Sanders' And Clinton's Caucus Night Reactions Present Striking Contrast; Emotional Victory Clearly His

The contrast between the Sanders' and the Clinton's reactions to the night tells the profound story. Where the Sanders are elated and humble, and seem as happy as ever to talk to their supporters and to Heilemann for his interview, the Clintons' abrupt departure without addressing or thanking their people beyond the minimum demanded by television coverage is striking.
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I have taken to watching With All Due Respect on MSNBC lately; a very new addition to the network, it is rebroadcast from Bloomburg Television. The show is extremely wonky, much less flashy, and is not so bound up with MSNBC's normal orthodox-Democratic viewpoint. The two hosts, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, wrote Game Change, about the 2008 election, which inspired the movie of the same name. Heilemann and Halperin are also collaborating with Showtime to produce a behind-the-scenes documentary about the primaries called The Circus, and they regularly air segments on WADR.

On Tuesday, the day after the Iowa caucuses, the show aired a clip from The Circus of an exclusive interview with Bernie and Jane Sanders immediately after he gave his non-cession speech late Caucus night. Sanders had celebrated the result as "a virtual tie", to cheers from his supporters. (The race was so too close to call at that point.) Heilemann, who was interviewing Sanders, has a knack for getting people to speak frankly; but even without this ability, it was obvious how the Sanders felt.

On the MSNBC rebroadcast, the interview with Sanders got cut off just as it began, and the show jumped to a segment of WADR at the end (you can see where they are in the show, because there is a menu on the right side that lists the segments in order, top to bottom, and highlights the current one). Then, after that segment finished, it jumped back again -- but picked up after the Sanders interview was over. Fortunately the video is available on Youtube. I say fortunately, because it is a great interview. Having fought Clinton to a tie in a race that, by every conventional metric, should have been a runaway success for Clinton, the Sanders are aglow; and their candor is, as always, a deeply refreshing change from the norm of political interviews.

Heilemann: I want to get just a little -- a little bit of the exhilaration. I know you're excited about this.

Bernie Sanders: It's an extraordinary night. You think that, 8 months ago, we were 40 or 50 points behind, and it appears now that we've won about half of the delegates, and we don't know who's gonna -- you know, it's a tie; and we've come such a long way.

Heilemann: I want you to be honest now, OK? Now, when you first started coming here, could you actually, genuinely -- I know you weren't doing this for fun; but you couldn't really have imagined when you started this that you would end up in this spot tonight.

Sanders: Look, look, look, in the real world we're all complicated human beings, right? And there's nothing so simple. When I started this campaign, I said "I'm running because I think we can win this thing." That's why I was running. So obviously, one part of me said "yeah, of course we can win Iowa and New Hampshire." But on the other hand, to see the kind of support that we have gotten in this state, the enthusiasm and coming together of people - that has just stunned me; and we're moving, frankly, much faster than I thought we would.

Heilemann then addresses Jane:

Heilemann: Tell me what your night was like tonight.

Jane Sanders: It was exciting, exhilarating, and nerve-wracking.

Heilemann: And now?

JS: I feel great; I mean to go down, and talk to those people, and hear the support, I mean, we feel like, this is, this is great. We'll find out what the actual results are tomorrow, but they're virtually tied, and it's a real victory."

Heilemann: Even more exciting than when he won the mayor of Burlington?

JS: Yeah!

And they all laugh heartily. Whatever the pundits and politicos think, the Sanders are obviously enjoying themselves, and are energized by the result.

We don't have anything like such a candid moment with the Clintons to assess; but the sequence of events at her headquarters are revelatory. Hillary Clinton had given a speech well before Sanders, shortly after her campaign had declared victory with a startling 17% of the precincts still unreported, and with her lead at a mere half a percent - far too close to call, by any reasonable reckoning. MSNBC cut back to Clinton headquarters after Sanders' speech, where Andrea Mitchell was reporting:

They came out here, having said that Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton, and then Hillary Clinton were going to speak, that they were going to work the ropelines. Instead what you saw was her saying, without any comments from her husband or her daughter, that she was breathing a sigh of relief. Now, in leaving here, she has tweeted, personally, 'thank you Iowa, from the bottom of my heart'; so it is not a victory declaration, but they are trying to make it appear to be.

Mitchell made some comparisons to Bill Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire in 1992, then continued: you all pointed out, in the middle of Ted Cruz's victory speech, coming up on stage with no warning; the staff did not know, the television pool traveling with her from the ABC network did not know. Apologies went all around to everyone in this room, because they did not know she was walking out on that stage when she did. It's the most extraordinary thing I've seen in a long time. And they didn't shake hands with any of their supporters, and then they just hightailed it out of here.

Mitchell obviously doesn't know what to make of it. Clinton is clearly rattled, as her sudden appearance, without any warning, and her expression of relief show. Neither Chelsea nor Bill must have been ready to address the crowd under such ambivalent circumstances - the campaign having declared victory long before it was appropriate to do so. That they departed hastily, without "working the ropeline" reveals a deeper unease, and an apparent unwillingness to face even their own supporters. What must it have been like, to have waited there for one more glimpse or handshake, only to be furtively avoided at the last moment? Whatever the Clinton campaign has said since, and however it has been spun, they were relieved - but in a way that left them so shaken that they did not even stay to say one final thank you to those who had worked so hard on their behalf. Mitchell, reporting on the circumstance, calls it "the most extraordinary thing [she's] seen in a long time", and is herself very clearly taken aback.

The contrast between the Sanders' and the Clinton's reactions to the night tells the profound story. Where the Sanders are elated and humble, and seem as happy as ever to talk to their supporters and to Heilemann for his interview, the Clintons' abrupt departure without addressing or thanking their people beyond the minimum demanded by television coverage is striking. A political error, perhaps; but much moreso, it reveals their own distress at being so desperately close to losing a race that by conventional wisdom should have been a cakewalk.

It is tough to speak with certainty about sincerity, and people who cover politics train themselves not to; but there is a certain kind of ease that Bernie and Jane Sanders always have about them, even in the face of such an intense scrutiny, which makes a strong argument. They answer quickly, speak candidly, and their humanity shines through. There is no doubt about how he and his wife felt that night. There is also little doubt how the Clintons felt - their hasty flight from even their own supporters' eyes reveals they were shaken to the core.

It doesn't really make sense to talk about a victory in such a close case, as neither campaign can present it as any kind of mandate; but in terms of energy and personal momentum, and a positive mental boost for the grueling campaign ahead, the victory was clearly all Sanders'.

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