By David Cruz
A Monday morning crowd loaded with casino and other union workers, and devoid of most elected officials from around the state, a microcosm of the Sanders campaign, grass roots enthusiasm and establishment indifference. But for the Berners, led in Jersey by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, that was just the point.
Supporters filled almost half of the ballroom in Boardwalk Hall, but welcomed their candidate like a septuagenarian rock star. Sanders spoke to their issues on a national level, but also took time to talk about the state of Atlantic City.
“The greed and the recklessness that we have seen from people like Donald Trump and Carl Icahn,” started Sanders. Noting the loud boos at the name of the former Jersey casino owner, he added, “Oh, you know Donald Trump. Oh, I get it. You don’t think he is a brilliant, successful businessman who can bring the kind of prosperity to America that he has brought here to Atlantic City? Is that your point?”
Spoiler alert. There is no love here for Donald Trump. In fact, Democrats hope to hold up Atlantic City as the kind of wreckage Trump leaves in his wake. That will be useful, they hope, in the general election because Trump’s route to the Republican nomination is now unimpeded, and, while the enthusiasm for Sanders here is high, he’s trailing Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters almost two to one.
“Sen. Sanders has a path to victory and depending on which poll you’d like to choose, Sen. Sanders is closing in on Sen. Clinton,” insisted Wisniewski.
Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute has some sobering news for the assemblyman.
“In order for Bernie Sanders to get enough pledged delegates to even go into the convention and make an argument that he should get some more super delegates, he’d have to get something like 85 percent of the vote in every primary from now until June 7 and that’s just not going to happen,” he said.
While that might not yet be settled business, the Garden State loves to speculate and with two Jersey guys playing big roles in the frontrunners’ campaigns, could they be potential VP picks? Well, Trump said today Chris Christie would lead his transition team, which might put him out of the running for VP. And Cory Booker?
“Democratic voters here in New Jersey, when we asked them about Cory Booker for Hillary Clinton, about half say he wouldn’t affect her either way, a third say he would actually help the ticket and only 10 percent say he would hurt the ticket,” said Murray.
But Sanders says don’t get ahead of yourselves just yet.
“It is an uphill fight but I have been used to uphill fights my entire life,” the senator told supporters, “and I want you all to know that this campaign will fight for every remaining vote in every remaining state.”
Sen. Sanders today, Sen. Clinton later in the week and, next week, Donald Trump. It may not be New Hampshire in July, but this is the most primary election action New Jersey has seen in decades.