Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won big over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on March 22 in the key delegate state of Arizona. She maintains a vast lead over Sanders in both pledged delegates and "superdelegates," even as Sanders has won 11 out of the 29 primary contests so far.
Since Super Tuesday (March 1), Clinton seems to have been slowly starting to make a pivot to the general election. She has been all but formally endorsed by President Barack Obama and has started attacking Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
While the Democrats will need to focus their attention on the Republicans in the very near future, the Clinton campaign -- and the Democratic establishment in general -- is making a big mistake by not first trying to solidify the support of Sanders followers.
Although Clinton won in Arizona, the eventual result -- 57.6 percent to Sanders' 39.9 percent -- was closer than analysts had imagined it would be and left Sanders gaining 26 delegates from the state, The New York Times reports. In combination with Sanders' absolutely crushing victories over Clinton in the low-population states of Utah and Idaho, the March 22 contests were the first time since Sanders' victory in New Hampshire in February that Sanders' pledged delegate count exceeded Clinton's -- 67 to Clinton's 51, to be exact.
Furthermore, Sanders' upending of the traditional campaign finance model means that Sanders has a real chance of being highly competitive in big-delegate states like Pennsylvania and New York. Sanders has raised more money than Clinton in February and March, highlighting the strength of support from small donors, Vox reports.
His campaign has shown that with the right message, a candidate can seriously compete outside of traditional campaign finance models, and this strategy allows Sanders to spend more time rallying the masses instead of trying to convince well-to-do donors to support him.
There is no doubt that Sanders' anti-establishment message has resonated with many across the U.S. and for Clinton to brush that off would be a mistake. It is clear that both Clinton and the Democratic establishment in general are extremely -- if not totally -- resistant to Sanders' progressive, "idealistic" proposals. But she is going to need the votes of people who have supported Sanders' proposals to win the White House and thus will have to learn to also court the liberal vote -- no easy feat for the centrist Democrat.
According to a new CNN/ORC national poll, Sanders has 44 percent support while Clinton has 51 percent support, a narrower margin than a February poll which had Clinton at 55 percent to Sanders' 38 percent, Talking Points Memo reports.
There is no doubt that Clinton is most likely going to be the Democratic presidential nominee, as it is more or less mathematically impossible for her not to be at this point. But by shifting her attention toward the general election and her Republican rivals, Clinton's campaign creates the perception that the battle of ideas within the Democratic Party is over and done with, despite a highly competitive insurgent campaign which is still biting at Clinton's heels.
Clinton's campaign will be in a stronger position to attack the eventual GOP nominee once the internal battle within the Democratic Party is over, and she gains the support of the folks currently falling in line behind Sanders.