Bernie is cool, Hillary is square

Fact check on Democratic debate
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Story highlights

  • S.E. Cupp: Clinton response on big speaker fees explains why young flock to Sanders
  • She says Sanders appeals because he's authentic, like an activist
  • Clinton seems more packaged, like a salesman, Cupp says

S.E. Cupp is the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right" and a columnist at the New York Daily News.

(CNN)At CNN's Democratic town hall this week, Hillary Clinton highlighted the biggest problem for her campaign in one answer: "That's what they offered."

The question was why she took a whopping $675,000 fee to speak to the Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. To be sure, for a once-proclaimed moderate and newly branded progressive, there is no good answer to this question. But as bad ones go, the only worse response would have been "because I really, really love money."
Particularly as Hillary struggles to get out in front of the formidable challenge from Bernie Sanders.
    But it's not just the dissonance between her record and her image that is giving Bernie oxygen in what should have been a much easier primary. It's that he is cool. And she is not.
    That's not my opinion, mind you. I am not cool, nor do I pretend to know what is cool. But the standard-bearing arbiters of cool -- millennials, or people whose souls have yet to be crushed by later life -- do know. And they have anointed Bernie as the ultimate hipster.
    He is crushing Hillary with young people, especially young women, whom she presumably considered safe when she entered this race. According to entrance polls in the Iowa caucuses:
    • Women under age 30: Sanders 84%, Clinton 14%
    • Women age 30-44: Sanders 53%, Clinton 42%
    • Women age 45-64: Clinton 61%, Sanders 32%
    • Women age 65 or older: Clinton 76%, Sanders 22%
    In context this should make little sense. For one, he's a thousand years old. He looks and talks like a resort standup working the Borscht Belt -- but without the jokes. He hammers the gloomy reality of income inequality and greedy establishment corporatists with all the spunk and charm of an executioner. He was first elected to office the year MS-DOS debuted.
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    And yet, in the same way Tony Bennett and Betty White probably have more young fans now than they do boomers, Bernie is retro, old school, hip to be square.
    Hillary is just square.
    Not for lack of trying though. On February 17, she is holding a fundraiser at Brooklyn Bowl, a Williamsburg hipster haven. She recruited "Girls" gal Lena Dunham to campaign for her. She's on Snapchat. Yes, this is what trying too hard looks like.
    It also doesn't seem real. Compare their swag. Which do you think appeals more to millennials?
    This Bernie pint glass with an outline of his famous hair and hipster glasses?
    Or this, er, Hillary lapel pin to go on your T-shirt lapel?
    Don't get me wrong -- many young folks admire Hillary and all she's accomplished. But she simply doesn't inspire the same kind of enthusiasm as Bernie does with the kids.
    And that's because there's nothing that appeals more to millennials than authenticity, and Bernie has got that in spades. When he talks about two Americas, he sounds like an activist. She could give the same speech, but she sounds like a salesman. Not cool.
    N.H. exec. editor: Clinton might beat Bernie next week
    N.H. exec. editor: Clinton might beat Bernie next week

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    N.H. exec. editor: Clinton might beat Bernie next week 03:34
    Bernie is a true believer. He's local, where she's global. He's the artisan bacon selection at a hip Williamsburg microbrewery, and Hillary is a plate of loaded potato skins at the mall TGI Friday's.
    He's a cause; she's a corporation. He's one of a kind; she's a chain. He's a bumper sticker; she's an infomercial.
    Her Goldman Sachs mess-up was just another fresh reminder that for all of her slick messaging and careful branding, Hillary doesn't see that taking more than half a million from a Wall Street bank because "that's what they offered" is off-brand.
    But millennials do. Will they turn out in big enough numbers to give Bernie the nomination?
    They might just surprise us.