Hillary Clinton scoffed at the idea of a Trump-Sanders debate. "I don't think it's going to happen," she said. "You know, I know they've gone back and forth on this,and they seem to be saying it's some kind of joke. Trump doesn't sound very serious."
Neither side believes it's a joke, though it's unlikely to occur given that the Republican has little to gain and a lot to lose. Still, Clinton was taken aback by the proposal, unsurprising because three weeks ago in Los Angeles
Clinton appeared to come just shy of flat-out telling the Vermont senator -- who has vowed to stay in the race through the convention in July -- it’s time for him to bow out. (If not that, though, she at the very least made the argument for why she believes he should strongly consider it.)
“I am three million plus votes ahead of Sen. Sanders, right? I am nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sen. Sanders. When I was running against then-Sen. Obama, he and I were neck and neck in the popular vote. Depending on how you counted it, I was a little ahead or he was a little ahead. He was about 60 or so pledged delegates ahead. A much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race," Clinton told a group of black community leaders this morning, just one day after it became clear Donald Trump will be the likely Republican presidential nominee.
It wouldn't be surprising if Clinton were a little envious of Donald Trump, who was fortunate to have had an opponent as accomodating as Senator Ted Cruz. The relevant comparison here is 49 and 68 vs. 77.
When Senator Clinton ran against Senator Obama in 2008, whe was a mere 60 years old and knew, if she bowed out gracefully, she would be able to run in 2016, when she would be 68 years old. Appointment to a major foreign policy position in an Obama Administration would pave the way, help smooth the path to the nomination in 2016, for which she would be the odds-on favorite. Ted Cruz is now only 45 years old and in four years will be merely 49 years old. And it is likely, if the Democrat wins the presidency this year or a President Trump has a rocky four years, Cruz will be back in 2020.
The Texan dropped out of the Republican race promptly after losing the Indiana primary but while his organization, far superior to that of Trump, was routing the demagogue in the tough slog for delegates at state and national conventions. Nonetheless, having earlier been intimidated by Trump's recklessness, he withdrew from the race. In his statement
Cruz repeatedly referenced his idol Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, ending by promising: “There is no substitute for the America we will restore as the shining city on the hill for generations to come,” a reference to Reagan’s farewell address.
Reagan, facing facing difficult odds trying to wrest the nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, broke the mold by naming a vice-presidential running mate, Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania. That didn't help him but he returned in 1980 to win the nomination and go on to victory in the general election. Think of Carly Fiorina as a (far) more nasty version of Schweiker and, as he would like, Ted Cruz as Ronald Reagan.
Although the Texas senator is dedicated to far-right principles and motivated by his conception of "constitutionalism," he also is highly ambitious. Two or three years after serving on the Bush presidential campaign in 2000, Cruz left his wife behind in Washington to return to Austin to become Texas' solicitor general. The Washington Post in March reported
Cruz, now 45, looks back on that decision 13 years ago to leave Washington as an essential part of his rise as a top-tier Republican presidential candidate. The choice bore the Cruz hallmarks: ambition, a willingness to take major risks and confidence that he could pull it off.
Less ambitious, with an unusual focus on policy and principle, and at age 64, Bernie Sanders knows this is his last rodeo. And he's not going to ride off until he is convinced he has lost. That, unfairly or not, is Hillary Clinton's burden.