Why Team Clinton's not sweating Trump
Democrats are freaking out. But not Hillary Clinton's pollster and strategist Joel Benenson, he tells Glenn Thrush in an interview for POLITICO's 'Off Message' podcast.By Glenn Thrush, Politico
03/14/16 05:21 AM EDT
Joel Benenson is a world-class worrier, but he isn’t especially worried about Donald Trump in the fall.
Trump isn't just freaking out Republicans these days — Democrats, panicked by his unstoppable rise in the primaries, see him as an ochre ogre capable of undoing Barack Obama's legacy and undermining the civility supporting American democracy.
Trump-phobia has infected many people in Hillary Clinton’s extended orbit — especially her notoriously jelly-kneed donors — and they are dutifully fretting over Trump’s dark-alley debate style, his promise to napalm the Clintons with personal attacks and, above all, his magical-realism appeal to angry Rust Belt whites.
Benenson, the Clinton campaign’s bearded principal pollster and chief strategist, can't even bring himself to pay lip-service to Trump, whom he sees as a one-man Democratic turnout machine and a turn-off switch to moderates in both parties. His analysis of the 2016 landscape leads him to this conclusion that Trump has virtually no path to the presidency (He won't say the same thing about Bernie Sanders) and Trump presents Clinton with renewed opportunities in purple states – especially North Carolina and Arizona.
Indeed, when I interviewed him for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast on Friday, the typically easygoing Benenson was in a tense and testy mood, bracing for an uncertain battle against Bernie Sanders on Tuesday — lashing the Vermont senator for impugning Clinton’s character. Yet when I mentioned Trump — specifically the developer’s claim he could swipe New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the lot from the Democrats — his Charlie Brown cloud lifted instantly.