A.B. Stoddard: Why the Clinton-Sanders race isn't over yet

A.B. Stoddard: Why the Clinton-Sanders race isn't over yet

After a great victory for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president Trump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE in the Empire State on Tuesday, her presidential campaign is outwardly clinging to the comforting talk of math and how impossible it is for Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns Sanders: Police departments that violate civil rights should lose federal funding MORE to capture the Democratic nomination. 

But inside the Clinton campaign, everyone knows that just because Sanders no longer has a path doesn’t mean their candidate no longer has a problem.

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Not only is Sanders now nearly tied with Clinton in national polling, having wiped out what last fall was more than a 30-point lead, the former secretary of State’s favorability has fallen with most groups and frankly is awful. 

Clinton’s favorability with white voters is worse than President Obama’s ever was, and her favorability with African-American voters is at its lowest ever, according to Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster who conducted the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll with Democratic pollster Peter Hart. Thanks to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE, who is more toxic and remains the focus of most election coverage, Clinton’s email scandal and electoral vulnerabilities continue to be obscured. McInturff told The Washington Post: “Her terrible numbers for months have been masked because we have the one candidate in modern history who has worse numbers ... her numbers have gone from terrible to historic to disqualifying.”

Clinton’s problem with Democrats could become worse as she gets closer to the nomination, depending on Sanders, who has promised to campaign all the way to the convention in Philadelphia at the end of July. While the Vermont Independent has refused to go after Clinton’s greatest liability — her use of a private server at State is under investigation by the FBI — he has recently openly questioned her judgment and continues to assail the enormous speaking fees she accepted from Wall Street interests. 

On Monday the Sanders campaign questioned “serious apparent violations” of campaign finance laws by the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising effort between the Clinton
campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 32 state parties. The fund, which raised $33 million from January through the end of March, attracted $5 million in donations from 14 wealthy donors alone. More money has been funneled to the Clinton campaign than to the DNC or the state parties. Brad Deutsch, attorney for the Sanders campaign, in a letter to the DNC cited “extremely large-dollar individual contributions” to the Hillary Victory Fund that funded direct mail efforts and online advertising, spending that helps Clinton’s campaign “by generating low-dollar contributions that flow only to [Hillary for America] rather than to the DNC or any of the participating state party committees.”

The Hillary Victory Fund may be legal, and two Republican campaign finance law experts have confirmed that it is. But her efforts to raise big-dollar money for a fund that appears to help Democrats nationally but helps her the most just smells bad — particularly to Sanders supporters. 

Clinton will now pivot toward a race against Trump, whose match-up numbers against her in the general election are ghastly, placing even Mississippi in play for her. But she can’t count on it yet. 

Sanders has said he will endorse her should she become the Democratic nominee. But how? And when? 

After dragging her own campaign against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed The millions of young people forgotten amid pandemic response Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE out long after knowing she would lose in the 2008 cycle, Clinton came around to unite the party behind him. But she still had presidential ambitions. For her own interests she had to campaign hard for Obama. Sanders won’t be running again.

Between now and his departure from the race, Sanders will either fight for a cause or fight to win the Democratic nomination by trying to change the minds of the superdelegates aligned with Clinton. He will do either by campaigning against a rigged economy and political system and by contrasting himself with a candidate he believes has relied on corporate money to get elected. 

Both sound like problems for Clinton.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.