Sanders Trying to Beat Warren in Massachusetts Isn’t Disrespectful

He's campaigning in her home state and Amy Klobuchar's, too. And may win both.

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh offers a bizarre argument:

Let’s call Bernie Sanders latest campaign move exactly what it is:
Shabby, Bernie, shabby.

As he pursues the nomination of a party he hasn’t even deigned to join over the long term, Sanders is coming to Elizabeth Warren’s home state for two pre-Super Tuesday stops — Springfield on Friday, Boston on Saturday — in the hope of dealing her a campaign-ending defeat. He’ll be in Minnesota on Monday, with the same goal regarding Amy Klobuchar.

Working to defeat one’s opponents is the entire point of a political campaign. How is it shabby?

Warren’s campaign is already facing tough times, while Sanders is ascendent among the progressive voters the two are vying for. Leading in both California and Texas, he is expected to rack up some big victories on Super Tuesday, while Warren will likely be left to try to put a shine on more discouraging results.

Right. Presumably, she can read the poll numbers, too. Why not drop out now, as Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and several other equally-qualified candidates have done once they realized they couldn’t win?

But that’s just another reason why his raid behind her political lines is an affront to his Senate colleague, supposed friend, and left-wing ally. Any advantage he gains would come at the cost of her dignity.

After all, it’s not just that a loss in her home state would likely mark the end of Warren’s presidential hopes. It would also visit a major humiliation upon her in the process.

So . . . he’s supposed to give her a pity win by conceding her home state? Again, if you can’t win your home state primary, you shouldn’t be running for President.*

Sanders, however, is perfectly willing to do that to a fellow progressive senator, one who has been so gentle in her campaign criticism of him that their left-lane rivalry has barely risen to the level of a political pillow fight. That despite the endless targets of opportunity his record presents.

“It is very disrespectful and disappointing that after so many years of collaboration, he would come in to try to embarrass Elizabeth in her own state,” says Phil Johnston, former chairman of the state Democratic Party and a Warren supporter.

There’s an argument to be made that Sanders shouldn’t campaign in Massachusetts or Minnesota to preserve the dignity of Warren and Klobuchar in order to gain their support in a contested convention. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll support him. Further, given that his odds of achieving a majority of pledged delegates are long, he can’t afford to concede any state and, indeed, needs to run up his margin wherever he can.

It’s simply nonsense that Sanders owes Warren anything here. He was the 2016 runner-up and she sat that race out despite the urging of many to run. He’s built up a huge base of enthusiastic supporters and she, well, has not.

I prefer Warren to Sanders by a country mile. But, for whatever reason, she hasn’t managed to catch on with the nominating electorate despite high name recognition and several strong debate performances.

Her only path to the nomination is to take it away from Sanders, who is almost certain to have a plurality of pledged delegates, at the convention. Being humiliated with a home-state loss would make that more difficult.

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*Yes, Donald Trump won the White House despite getting trounced in New York. But he’s a Republican and New York hasn’t voted for a Republican Presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election. Indeed, it was one of a handful of states that voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988. Similarly, Al Gore famously lost Tennessee, which both he and his father had represented in the Senate, in 2000.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    This is a little odd, coming from Lehigh. He’s been pretty critical of Warren’s health care plan and other policy positions. Maybe it’s a question of rooting for the home team now that an outsider is threatening the home teams’ chances at a win.

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  2. Kathy says:

    I agree. It’s like criticizing a team that dares play their best to try to defeat the home team at their home stadium.

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  3. Polimom says:

    “…[She] has been so gentle in her campaign criticism of him that their left-lane rivalry has barely risen to the level of a political pillow fight.”

    She’s been gentle, so he should… what? Be the gentleman? That could possibly be the first time I’ve seen an actual misogynistic approach to her candidacy.

    That column is sheer idiocy.

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  4. CSK says:

    @Polimom:
    I think Lehigh is just annoyed that Sanders would have the temerity to challenge Warren on her own turf. Otherwise, Warren doesn’t appear to be Lehigh’s top choice. But Massachusetts is weird that way. We can criticize our pols, but no one else can.

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  5. An Interested Party says:

    That could possibly be the first time I’ve seen an actual misogynistic approach to her candidacy.

    Really? You’ve seen no misogyny directed towards her campaign yet? Ooookay…

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  6. Polimom says:

    Really? You’ve seen no misogyny directed towards her campaign yet? Ooookay…

    Fair to say that I’m not following every reaction to every statement she’s made, so it’s certainly possible there’s been some. But me saying it’s the first time I’ve seen it hardly strikes me as an eyebrow-raising provocation.