Trump recently waffled about debating Sanders; he said he would for $10M to charity. He must not have expected the money to materialize. It did; and he bailed. But why? It would only weaken Clinton – which, as the presumptive nominee, Trump theoretically would want.
The answer is simple: Trump doesn’t want to face Sanders in November.
The Democratic nomination will be decided at the convention, at the end of July. Neither Clinton nor Sanders can claim it outright – they both need superdelegates to weigh in. If Trump debated Sanders, however it went, it would give Sanders a boost – and strengthen his case. And a Bernie candidacy is the last thing Trump wants.
He’s happy to sound like he’s on Bernie’s side when he’s talking about what a raw deal Bernie’s getting from the establishment; but his “sympathy” stops short of actually helping Bernie become the nominee. He knows Sanders polls much, much stronger against him than Clinton; and he knows that this year’s election, whatever else it is about, is about people who are disgusted with politics-as-usual.
Trump presents a challenge to the status quo; that may be his strongest draw. With Bernie as the nominee, Trump loses that lone outsider status – and 10% of the vote.
Trump knows it. Hopefully, the Democratic establishment are catching on, too. It’s still two months to the convention; ample time for them to come to their senses, and nominate the candidate who can take Trump down. And not just in the election; Trump backing out on the debate has let Sanders land the kind of shots that no other candidate has – Republican or Democrat. He’s done what no one else has yet been able to do: make Trump look weak.
And that’s more than just a welcome change: it’s a necessity.
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