Clinton, Sanders camps insist they can mend fences

Clinton, Sanders camps insist they can mend fences
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Supporters of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDe Blasio headed to Iowa to speak at political fundraiser Yes, spills happen — but pipelines are still the safest way to move oil Why sexual harassment discussions include lawmakers talking about Bill Clinton’s past MORE insist the two rivals will be able to unify in the fall despite the hard edge their race has taken on in recent weeks.

Sanders flashed some anger onstage during the last Democratic presidential debate when Clinton said he had opposed help for the auto industry, and Clinton increasingly looks irritated by Sanders’s constant accusations that she’s not a true progressive.

Clinton’s sweeping election victories on Tuesday night gave her what looks to be an insurmountable lead over Sanders in the delegate race, but her allies say she’ll need Sanders’s support in the fall to help generate enthusiasm for her campaign.

“We need him badly,” one longtime Clinton ally said of Sanders. “But there can’t be any coalescing until he stops attacking Hillary Clinton. Every day that goes by, he’s drawing a wedge between the campaigns. They’re a long way from mending fences.”

There are no signs yet of Democrats pressuring Sanders to pull his punches, and Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownScott Garrett poses real threat to EXIM Bank, small businesses Class warfare fight erupts over tax bills Senators Hatch, Brown have heated exchange on GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ohio), a Clinton supporter, said Wednesday on CNN that he didn’t think Sanders should end his campaign after his defeats on Tuesday.

Sanders has promised to take the fight all the way to the Democratic National Convention in July, and while Clinton increasingly looks as if she’ll be the nominee, she’s unlikely to reach the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch it for some time.

Democrats only have six contests over the next month, and Clinton can’t easily pull away from Sanders in that time frame. On April 19, the two will square off in New York’s primary, where Sanders is looking for a good showing.

Sanders has also vowed to fight on through June 7, when California holds its primary.

That means Clinton will likely need to put up with barbs from Sanders for months to come. 

“I think the challenge will be how aggressive he wants to get going into the convention,” said one Democratic operative. “I don’t expect it to be smooth between June and the convention. He’s going to try and extract as much of the support [as possible]. His supporters want him to contribute, to be a part of the conversation.”

Democrats point out that while the Clinton-Sanders fight has been a tough one, it’s a peace rally compared to the infighting on the Republican side.

Speaking before results were released Tuesday, Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine said he didn’t think Democrats would have any problem in unifying.

“Whoever wins this process, pulling the Democratic Party together, everyone understands what’s at stake in this election,” Devine said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

He argued that the attacks by Sanders on Clinton were not personal attacks and had no danger of “splintering” the party.

Devine predicted that “there’s not going to be any problem in the end” between the two candidates and said the process “really contrasts with what’s going on in the Republican side.” 

Still, Democrats are clearly worried the Sanders attacks could hurt Clinton in the fall, and some are hoping he tones down his criticism.

“He can make his policy cases in a way that isn’t harming her,” the Clinton ally said. “But I think a lot of people are wondering if [Sanders] will burn down the house or will he get behind Hillary.”

Democrats acknowledge that tensions between both camps are high.

“Obviously in any primary, supporters’ passions grow and campaigns draw contrasts with each other, but it’s important for everyone involved to put those differences aside for the good of the party,” said Eric Jotkoff, who served on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Clinton gave an enthusiastic endorsement of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE at the 2008 Democratic convention despite their bitter primary fight. Months later, Obama picked Clinton as his secretary of State while setting up a Cabinet “team of rivals.”

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, and he might not have the kind of party loyalty that Obama and Clinton had in 2008.

Still, Clinton allies say they expect Sanders will help her in the fall, though one predicted Sanders might not really put his efforts into rallying his supporters until after the convention.

At that point, Clinton and Sanders will face a common foe, most likely Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE, the leading GOP candidate.

“To his credit, he’s made it clear that either himself or Hillary would be better than the alternative,” the Democratic operative said of Sanders. “As much as he’s turned [into] a thornier debater recently, I don’t see him not helping.”

It may be hard for Clinton to win over Sanders supporters, but they could be vital to her success in the fall’s general election.

Mitch Stewart, a Democratic strategist and a veteran of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, said he believes Clinton can eventually unify the party.

“There will be a whole bunch of hubbub about it, but if history is any precedent, they’ll come over,” Stewart said. “Most of Sen. Sanders voters agree with where she is on policies, and they’re going to look to the other side and see where they are.”

Stewart, who helped bring Clintonites over to Obama’s side in 2008, said he expects the Sanders camp will host public events aimed at convincing the senator’s supporters to back Clinton.

In 2008, Obama had to win over older Democratic voters, women and blue-collar workers who backed Clinton.

This year, Clinton will need to win back young people and the blue-collar bloc from Sanders.

“In the 2008 race, there was a very fundamental difference with women and older voters,” the former aide said. “It’s much harder to bring around those people than it is the far left and young people.”

Eric Gross, a 31-year-old music teacher from South Orange, N.J., who supports Sanders, said he could be convinced to vote for Clinton, but he would like “to see her do something significant to show that she’s not on the side of Wall Street,” he said.

Gross said he might vote for Clinton because “I would do anything to not have Trump in power,” he said. “I’d still like to see Sanders win the nomination, but she’s not the worst option.”