THE BLOG
01/24/2016 08:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Date Sanders/Marry Hillary? The Countdown Begins...

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By Mark Green

Matalin-Alter debate the pre-Iowa cage-matches. But while GOP bitterly disagrees who's more loathsome -- Trump (says National Review) or Cruz (says Dole) -- among Dems, it's who's more awesome. Isn't THE variable which Dem likeliest to stop the Far (F)right? Then: Will Flint -- like "Benghazi" -- politically go from a place to a piñata?

On Clinton-Sanders. Is this contest reminiscent of Eugene McCarthy-RFK when liberal Dems for a while had to choose between a poetical idealist leading a "children's crusade," or a tough progressive? Alter notes how relatively civil the Dem contest has been so far and how the Sanders insurgency is likely to get to the convention because he can keep re-soliciting his million-plus small donors to stay in the race. Mary says," I think Sanders = Trump, since both come across as authentic and denounce political BS."

At their debate, NBC's Lester Holt asked the "socialist" question and Sanders replied that party/country needs a 'political revolution' and Hillary took $600k from Goldman. Question: won't a McCarthyite GOP try to smear nominee Sanders as some kind of Communist Horton, and will Democrats understand the goal is to win a possibly national security general election to avoid a President Trump/Cruz?

Alter agrees that the Republicans would try a re-run of the McGovern campaign against Sanders. "But while I think Sanders would beat Cruz and maybe Trump, for now he's tapping into the marrow of Simon & Garfunkel Democrats. It's too early to make the argument that, in fact, she's stronger in the Fall. In any event, Hillary does her best when she's coming back."

Mary partly agrees: "If she argues electability, that's close to 'inevitability,' which is bad... and citing national security raises other problems [like her vote for authorizing the Iraq war]." Then she tries to argue that Bernie might be stronger in a general election, which doesn't persuade co-panelists skeptical why some Republicans seem to be pushing Sanders. Hmmm.

How about Hillary playing the Obama card again and again in the last debate? Jonathan agrees that's a smart play to motivate African-Americans to stick with her in later primaries "but her real problem is something I said at the time was profoundly stupid -- taking large fees from investment banks."

Last: As John Heileman argues on "With All Due Respect" -- if Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire and overwhelms the "fire wall" of South Carolina -- could that spur a panic among Dems and create an opening for a Biden, Warren, Kerry? Mary doubts it because Hillary is scooping up "super-delegates" who are still likely to make the difference. Jonathan agrees that it's probably too late for anyone like that to jump into the contest, BUT if she shows such weakness, it's not inconceivable that a Convention could considers such a big move.

Host: Q: What's the chance that a person named Clinton would quit to open this door? A. Between zero and no way.

On Trump-Cruz. While there's a Democratic cage match, does the GOP version threaten to blow up the cage given the fractious split between "conservatives" who say they couldn't support Trump and others who say they couldn't support Cruz. Isn't this an unprecedented level of primary antagonism threatening the future of America's conservative party?

Mary says that such splits have happened before citing Ford-Reagan and Reagan-Bush, which the Host rejects since this year's version is going far beyond those polite contests. (Trump: Cruz is a "nasty...maniac"; Dole: Cruz would be "cataclysmic.") Alter thinks there might be a temporary, not permanent, break-up of the GOP alliance if Trump's the nominee since he's against free trade in a free trade party.

Mary sees race benignly as between "authoritarian conservatives" who like Donald and "policy conservatives" who like Ted. Jonathan is less polite, warning that a "crypto-fascist" -- probably referring to Trump and not both -- could become the nominee.

Jonathan then does some serious punditry on whether Kasich could end up as THE "establishment" alternative to Trump if The Donald wins the first two but Kasich come in second or third in NH, encouraging rivals like Rubio/Christie/Paul/Bush to drop out since Trump can win a three-way contest, not a two-way? Our GOP expert Mary thinks that's possible but unlikely since Cruz has the resources to stay in the contest through SC and the Southern Super Tuesday.

Speaking of speculation, Mary thinks that Sarah Palin is underestimated and could move a few decisive points in Iowa among undecided conservatives. Alter and Host agree, except for the underestimated part. "Isn't she way past her expiration date?", the Hosts asks politely.

On Flint. Did this disaster show the incompetence of government generally or crystallize how ideological GOP governors slash spending regardless of the damage to minorities? (Jeb lauded Gov. Snyder's response, leading one wag to tweet, "Heckova job, Rick!") Mary and Jonathan warn against only seeing this as "environmental racism" -- Hillary said that this wouldn't happen to "a rich suburb of Detroit" -- since there are elements of class bias as well. "But it could help mobilize black voters," says Alter," who understand a pattern of indifference at best in such environmental disasters.

On an Obama Political Donations E. O. Are we at a tipping point moment on big money in politics as Trump and Cruz, as well as Clinton and Sanders agree that big donations/crony capitalism can purchase politicians or policies. Until and if Citizens United is somehow reversed, should Obama issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to reveal all political donations? After complaining about Obama's excessive use of Executive Orders, generally Mary agrees with Jonathan that such transparency is a good idea.