Five things keeping Team Clinton on edge

Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton thanks protesters ahead of women’s march Pro-choice feminists can't take women's rights hostage Thousands expected for women's march Saturday MORE’s presidential campaign insists it is just a month away from locking up the Democratic nomination despite weekend wins in three states by rival Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders supports women marchers with tweet Five takeaways from Trump's inauguration Trump takes reins of divided nation MORE.

Sanders defeated Clinton in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, but Team Clinton retains a delegate lead it sees as insurmountable.

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After contests on April 26 in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, “there just simply is not enough real estate left for Sen. Sanders to close the commanding lead that we’ve built,” Clinton strategist Joel Benenson told reporters on a Monday conference call.

Still, the Sanders campaign has vowed to fight on through July, and the Independent senator now argues that superdelegates — party officials with votes at the convention — who are now aligned with Clinton can be convinced to change sides.

And while the Clinton team is publicly confident, there are concerns behind the scenes.

Here are five things keeping Team Clinton awake at night. 

 

The Democratic race extends until July

Clinton’s campaign desperately wants to focus on the general election, and indeed the effort has already started.

The last thing Clinton wants to spend time doing now is to continue a fight with the left wing of her party over Sanders through the end of June, when the Democratic primaries end.

A long fight with Sanders limits her ability to shape how voters see GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWashington Post reporter compares DC rioters to Boston Tea Party Women's march reaches Antarctica Steinem: If Trump creates Muslim registry, we'll all register MORE early on and delays efforts to unify Democrats.

“Building a general election operation and a national campaign to win for the fall is going to take some time,” a former Clinton aide said. “Building contrasts and narrative needs to start now if we’re going to be successful.

“And every day that Bernie Sanders continues attacking Hillary is a missed opportunity for the Democratic Party,” the former aide added. “It has ramifications up and down the ballot.”

 

Money, money, money

The longer Sanders stays in the race, the more money the Clinton campaign has to shell out.

And the cash is adding up, particularly in New York, with its high ad prices, ahead of the April 19 primary.

Clinton has to win big in New York. She represented the state in the Senate for eight years, and a defeat to Sanders would be a humiliation.

The Brooklyn-born Sanders, however, has vowed to fight for victory in New York, where progressive voters could come over to his message.

Clinton is betting that African-American and Hispanic votes, along with her deep connections in the state, will deliver her a victory. But it could be an expensive fight.

The onetime Clinton aide said the New York market “ain’t cheap” and that the Sanders push will force Team Clinton to burn through money “unnecessarily.”

“[It’s] the equivalent of lighting it on fire,” the former aide said, adding that there is “no general election benefit” to spending that money in the deep-blue state. 

New York is seen as a safe state for Democrats in November, unlike Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Virginia, where spending money on the primary could help in the general. 

“There is no general election benefit to that unlike in other swing states where the ads could be a prelude to the general,” the aide said.

 

It will be hard to unify Democrats, and the convention will be messy

Democrats relish a chance to go into the general election unified behind a candidate, especially with signs that Republicans could hold a brokered convention and go into the fall divided.

For the most part, Clinton and Sanders have fought nicely. Their advisers often talk of the respect they hold for their opponents, and most observers expect that if Sanders loses, he will back the nominee in the fall.

“He’s already succeeded in pushing her to the left of where she wants to be,” said Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. 

“I don’t think there’s anything to suggest he wouldn’t back her, because who would the alternative be?” Reeher added.

At the same time, a drawn-out process risks poisoning the well for supporters.

On Monday night, actress Susan Sarandon made headlines by suggesting she won’t back Clinton if Sanders loses the primary fight.

“I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens,” Sarandon told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

Sarandon added that Sanders will likely “encourage” his supporters to vote for Clinton, “but I think a lot of people are ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’ ”

She went on to argue that a victory in the general election by Trump would make the “revolution” more likely.

Team Clinton is worried about uniting the left.

“Sure, we’re worried about it,” one Clinton adviser said. “But I think Sanders wants to have a legacy, too.”

 

The FBI and email controversy 

Clinton allies acknowledge that the story behind the former secretary of State’s email has been the toughest obstacle in their campaign.

Polls suggest Clinton’s greatest weakness with voters is that they don’t trust her. And the story about the private email server she used as secretary of State isn’t going away.

News stories this week suggested the FBI is moving closer to interviewing top Clinton aides, and perhaps the candidate herself.

Still, even if the FBI doesn’t bring charges against Clinton, Democratic strategist Jim Manley predicts Republicans will use the issue against her in November.

And there’s always the risk that FBI Director James Comey pulls a surprise. 

 

An ugly general election

The primary fight between Trump and Ted CruzTed CruzTrump's America: Businessmen in, bureaucrats out When Trump says 'Make America Great Again,' he means it Booker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals MORE has had casualties on both sides.

Last week, it hit a new low, as the two Republican candidates and their supporters pulled their wives into the battle.

The Clintons know they’ll be the target in the fall. They got their first taste of it after Trump said former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonClinton thanks protesters ahead of women’s march Trump takes office in tough place, but approval ratings do change The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch MORE had a “terrible record of women abuse” and invoking the Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones scandals.

Polls show Clinton has an advantage over Trump with female voters, and attacks on her marriage — and the former president’s private life — could backfire.

At the same time, it’s a fight no one could possibly look forward to. 

Manley and others said the Clintons have to be ready for the onslaught.

“I don’t want to be sanguine. You know it’s coming, so you have to prepare yourself accordingly for it,” Manley said.