Sanders Team readies to go negative, as Iowa and New Hampshire become the fault line for his hopes.

Sanders Team readies to go negative, as Iowa and New Hampshire become the fault line for his hopes.
photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America

Weaver was at least half-joking, or so it seemed to me. But even in jest, his comments were telling: about both the darkening assessment of Clinton among Sanders’s people and their heady confidence that they can beat her. – John Heilemann [Bloomberg]

IT SEEMS to me that John Heilemann baited the Sanders team and his top aides, Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver, into providing a storyline that gets ahead of where Bernie Sanders comfortably stands. He has never gone negative, but to win the first two primaries, both of which are important to diminish her strength, Sanders Team can’t just play nice.

It’s a good, old fashioned political drama woven within an already unpredictable primary season, which the New York Times writes about today, too.

From John Heilemann

[…] I asked Weaver if he thought that made her, as some longtime Clinton critics argue, a craven hypocrite and opportunist?

“A craven hypocrite?” Weaver replied, grinning slyly. “That’s a little bit harsh, don’t you think?” Then he added, with a chuckle, “Look, she’d make a great vice president. We’re willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We’re willing to consider her for vice president. We’ll give her serious consideration. We’ll even interview her.”

Team Sanders understands most of all that in the next debate he’ll have to do more. Devine told Heilemann, “We did 15 hours of prep total—that was our debate prep. We needed 150.”

What’s about to change is that Sanders is going to finally enter the TV ad war.

Polls are constantly changing, but it was interesting that even Team Clinton pushed back on the notion that Hillary Clinton is leading in Iowa by 40 points, after Joe Biden decided not to run. Last thing they need is for “inevitability” to wash over her campaign, which tends to make voters lackadaisical. Turn out matters.

What Team Sanders is telegraphing, their theory, which is overly optimistic at this point, is that if he could pull off Iowa and New Hampshire wins, everything will shift and not even Hillary’s southern firewall will help. Tad Devine explains

“I don’t think they fully appreciate the magnitude of how voters are impacted by what happens in those early states. The negative narrative that will come around her. The positive narrative that will accompany him. The big qualitative difference beyond that that we enjoy that, for example, Gary Hart did not, is the fund-raising system we’ve put in place. If we have early success in Iowa and New Hampshire, a few days after we could bring in $40 or $50 million cash, new money, out of this thing that we built. And then they’re all tapped out. They’re trying to squeeze for dough. Because the thing will have been close in Iowa and New Hampshire. They’ve already placed a purchase of $14 million in television buys in just Iowa and New Hampshire, and I think they’ll be at $20 or $25 million by then because they’ll feel so much pressure to win, they’ll just be dumping millions into this thing. We’ll come out of that with a huge flush of cash like Obama did and then we will start to move systematically in the states that follow with massive media buys. And unless the Clintons are willing to give up $20 or $30 million of their own money, they’re just not going to be able to compete with us in cash. The dynamic of that campaign is something I don’t think they fully appreciate. […]

What happens when Hillary Clinton returns fire? Heilemann continues

Devine agrees. “How hard we fight back and how far we push it is very much dependent on them,” he says.

“So if they go hard negative,” I ask, “you guys will…?”

“Let them get run over by a Mack truck,” he says.