Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 8:06 pm | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Susan Estrich: Clinton Plays the Gender Card

Here's the setup. Hillary Clinton has been pointing out that her opponent, Bernie Sanders, the darling of the left, has actually opposed gun control.

I've been pointing that same fact out to folks for some time, and it's quite compelling. It's clearly had an effect on polls.

It's apparent that Sen. Sanders is feeling the heat. His recent response was to criticize Clinton for "shouting" about guns.

Presidential politics are never easy. And with his remark, Sanders fed a softball over home plate to an experienced politician.

As she has done repeatedly over the last two weeks, Hillary Clinton showed what a formidable candidate she is.

"I'm not shouting," Clinton replied calmly. "It's just that when women talk, some people think we're shouting." 

Show me a successful woman over 40, and I bet you dollars to donuts she's "difficult" — at least according to some of those who work with and for her.

I wager almost every woman has been told, while standing up for herself, to keep her voice down — by her boss or co-workers, her boyfriend or husband, or all of the above.

In other words, lots of women could connect with what Clinton was saying. It was a reminder of the historic nature of this election. It will be the first (knock on wood) in which a woman is a major party's nominee for president. 

And by the way, have I mentioned that Bernie Sanders is against gun control?

Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Vice President Joe Biden's decision not to run seems to have sealed Sanders' fate, politically speaking.

Conventionally, you'd think that Sanders would be better off with Biden out, leaving Sanders as the only alternative to Clinton. But it isn't working that way, nor should one it expect it to now.

With Biden in the race, Sanders would have had two juicy targets who are emblems of a more moderate Democratic party, a nomination that would be viewed as up-for-grabs, and the possibility of carrying the day with 30-40 percent of the vote. 

But Biden is not in the race because, as he honestly admitted, it was too late by the time he was ready. In other words, he couldn't beat Clinton at this point.

With Biden's departure, sandwiched between two very strong outings for Clinton (in the first debate, and in her marathon Benghazi testimony), the deal was sealed. You could hear the collective sigh of relief.

No more stories of donor unrest. No more chatter about "what's wrong with her staff." In 10 days' time, the front-runner reasserted herself, and her only plausible opponent pulled out.

That doesn't mean Sanders disappears. He has already had an impact on the Clinton campaign. He doesn't need a lot of money to stay in. And under the party rules, if he stays in, he'll collect a proportionate share of delegates.

This will at least get him a good speaking part and some bragging rights on the platform. Tad Devine, his top strategist, has been in the business of collecting delegates for presidential candidates since the 1980s, and he's as good at this game as anyone on Clinton's side. 

But with not a single vote cast, it certainly feels like the race is over. And the latest polls seem to bear that out. In Iowa, Clinton has opened up a 41-point lead over Sanders in one of the polls out Tuesday.

I don't expect 41 points to hold, but I also don't expect Sanders to retain his support in New Hampshire if he crashes in Iowa. Not to mention all the party leaders and elected officials, automatic delegates to the convention, who will be committing to Clinton in droves in the weeks to come.

And then the states start falling like dominos. 

In the interval, for a striking contrast, turn to the Republican race.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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