Hillary Clinton must wonder what she needs to do to make Bernie Sanders go away. Sweeps in various “super” Tuesdays stretched her pledged delegate lead to a point that made it mathematically impossible for Sanders to catch her. Yet, there he is, leveraging the media’s need to fill TV hours and column inches to soldier on. After all, there is no shortage of college campuses and idealistic young people to make it seem like he still has a chance. And so, even if she need not win any more primaries between now and June 14th, when the District of Columbia has the final say, a loss in California on June 7th to Sanders would not look good. To the Beltway media, the dreaded “optics” of such a defeat would simply feed into the narrative that she is a weak general election candidate whose political host body (the Democratic Party) is rejecting her.
I am sure the Clinton team would prefer not to spend any additional money locking up a nomination it thinks it has already won; however, allow me to offer a modest proposal. Instead of treating the next three weeks as an unnecessary epilogue to a primary contest that the Clinton team thinks is already over, look at this time as an unexpected opportunity to launch her general election campaign early.
A month ago, everyone assumed attention would be focused on the Republicans, who were careening toward a contested convention and the possibility of a third-party challenger. Instead, opposition to Donald Trump folded and the race ended early. Because of this, Trump is likely to go dark as he focuses on catching up in fundraising, campaign infrastructure, and convention planning. For all his bluster, his campaign schedule even during the heat of the race was light - rarely doing more than one or two events a day - and now that he’s locked up the nomination, the idea of spending money on unnecessary rallies when so much needs to be done is unlikely.
So with the media’s attention focused on California (and to a lesser extent New Jersey), the Clinton team should embrace this chance to dominate media coverage. Take the next twenty days to test drive her general election campaign themes, define her (and Trump) with the knowledge that she will generate an inordinate amount of national (and local) coverage simply because space needs to be filled - so fill that space, with her message, with images of rallies and events with the diverse coalition that propelled President Obama to victory and interviews that give her a platform to speak with passion and fluency about how she will lead this country.
The return on investment from cross-country wins in New Jersey and California will not only snuff out the final embers of the Sanders insurgency, but springboard her into the fall campaign.
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