the public.

Clinton denied that payouts from Wall Street affect her views. Elizabeth Warren has disagreed.

I would also caution Clinton from repeating the phrase, “I have a record” while the FBI investigation of her email is in progress. She also repeated one of her dishonest sound bites here in claiming, “They are retroactively classifying it.” As Reuters described months ago, some of the email was “born classified” and as Secretary of State Clinton should have known the material was classified at the time. Further email releases have only made matters look worse for Clinton since this article was posted.

Clinton tried to excuse her actions by bringing up Colin Powell and Condalisa Rice. What they did does not excuse any violations of the law by Clinton.  Plus stricter rules were put into place in 2009 in response to the abuses under the Bush administration which Clinton violated.

Clinton brags that Obama made her Secretary of State, but that was a political decision. He had rejected Clinton’s views, such as her talk of obliterating Iran, during the campaign. Obama ran foreign policy from the White House, and the Obama administration usually rejected Clinton’s more hawkish, neoconservative advice. Sanders pointed out how he was right on the Iraq war, and warned of the perpetual warfare we are likely to see if Clinton is elected. Unfortunately Clinton’s hawkish views on Libya and Syria were not discussed during the debate. Sometimes I wish Sanders would also move further beyond his usual sound bites.

The issue of electability came up with Sanders pointing out how well he does in head to head match-ups against republicans. Old left versus right arguments re electability no longer apply. These days elections are won by getting out the base. Bernie can do that better than Clinton. Plus Sanders does better with independents while Clinton does poorly in the battleground states. Voters are looking for a candidate with integrity, and a reformer who who fix the system Clinton is too close to, not where a candidate falls on the flawed right to left spectrum.

Sanders is working towards improving his support among minorities (with news coming out earlier in the day that a former NAACP head is planning to endorse Sanders.) He was smart to bring up the impact on minorities when opposing the death penalty. He pointed out that, “too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That’s number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.”

Sanders also discussed the water situation in Flint, Michigan. When he spoke of the children being poisoned, an issue where both Democratic candidates agree, I quipped on Facebook that Republicans do not agree–they think that the poisoning of children is an issue which should be left up to the states. (My blow by blow account of the debate on Facebook has been left public for now.)

Besides the issue of whether Clinton is a progressive and a member of the establishment, another topic which came up during the debate was a faux complaint from Clinton that Sanders was waging a negative campaign on her.

The Clinton machine is probably the dirtiest machine in all of politics, yet when someone presents an accurate criticism of Clinton’s record she cries about how she is being smeared. The Clinton machine spread the Reverend Wright and Birther smears against Obama eight years ago. This year we have seen twisting of Sanders’ words to claim sexism, a distortion of his position on guns, and claims that Sanders is going to take Medicare, Medicaid, and even ObamaCare away from people.

Slate called Sanders the winner but did have some criticism of his performance, while others called it for Clinton. David Graham at The Atlantic called Sanders the winner but was reluctant to call Clinton a loser. He highlighted Sanders’ concentration on limited issues, which I think is largely part of his strategy to take on Clinton and build a winning general election coalition. Google showed that there was more interest in Sanders than Clinton during the debate. More importantly, the types of search queries look more like those who are looking to become engaged with the campaign:

Hillary Clinton

  1. How old is Hillary Clinton?
  2. Who can beat Hillary?
  3. Where is Hillary Clinton today?
  4. Will Hillary win?
  5. How much is Hillary Clinton worth?

Bernie Sanders

  1. Where will Bernie Sanders be speaking?
  2. Why Bernie Sanders?
  3. Who would be Bernie Sanders’ VP?
  4. How to donate to Bernie Sanders
  5. Where can I see Bernie Sanders in NH?

Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate

Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

The Revolution Begins For Bernie Sanders In Iowa (And No, There Is No Guaranteed Firewall For Clinton In The South)

Iowa Virtual Tie

Hillary Clinton won the Iowa caucus by a fraction of one percent thanks to the arcane rules of the Iowa caucus and the luck of winning the coin toss six out of six times when it decided delegates. Sanders has requested that the actual raw vote be released. It will probably not be done in accordance with the Iowa caucus rules, but it was a smart move to make. There is an excellent chance that Sanders won the popular vote but received slightly fewer delegate equivalents (which were announced) due to his vote being more concentrated in college towns. Plus the anti-Clinton delegates to the state convention could easily out-number the pro-Clinton delegates when those won by  Martin O’Malley, who dropped out of the race, are considered.

It remains to be seen how significant Clinton’s narrow win will be considered when it came down to coin tosses and the arcane Iowa caucus rules to pick delegate equivalents, along with some questions as to the accuracy of the results leading to some calls for a recount. Even an article at The Des Moines Register Tuesday evening questions if the correct winner was called.

A tie will be as good as a win if it brings in enough contributions and if it raises attention for Sanders sufficiently for him to get his message to more minority voters. So far it looks like it was enough in terms of fund raising, and nobody knows what will happen in terms of improving Sanders’ support nation wide. Iowa might not matter after Sanders wins in New Hampshire.

A major strategy of the Clinton campaign has to claim that Sanders could not win, just as they claimed this eight years ago about Obama. (Showing how little things have changed, they also claimed Obama was too liberal). The Clinton camp spreads claims that Sanders’ support is limited to young white males. While there is a generational divide, the gender divide is exaggerated as young millennial women are often backing Sanders. They have created the myth of a firewall in the south as the Clinton camp ignores the inroads Sanders has made among minorities the last several months.

Eight years ago, at the time of the Iowa caucus, Clinton also had a strong national lead in the national polls and among black voters. It wasn’t until Obama beat her in Iowa and showed that his campaign was for real that the campaign changed. Minorities subsequently shifted towards Obama, and Obama eventually moved ahead of Clinton in the national polls. Besides being likely to continue to improve his support among minority voters, Sanders is also making gains among less affluent whites, including in the south, which might provide votes to balance Clinton’s diminishing advantage with minorities.

Sanders support is rapidly growing. In contrast, Clinton’s support was more limited “to older, frequent caucus-goers.” This was enough for the narrow victory in Iowa, but might not be enough in primary states where relative turn out is higher, and she cannot count on the Iowa caucus rules to tilt the results.

A tie for Sanders will be as good as a win if it brings in enough contributions, and if it raises attention for Sanders sufficiently for him to get his message to more voters. So far it looks like it was enough in terms of fund raising, and we do not know yet what will happen in terms of improving Sanders’ support nation wide.

Neither campaign was able to do serious harm to the other with a meaningful win in Iowa. It largely comes down to bragging rights. Clinton can say she won, despite headlines like How Iowa Went Wrong For Hillary Clinton. She did avert disaster which she might have faced if she had lost by a significant amount as in 2008.

Bernie Sanders made a statement that he should be paid attention to. We don’t have to settle for Hillary. Iowa did show that Clinton is beatable. It also showed that she is not a very good candidate.

Iowa was essentially a tie, and maybe it is for the best that a small state like Iowa did not becoming the determining factor in what could be a long race over significant ideological differences. Previously Clinton  admitted she was a centrist when she thought the nomination was more secure, and she has been attacking Sanders from the right. In her speech last night, she flip flopped again, claiming to be a progressive, seeing where the party is headed.

The protests generated when Clinton’s claims of being a progressive aired at the Sanders campaign headquarters said it all. Sanders supporters are tired of a Democratic Party which fears liberal ideas and enables Republican policies. They were looking from the message from Bernie Sanders that, “What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution.”

(Post updated early Wednesday with minor changes to add more links from the original version which was cross-posted on social media.)

Iowa Caucus Comes Down To Turnout & Peculiarities Of A Caucus Versus A Primary

Iowa Caucus

(This is based upon Saturday’s post with major updates, also posted at The Moderate Voice  earlier today)

The Democratic caucus in Iowa is too close to call and will come down to turnout, along with other factors seen in a caucus as opposed to a primary. The final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus showed Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

The final Quinnipiac University Poll, coming out this morning, has Sanders leading Clinton by three points, also within the margin of error.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead if the votes go to Sanders. However, Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago.

Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is urging students to “Go Home for Bernie” to vote throughout the state but such travel plans might be complicated by a major storm expected to hit Iowa later tonight.

With turnout so important, Sanders supporters hope that the large turnout at his events indicate a greater likelihood of turning out to caucus.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll. However, Trump has a weak ground game making it possible for an upset. I also wouldn’t be surprised if candidates such as Rubio, or even Ben Carson, do better than expected. The usually confident Trump is admitting to being a “little bit nervous” going into tonight’s vote.

Interpreting The Final Des Moines Register Poll Showing A Statistical Tie Between Clinton And Sanders

Des Moines Register Poll Final

The final Des Moines Register/Blomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent.

Update:  Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago. Plus Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

An updated post with further news, including Sanders leading in latest pre-Iowa poll, is here.

Bernie Sanders Releases “Magnificent” Ad With Simon & Garfunkel Music In Iowa

Bernie Sanders is running the above one minute ad in Iowa featuring the Simon and Garfunkel song America with a montage of American images in the background. It has received quite a bit of media coverage (in contrast to his campaign to date). The Hill calls the ad “magnificent” and writes, “When you watch the ad, think about it. I bet you will watch it more than once, as I did, and while they will not admit it, the campaigns of other candidates will wish they had thought of it themselves.”

Bernie America Ad

The Atlantic writes:

First, the ad is extremely positive—it’s all smiling faces and happy children, hardworking farmers and cheering crowds. That matches with Sanders’s vow, mostly kept, to run a positive campaign. Second, the ad is heavily steeped in classic Americana. In particular, the ad leans on rural imagery, fitting with it primary audience Iowa and New Hampshire. The message might also blunt the attempt by some allies of Hillary Clinton to tar Sanders as a socialist. See, look? He’s as American as mom and apple pie.

The ad certainly presents a strong contrast to the negative smear campaign coming from the Clinton campaign since Hillary fell behind in the polls. Matters are getting even better for Sanders with the latest CNN poll showing Sanders eight points ahead of Clinton (leading 51 percent to 43 percent), with Clinton having led by eighteen points in their previous poll.

Seth Meyers Explains The Bernie Sanders Surge

Seth Meyers took A Closer Look at the Bernie Sanders surge in the polls (video above). He pointed out how the media missed the story:

“But here’s the huge part of the story: the media completely missed this. They ignored Bernie Sanders for months. And as a result, Hillary got a lopsided amount of coverage.” Out of 857 total minutes of nightly news coverage, Trump got 234 minutes, Clinton received 113 minutes and Sanders got 10.

Meyers discussed Sanders’ support among the young voters, noting how some people (but not Hillary Clinton) are cool enough to transcend their age and enter  the “Betty White Zone.”

Seth Meyer on Bernie Sanders Surge

The Political Debates Of The Past Week: Wins For Bernie Sanders & SNL

Both major political parties had debates in the past week. The one similarity is that in each party the front runner (Clinton and Trump) is facing a serious challenge. Neither race is likely to change very much based upon these debates alone. The Republican Debate was not all that eventful, except for Donald Trump defending New York against the attack from Ted Cruz. The coverage from Saturday Night Live in the video above is sufficient.

The Democratic Debate was largely a replay of the Rovian-style campaign which Hillary Clinton has resorted to since Sanders started to catch up with her in the polls. Rather than honestly discuss the issues, Clinton attacked Sanders by misrepresenting his views. Her strategy was to scare Democratic voters into thinking that Bernie Sanders plans to take away their guns and Obamacare. She would have fit in much better with the Republicans.

As I noted last week, Clinton has also been far to the right of her current position on gun control in the past, such as when she debated Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton has taken multiple positions on gun control over the years, campaigning even further to the right at times in 2008 when she described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Despite her major flip-flops on guns, Clinton also sent out a dishonest flier attacking Obama on guns, which is just one way she is repeating the same dishonest tactics employed in her unsuccessful 2008 campaign.

Sanders responded early in the debate to Clinton’s distortions of his record:

Well, I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. I was in 1988, there were three candidates running for congress in the state of Vermont, I stood up to the gun lobby and came out and maintained the position that in this country we should not be selling military style assault weapons.

I have supported from day one and instant background check to make certain that people who should have guns do not have guns. And that includes people of criminal backgrounds, people who are mentally unstable. I support what President Obama is doing in terms of trying to close the gun show loop holes and I think it should be a federal crime if people act as dormant.

Clinton was confronted with her distortions of Sanders’ position on health care by Andrea Mitchell, who asked:

Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders favors what he calls “Medicare for all.” Now, you said that what he is proposing would tear up Obamacare and replace it.

Secretary Clinton, is it fair to say to say that Bernie Sanders wants to kill Obamacare?

Clinton evaded the question and Sanders responded:

SANDERS: Secretary — Secretary Clinton didn’t answer your question.

Because what her campaign was saying — Bernie Sanders, who has fought for universal health care for my entire life, he wants to end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the children’s health insurance program. That is nonsense.

What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman and child as a right. Now, the truth is, that Frank Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, do you know what they believed in? They believed that health care should be available to all of our people.

I’m on the committee that wrote the Affordable Care Act. I made the Affordable Care Act along with Jim Clyburn a better piece of legislation. I voted for it, but right now, what we have to deal with is the fact that 29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, getting ripped off.

And here’s the important point, we are spending far more per person on health care than the people of any other country. My proposal, provide health care to all people, get private insurance out of health insurance, lower the cost of health care for middle class families by 5,000 bucks.

That’s the vision we need to take.

Sanders continued to discuss the limitations to Obamacare such as “the 29 million still have no health insurance, that even more are underinsured with huge copayments and deductibles.” He describing his plan as building upon Obamacare, not tearing it up.

In other highlights of the debate, Sanders had a strong response to abuse of police powers:

“I believe there’s a huge conflict of interest when local prosecutors investigate cases of police violence within their communities. Most recently, we saw this with a non- indictment of the officers involved in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. How would you presidency ensure incidents of police violence are investigated and prosecuted fairly?”

SANDERS: Absolutely. This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved. Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.

Second of all, and I speak as a mayor who worked very closely and well with police officers, the vast majority of whom are honest, hard- working people trying to do a difficult job, but let us be clear.

If a police officer breaks the law, like any public official, that officer must be held accountable.

And thirdly, we have got to de-militarize our police departments so they don’t look like occupying armies. We’ve got to move toward community policing.

And fourthly, we have got to make our police departments look like the communities they serve in their diversity.

In another of her distortions of Sanders’ record Clinton claimed, “He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.” Sanders had entertained in principle having a primary challenge to Obama from the left in response to questions, but he never sought to have someone run, and he campaigned for Obama when he ran for reelection. Sanders responded by highlighting one of Clinton’s major weaknesses:

SANDERS: Set the record right. In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.

But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street. I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families…

Throughout the debate Clinton also tried to present herself as the next Barack Obama, speaking of him as Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan. Of course Clinton is far to the right of Obama on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and separation of church and state. She is also counting on viewers failing to recall how often she has attacked Obama from the right on foreign policy since she left the State Department.

Sanders was once again declared the winner of the debate by large majorities in the non-scientific on line polls. Pundits differed but most seemed to agree that Sanders beat Clinton. Examples include Chris Cillizza and John Podhoretz.

The debate received more attention than the previous ones, and there was a lot of interest in the candidates as measured by Google searches. Google even listed the top trending questions for each candidate, and the results were fascinating:

Top Trending Questions on Hillary Clinton
1 Will Hillary Clinton get prosecuted?
2 Will Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
3 What did Hillary Clinton do that is illegal?
4 Where did Hillary Clinton grow up?
5 Is Hillary Clinton a Democrat?
The first and third should serve as a warning of what is to come should Clinton be the nominee. Some background information on those can be found here. The FBI is still investigating and we do not know if Clinton will be prosecuted, but she did commit enough ethical violations and violations of government policy that it is a disgrace that the Democratic Party would consider nominating her for President. The fifth depends upon whether you really consider a DLC type Democrat who has spent her career undermining liberal values to truly be a Democrat.
The questions on the other candidates:
Top Trending Questions on Bernie Sanders
1 Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?
2 Can Bernie Sanders win?
3 How old is Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders?
4 What religion is Bernie Sanders?
5 What are Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues?
Top Trending Questions on Martin O’Malley
1 Why is Martin O’Malley running for President?
2 Martin O’Malley was Governor of which state?
3 Is Martin O’Malley still running for President?
4 What does Martin O’Malley think about Obamacare?
5 What does Martin O’Malley do?
The questions about Sanders are far more typical of questions about a candidate people are thinking of voting for.