DARKE COUNTY — When Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for President April 12, 2015, it was presumed by many the race for the Democratic nomination was over even before it even began.
Despite losing the nomination to eventual winner Barack Obama in the 2008 race, it was a given the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State would run again in 2016, and it would be no contest.
Enter Bernie Sanders.
The Vermont Senator embarked on an “outsider” campaign that jolted the party establishment, making him a celebrity, especially among college age voters.
However, despite winning 21 primaries and caucuses, Sanders will watch Clinton march to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia July 25-28 as the presumptive nominee, exceeding the 2,383 delegates needed for the nomination, thanks largely to having a preponderance of super delegates.
Clinton brings with her 2,807 total delegates (2,205 delegates, 602 super delegates) to the City of Brotherly Love. Sanders maintains 1,894 delegates (1,846 delegates, 48 super delegates).
In the March 15 Democratic primary in Ohio, Clinton won 56.5 percent of the state’s vote to Sanders’ 42.7 percent. As Ohio’s Democrats do not conduct their primary as a “winner-take-all” scenario as do the Republicans, the delegates were split, with Clinton taking 96 delegates versus 63 for Sanders.
In Darke County, the spread was similar, with Democrats here giving Clinton 53.93 percent of the vote and 43.63 percent for Sanders.
How things will play out for the wife of former President Bill Clinton in the general election, however, is not a done deal.
In addition to the slugfest with Sanders, Clinton was bedeviled with an FBI investigation into her use of a private server for emails during her time as secretary of state. To her relief and that of her supporters, FBI Director James Comey announced July 5 that the agency would not recommend criminal charges be filed against her or her staff.
Locally, Clinton is unlikely to make much of an impression in this historically Republican region, where most voters will likely pull the lever for Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Further, there is no guarantee Sanders supporters will jump aboard. Sanders provided a late endorsement for Clinton in July, creating feelings of betrayal and angering many who think the Democrats are running the wrong candidate.
Support among local Democrats for the Clinton campaign seems tepid by comparison to Republican enthusiasm for Trump, or even that of her defeated primary rival. Driving through Greenville, one will still encounter a “Bernie” yard sign or a bumper sticker here and there. Stay tuned to see if more “I’m With Her” signs appear as November 8 approaches.
Even among the leadership, there does not appear to be the same level of enthusiasm among Democrats that the young outsider Barack Obama enjoyed in 2008.
The head of the county’s Democratic Party, Jim Surber, believes there is voter dissatisfaction in both the Democrat and Republican Parties due to an oversaturation of money and media coverage.
“Presidential campaigns have become such big business that they never seem to end,” he said. “As soon as one ends, the next one begins, unleashing megabucks of corporate cash and contributions from super-wealthy donors, endless campaigning, TV ads that jam our screens, election-time campaign promises, and politicians of all stripes proclaiming that they are champions of the people.”
“This one has now progressed to the point of two presumptive nominees. We have only to endure a current and an upcoming convention before they will likely become actual nominees. From that time until the election, many millions of dollars will be spent trying to influence the American voter to select one of the current most unpopular people in the nation. After all is said and done, there will certainly be much more said than done.”
Though admitting that many are not enthralled with either candidate, Surber encourages voters to make their voices heard, regardless.
“In spite of this, we all must never forget that we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world, and that we collectively have the duty and obligation to select its next leader. Choose wisely,” he said.