Does It Really Matter if Bernie Called Hillary Unqualified?

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Josh Marshall weighs in on the flap over Bernie Sanders saying that Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president:

Various things Clinton said can be reasonably interpreted as questioning whether Sanders is up to the job of the presidency. But it is an entirely different matter when an opponent, in his own voice, says flatly his challenger is “unqualified” to serve as President of the country. That’s something that cannot be unsaid. If Clinton is the nominee, it will undoubtedly be a staples of GOP stump speeches in the Fall. These are simple realities of political campaigns.

I’m curious about something: is this actually true? I hear it every four years. At some point, the primary races always get a little (or a lot) nasty, and the candidates start saying things that seem like they’d be great fodder for attack ads by the other side in the general election. But are they? Do these kinds of comments ever end up as a major theme in political ads?

I never see it. Of course, I live in California, and nobody ever bothers advertising here. Still, I never really hear about it elsewhere either. By the time the general election comes along, both sides have far more important attacks to make. And they probably assume—rightly—that most undecided voters don’t care much what some angry primary opponent said six months before.

I’d prefer that both Bernie and Hillary dial it back a notch. But is Donald Trump really going to attack Hillary by showing footage of Bernie saying she’s not qualified to be president, nyah nyah nyah? I doubt it. Even low-information voters know that this is the kind of thing that happens in the heat of campaigns, and it doesn’t really mean anything.

Does anyone know the answer to this? In 2012, for example, did the Obama campaign run attack ads featuring Newt Gingrich saying that Romney kept money in the Cayman Islands? Did the McCain campaign in 2008 use footage of Hillary attacking Obama? Just how common—or not—is this?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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