While most of us in the chattering class have been following the shiny object that is Donald Trump there is an equally compelling story playing out on the left side of the political ledger.
No, I’m not talking about Hillary’s “Servergate” soap opera. I’m referring to the amazing campaign being waged by Bernie Sanders.
Trump has been conducting a very successful national campaign from the comfort of his opulent Trump Tower. If Trump has something to say he simply calls the media outlet of his choice and presto, he reaches millions of voters while lounging in his robe and slippers. Last Sunday Trump appeared via phone interview on every single one of the morning news shows to defend his dustup with Megyn Kelly and to gloat about how powerful FOX NEWS President Roger Ailes called him to make nice.
Trump affords media access like no other candidate. He loves the attention and the media loves covering him even though his media appearances offer little in the way of policy substance. They usually morph into a rambling dialogue of self-conscience. Seldom do they end without including some amount of criticism of his opponents; often referring to them as “stupid” or “stiffs.” And of course no interview is complete without a healthy dose of how great he is and how fortunate we all are to be in his presence.
As ridiculous as it may seem Trump's strategy is working and he continues to lead his primary opponents in every single poll.
While Trump has been conducting a media based campaign from the comfort of his living room, Bernie Sanders has been quietly gaining momentum the old fashion way.
Sanders is out on the stump, knocking on doors, shaking hands and kissing babies. Where Trump is engaging in an air war Sanders is running a very effective ground game that is built for the long haul. The response has been nothing short of incredible.
Sanders draws huge enthusiastic crowds…larger than any other candidate. Sanders’ advanced teams are constantly having to move planned events to larger venues to allow for the enormous interest in “Bernie.” His last four appearances averaged over 25,000 each. Those are enormous numbers this early in the contest.
Once Sanders takes podium he does not disappoint. The self-described Socialist Democrat offers a populist message that is long on specifics and short on rhetoric. Where Trump criticizes his opponents at every turn; Sanders refuses to say a negative word about any of his challengers. There is something very genuine about Bernie Sanders that resonates with the voters.
The results speak for themselves. Sanders has been steadily climbing in the polls to where he has whittled Hillary’s once insurmountable lead to within the margin of error. Yesterday, for the first time a just released Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll has Sanders leading Clinton 44%-37%.
Can either Trump or Sanders sustain their current success? Most pundits think it highly unlikely. Anytime any of the talking heads comments on the incredible success that both of these campaigns are achieving, they always end somewhat smugly with: “But of course Trump/Sanders will never be the nominee.”
Why not? The “experts” ridiculed Reagan and he won. They ridiculed Carter and he did too. No one thought we would elect a black president until Barak Obama came along. Why not Trump. Why not Bernie.
I don’t know if Trump or Sanders can sustain their current run of success over the long haul. What I do know is that they are making this campaign very, very interesting.
For political wonks like me they are manna from heaven.