Clinton insiders are frightened of the challenge that Bernie Sanders could present, and the damage that he could do to her candidacy with Democratic activists.
According to Politico:
But the moments of contrast and friction between Clinton and her Democratic opponents will be what help to define her as a candidate. Sanders — a clearly defined politician who can tap into a vein of anger in the Democratic Party over hedge funds and big banks in the wake of the financial crisis — is more likely to push her on policy than O’Malley, who so far has played it safe, strategists said.
Insiders familiar with the Clinton campaign’s thinking described it as “frightened” of Sanders — not that he would win the nomination, but that he could damage her with the activist base by challenging her on core progressive positions in debates and make her look like a centrist or corporatist. The source described the campaign as “pleased,” at least, that O’Malley and Sanders will split the anti-Clinton vote. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.
Clinton’s camp, so far, seems attuned to the need to avoid alienating Sanders’ constituency. After Sanders announced his presidential campaign last month, Clinton tweeted: “I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”
Hillary Clinton knows first hand the damage that can come from a primary opponent who gets a movement behind him. Bernie Sanders wants to win the Democratic nomination, but he is also out to build a political movement that will take back the country’s politics from the billionaires and corporations.
It isn’t Sanders himself, but the potential of this movement that should frighten the Clinton campaign. After watching the Republican voters push their nominee too far to the right in previous primaries, the Clinton camp has an understandable fear that Sanders could have the same impact on the Democratic contest in 2016.
There is a level of respect and like between Sanders and Clinton that will prevent this contest from getting nasty, but a campaign that is focused on ideas is going to keep Hillary Clinton conscious of the Democratic base. Being challenged in the primary will also help to make her a better candidate for November.
For Democrats who believe that a contested primary will help Hillary Clinton, the candidacy of Bernie Sanders is doing exactly what was wanted. Hillary Clinton is the best candidate in either party, and she is getting better thanks to the challenge being presented to her by a 73-year-old senator from Vermont.