The Real Reason Behind Clinton’s California Debate Snub

By | 5/26/2016 7 comments

This week Hillary Clinton declined to debate Senator Sanders prior to the California primary and in doing so reneged on her pledge to hold three additional debates as the race progressed: one in March, one in April and one in May.

This was originally part of a deal struck earlier in the year after Sanders agreed to her request for a late-scheduled debate in New Hampshire. Trailing in that primary’s polls, she clearly felt that contrasting herself to Sanders in a televised debate in front of the Granite State’s voters would be a boon for her chances. Instead it was a bust. In a state that Clinton had won eight years earlier, Sanders walloped her in the final tally with over 60% of the vote versus a humiliating 38% for the former Secretary of State.

But with Clinton leading now in both pledged delegates and superdelegates, why would she opt for the negative press of having broken her word when she could simply participate in one final debate?

The reason – or reasons; there are actually two – are quite simple:

1: Optics

For months now she has wanted to project the image of being her party’s presumptive nominee, yet time after time she has had to face defeat in primaries and caucuses across the country. Sanders’ victories have revealed glaring weaknesses in her campaign and sown doubts in her own party about her chances in the general election.

Debating her opponent in late May, heading into June, would only shine more light on the fact that she is still in a primary fight and has yet to amass the number of pledged delegates that would enable her to seal the deal before the July convention.

Better to face accusations of having weaseled out on a deal than to underscore her shortcomings.

2: Exposure

For quite some time Clinton has enjoyed a healthy lead in the polls in California, a state that she won by a comfortable margin in 2008, and so probably saw no reason to worry. But in recent weeks that lead has narrowed considerably, with the most recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California showing a statistical tie.

Once again, instead of building on her lead in a contested state, she has watched it dwindle. And the reason for that is quite simply exposure.

In this race we’ve repeatedly seen that when granted greater exposure, Sanders’ message has resonated strongly with large numbers of the electorate, compelling them to reassess their voting intentions – a prime example being his astonishing win in Michigan, where he’d trailed Clinton by 20 points just weeks before polling day.

It’s fair to say that barring the odd troglodyte there isn’t anyone who doesn’t know who Hillary Clinton is – like her or hate her, she’s been ingrained in the country’s political psyche for a quarter of a century. But for a great majority of people, Bernie Sanders was a relative unknown prior to this election. And while many may harbor doubts about Clinton’s trustworthiness and integrity, she is nevertheless a known quantity. It’s human nature to place more faith in the known and to be suspicious or wary of the unknown – and many didn’t know Bernie Sanders.

She’d prefer to keep it that way.

The upshot:

While she’s built her campaign around the message of modest, incremental change along with her ability to “get things done,” she’s simultaneously derided Sanders' far more ambitious proposals as mere “pie-in-the-sky.” But unfortunately for her, the more that voters are informed of just what that pie is all about, the more they appear to want a piece of it.

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  1. Exposure, the 1 thing the media has refused to give him.

  2. Exactly right, Marco. They've sidelined him at every turn.

  3. Good article bud. If you ever want me to read these articles on air of yours I would be happy to. Great news and commentary! Wow.

  4. Good article bud. If you ever want me to read these articles on air of yours I would be happy to. Great news and commentary! Wow.

  5. Thank you very much, Joseph - I truly appreciate the positive feedback. And as for your offer, I'm totally up for it.

  6. Oh, it's really not as complicated as all that... Clinton simply has nothing to gain and everything to lose by debating Sanders.

  7. There might be reasons why she doesn't want to debate Sanders. But the candidate for president of the United States did make a promise and should try to keep her promise - unless she really doesn't care about keeping her promises. Then my question to her supporters would be: what about her platform can you believe she'll keep? She's no better than Trump in changing her position to reflect her agenda.