With that huge caution in mind, this passage in Amy Chozick et al, Hillary Clinton Struggles to Find Footing in Unusual Race New York Times 05/28/25016 caught my attention:
Ken Salazar, the former Colorado senator who has been mentioned as a possible Clinton running mate, said the campaign should draw a sharp contrast between Mr. Trump’s shortcomings and Mrs. Clinton’s potential to be “the most qualified person to be president in our lifetime.”A Democratic Presidential campaign based on Competence? Well, it worked extremely well for President Michael Dukakis. No, wait ...
“The campaign needs to expose Donald Trump as the opposite — selfish, egomaniac, divisive and unqualified to be president,” Mr. Salazar said in an email.
Here's another on-the-record comment:
William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s former White House chief of staff, attributed any early shortcomings in taking on Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton’s prolonged primary battle against Mr. Sanders. The period between the June 7 contests and the July convention will reshape the race, he said.Two of the Clinton campaigns favorite lines right now: it's all Bernie's fault, and those polls about Clinton's declining competitiveness with Trump don't mean anything.
To that end, Joel Benenson, Mrs. Clinton’s pollster and chief strategist, pointed out that at this stage in the 2008 primary battle against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama led Senator John McCain by only two percentage points. He went on to defeat Mr. McCain by 7.2 percentage points.
Of course, it's a conventional pitch to say that your primary competitors are helping the opposition party.
One problem with that argument, especially when it's repeated incessantly, is that it can sound like a peremptory excuse for losing in November. And that's a problem that has plagued the Democratic Party for decades: they've gotten way too used to losing.
It can also complicate any effort to reconcile Sanders' supporters with Clinton's fall candidacy.
And while it's true that polls this far out from the election are good enough to bet a large sum of one personal savings on, it's also true that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are very well known to the voting public. So the poll results on those two individuals would presumably carry more weight than some previous Presidential election polls taken at similar phases of the election process.
Donald Trump is a deeply flawed candidate and by no means a shoo-in for the fall election. But running on competency and downplaying the Democratic brand is also a high-risk strategy for the Clinton campaign in the fall.
And blaming Sanders ahead of time for a fall loss is a cop-out. As Sanders told Chuck Todd on today's Meet the Press (Transcript 05/29/2016):
Well, the responsibility that I accept in a very, very serious way is to do everything that I can to make sure that Donald Trump will not become elected president of the United States. Donald Trump, for a dozen different reasons, would be a disaster as president. I will do everything that I can to make sure that does not happen.He also outlined again some of the major differences on issues between Hillary and him:
But at the end of the day, whether it's Secretary Clinton of Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, anybody else, the way you gain support is through the candidate himself or herself. So my job is to make sure that Trump does not become president. And I will do that. But if Secretary Clinton is the nominee, it is her job to reach out to millions of people and make the case as to why she is going to defend working families and the middle, provide healthcare for all people, take on Wall Street, deal aggressively with climate change. That is the candidate's job to do.
I'll tell you, I have a real problem with The New York Times, which from day one, has been trying to be dismissive of our campaign and be very negative about our campaign. You can go out and you can talk to millions of people and you any get response that you want. Our campaign is about defeating Secretary Clinton on the real issues.
I want to break up the Wall Street banks. She doesn't. I want to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. She wants $12 an hour. I voted against the War in Iraq. She voted for the War in Iraq. I believe we should ban fracking. She does not. I believe we should have tax on carbon and deal aggressively with climate change. That is not her position. Those are some of the issues that I am campaigning on that The New York Times goes around, when they talk to a handful of people and do a front-page story, that's a problem for The New York Times, not for my campaign. ...
My point was, and let me repeat it, that for Democrats to win, they're going to have to address the needs of working people. They're going to have to address the needs of the middle class.
And that means standing up to Wall Street, standing up to the greed of corporate America. Even now and then, standing up to the media. And that means having a candidate who can excite working families, excite young people, bring them into the political process, create a large voter turnout.
And when we do that, we're going to win the election. So I would hope, if I am not the nominee, that the vice presidential candidate will not be from Wall Street, will be somebody who has a history of standing up and fighting for working families, taking on the drug companies whose greed is doing so much harm, taking on Wall Street, taking on corporate America, and fight for a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent. [my emphasis]