It started out sounding a lot like another Bernie Sanders campaign rally, as the Vermont senator recalled his string of 22 Democratic primary and caucus victories over Hillary Clinton, the 13 million Democrats and independents who rallied to his side and the “political revolution” he sought to stoke to crack down on the excesses of Wall Street and provide adequate health care, education and other services to the middle class and working families.
“Together, we have begun a political revolution to transform America,” Sanders declared. “Together, we will continue to fight for a government that represents all of us, and not just the top one percent.”
After 30 minutes or so, Sanders finished his stem-winder and finally delivered a full-throated embrace of Clinton and vowed to help Clinton defeat billionaire Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
It was their first joint post-primary campaign appearance in New Hampshire – an important battleground state that Sanders easily carried over Clinton during their hard-fought Democratic primary campaign.
Although it’s far from clear that even with Sanders now on board that the former secretary of state can count on the vast majority of his supporters to help her take on the formidable and combative Trump this fall. Some surveys suggest that more than half of the party’s liberal wing already supports Clinton for president, and that others are sure to follow.
However, a new poll from The Associated Press and University of Chicago indicates that Clinton will have a tough time of it attracting young voters who flocked to Sanders’s campaign during the primary season. In a matchup against Trump among voters 18 to 30 years old, Clinton leads, 38 percent to 17 percent. Yet 45 percent of those young people said they were undecided, might not vote or may end up voting for someone else.
Some of the young people who turned out for today’s campaign event held up Sanders campaign signs and booed when Sanders voiced his unconditional support for Clinton.
Clinton has been helped in the past month by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a darling of Democratic liberals, and a possible running mate for Clinton, who has vigorously campaigned for her since the windup to the primary season. A new Morning Consult poll out today found that 21 percent of registered Democrats say they would be more inclined to support Clinton if Warren were on the ticket, a better showing than the half-dozen other would-be running mates.
Yet even with Warren as a highly effective cheer leader, Clinton has aggressively sought Sanders’s formal political blessing to avoid the possibility of a nasty floor fight over the platform – or even the nomination itself -- at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month.
“All I can say for sure is that the Sanders endorsement helps Hillary, since party unity is important,” Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, wrote in an email. “But how much? There are lots of Sanders die-hards who say vigorously that they will never vote for Clinton. Still, I expect over 80 percent of Sanders voters to go with Clinton eventually.”
At the peak of the Democratic primary battle, Sanders called Clinton a tool of Wall Street and a flawed strategic thinker on foreign policy and defense issues. He frequently criticized her 2002 Senate vote in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Clinton, for her part, criticized Sanders as a political dreamer pressing for politically implausible and costly proposals, including a national health system to replace Obamacare, free tuition for all students at publicly-financed colleges and universities, massive new infrastructure spending, and a $15 an hour minimum wage. She was especially critical of Sanders’s proposed single-payer, “Medicare for all” heath care plan.
Even after Clinton wrapped up the nomination in early June after scoring major victories in New York and California, Sanders and his top advisers vowed to carry their campaign all the way to the national convention. There they hoped to put a major stamp on the party’s platform and somehow convince hundreds of unbound “super delegates” to shift their allegiance from Clinton to Sanders to give him the presidential nomination.
But since then, Clinton has relentlessly attempted to court Sanders and his 13 million Democratic supporters, largely by dramatically shifting her stands on many of the key issues that divided the two rivals during the primary campaign. Sanders was determined to transform the Democratic platform into a progressive preamble to a legislative agenda for the coming years.
The turning point reportedly came at a closed-door meeting between Clinton and Sanders at the Capitol Hilton hotel in Washington on the night of the final Democratic primary contest in the District of Columbia. Since then, Clinton’s forces have repeatedly bowed to Sanders’s demands for policy changes.
For instance, Sanders had rallied young people with the promise of making tuition free for everyone who attended a publicly supported college or university – something Clinton dismissed as fiscally impractical and that would allow even billionaire Trump’s children and grandchildren to attend school for free.
Clinton backed down somewhat recently by unveiling a counter proposal that would provide free instate tuition at public colleges to families making up to $125,000 a year. She also backed down from her opposition to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, provided it was gradually raised.
And last weekend, with speculation bubbling that Sanders was about to endorse her, Clinton announced additional concessions on health care policy more in line with Sanders’s call for universal health care or “Medicare for all.” She affirmed her support for allowing people 55 and older to buy into Medicare coverage, which was designed for seniors 65 and older.
She also said she would allow states to offer government-operated health plans under Obamacare – the “public options” which she initially pushed during her first bid for president in 2008. And she said she would seek to expand federal funding by $40 billion over the coming decade for community-based centers that provide primary health care services – which have long been one of Sanders’s pet programs.
The frequently grumpy looking Sanders could barely contain his glee today as he listed scores of proposals and policies he promoted during the primary campaign that are now part of the Clinton agenda. He boasted that the Democratic platform that will be approved in Philadelphia is the “most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic party.”
“Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratically controlled Senate, a Democratically controlled House and a Hillary Clinton presidency,” he told the now roaring crowd. “And I have plans to be in every corner of this country to be certain that happens.”
Clinton gushed as Sanders praised her long career as an advocate of health care reform and a “fierce advocate for our children. While he once publicly questioned her judgement as a policy maker, Sanders now said that: “I know her and all of you know her as one of the most intelligent people that we have ever met. Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand with her today.”
When it was her turn to talk, a beaming Clinton declared: “I have to say it is such a great privilege to be here with Sen. Sanders. Being here with him in New Hampshire, I can’t help but reflect how much more enjoyable this election is going to be now that we are on the same side.”