- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2016

At the party nominating convention in 2008, Hillary Clinton thought she had set a gracious example for future Democrats — but eight years later, there’s no sign that Sen. Bernard Sanders will follow the same playbook and step aside without a fight.

Mrs. Clinton is gently trying to nudge Mr. Sanders toward the door, publicly reminding him that she ended her White House bid after the primary season ended and, for the sake of Democratic unity, avoided a messy brawl on the convention floor that could have split the party. She did so despite being much closer to then-Sen. Barack Obama in the delegate race than Mr. Sanders is today.

“I went all the way to the end against then-Senator Obama. I won nine out of the last 12 contests back in ‘08. I won Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia. I know the intense feelings that arise particularly among your supporters as you go toward the end,” she told CNN. “It was really close, much closer than it is between me and Sen. Sanders, votewise and delegatewise. Sen. Sanders has to do his part. That’s why the lesson of 2008 is so pertinent here. Because I did my part, but so did Sen. Obama. He made it clear that he welcomes people who had supported me.”

Unlike Mr. Sanders‘ promise of a contested convention and behind-the-scenes efforts to sway superdelegates to his side, Mrs. Clinton not only didn’t cause a stir at the 2008 convention, she practically rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Obama.

The former first lady interrupted the usual convention roll call and released her delegates to Mr. Obama before taking to the stage and calling for Democrats to “declare all together with one voice right here and right now that Barack Obama is our candidate, and he will be our president.”

For Mrs. Clinton, it was an unexpected, unconditional surrender. She had gone into the 2008 primary season the predominant front-runner, and most political observers expected her to represent the party in November.

Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, came into this cycle as a long-shot candidate with little name recognition. Many political pundits dismissed him as nothing more than a message candidate aiming to pull the Democratic Party platform to the left on issues such as climate change, Wall Street reform and health care.

Yet the Vermont senator — who has defied expectations with his success in primaries and caucuses, his jampacked rallies and impressive fundraising prowess — has given no indication he’ll pack it in before the July convention in Philadelphia. And what’s worse for many Democratic Party leaders is the fear that Sanders supporters may disrupt the proceedings, just as they did at last week’s Nevada state convention.

Mr. Sanders repeatedly has decried violence, but specialists say he’s going a much different route than Mrs. Clinton did in 2008. The senator’s campaign repeatedly has railed against the Democratic Party establishment and has indicated he believes the system is rigged in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

That narrative, some specialists say, will make it much more difficult for the Sanders and Clinton camps to come together.

“He’s making a really salacious argument: He’s behind by about 3 million votes, he’s still about 300 pledged delegates behind, and so I don’t really understand why he’s arguing he should be winning,” said Lara Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies the evolution of political parties. “There’s no part of his argument that can really hold up to scrutiny. It holds up to the kind of place we are in right now, where people are irrationally angry about a system they don’t actually understand — and haven’t taken the time to learn.”

At the end of the 2008 primary, Mr. Obama had 2,229.5 delegates to Mrs. Clinton’s 1,896.5. Of those, Mr. Obama had the support of 463 superdelegates and had won 1,766.5 pledged delegates.

Mrs. Clinton had the backing of 257 superdelegates and had won 1,639.5 delegates in primaries and caucuses.

As of Friday, Mr. Sanders is much further behind. Among pledged delegates, Mrs. Clinton leads 1,768 to 1,494, and 525 to 39 among superdelegates.

In total, Mr. Sanders trails by 706 delegates — a much greater deficit than Mrs. Clinton ever faced in 2008.

But the senator argues that things could change in the coming weeks. He’s making a hard play for California, where Democrats will vote June 7 in a contest with a whopping 548 delegates.

Of those 548 delegates, 475 will be awarded through voting. The other 73 are superdelegates, and of those, 61 already have come out in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

Despite his deep hole, there’s no doubt Mr. Sanders has at least some momentum. He won the Oregon primary last week and the West Virginia contest the week before, and his campaign believes it has a real shot to win the California primary on June 7. The campaign rejects Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that the race is over.

“In the past three weeks voters in Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon respectfully disagreed with Secretary Clinton,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. “We expect voters in the remaining nine contests also will disagree. And with almost every national and state poll showing Sen. Sanders doing much, much better than Secretary Clinton against Donald Trump, it is clear that millions of Americans have growing doubts about the Clinton campaign.”

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