The Republican presidential primary has been the circus everyone expected with front-runner Donald Trump as the ringleader.
But it was supposed to be different — more civil — on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee, riding high with solid poll numbers. She withstood a barrage of attacks and investigations by Republicans painting her as untrustworthy.
Any primary opponent — other than Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren — was considered a minor inconvenience. Two candidates surfaced. Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, failed to gain traction and left the race. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, elected as an independent in Vermont, decided to run as a Democrat. No one seemed to take his candidacy seriously. To his credit, Sanders warned that he shouldn't be underestimated.
The Democratic presidential primary started off civil — in stark contrast with the tone of the GOP primary. Even the Democratic debates were respectful — with candidates disagreeing on issues while avoiding personal attacks.
Democrats who were happy with President Obama believed Hillary could protect his legacy. Polls showed both with high poll numbers among Democratic voters.
Clinton is running on her record, her experience and a promise to continue progress on health care, immigration, equal pay, equal rights, voter rights, increasing minimum wage and gun control, including background checks. While her issues resonate with Democratic voters, her message lacks the passion of Sanders.
Pundits believed Clinton would benefit from a primary challenge to keep her in the public eye and sharpen her campaign skills. It was never anticipated that Bernie could pose a real threat.
Bernie, a self-described socialist, had been in the U.S. Senate for many years with little fanfare, name recognition, or accomplishments. Bernie had a consistent message that was consistently ignored. But the mood of the country was changing and Bernie's message of income inequality was now gaining traction.
He attracts huge crowds to his rallies and continues to outraise all candidates through millions of individual contributions on the Internet. He's energized college students, millennials and independent voters. His proposal offering free college tuition is effectively winning him college students.
He's unapologetic about his socialist beliefs. Voters see him as honest, genuine and authentic. While he refrained from going negative or engaging in personal attacks, his surrogates and supporters were doing it for him.
Bernie won caucuses and primaries in states with predominantly white voters and open primaries. As he gained momentum, his tone changed. He became more combative, more divisive and less civil, morphing from a lovable grandfather to a grumpy old neighbor yelling, "Get off my lawn."
He criticized Democratic Party leaders over debates and super delegates, and accused them of stacking the deck for Clinton. Both candidates got testy in the last debate and talked over each other. Bernie questioned Clinton's character and judgment while constantly wagging his finger.
He attacked her on giving paid speeches and questioned her excessive speaker fees. He also demanded that she release the transcripts of her private speeches, handing Republicans an effective line of attack in the general election.
Clinton carefully avoided calling Sanders "unqualified" despite Morning Joe's repeated efforts. Sanders falsely accused her of doing so and launched an attack on her qualifications.
Despite winning eight of the last 10 contests, Bernie is still losing. He blames it on a "rigged system," which fits his message of the powerful against the powerless, but it doesn't match reality. Hillary has 2.6 million more votes and has a large lead in pledged delegates before the super delegates are even considered.
Hillary is expected to do well in the next five or six states that have closed primaries and high minority populations. It's not impossible for Bernie to win the nomination, but it's highly unlikely — especially after Clinton's decisive win in New York.
The Sanders camp is complaining that independent voters were unable to vote in New York, even though they know it is a closed primary state. But his supporters point to it as another vote-rigging conspiracy.
His supporters are growing increasingly hostile on Twitter, using obscenities, calling for prison for Hillary and vowing to never give up the revolution. Bernie plans to take it all the way to the convention, even though he trails in the popular vote, pledged delegates and super delegates. With an unlimited flow of campaign funds, he can afford to stay in.
In 2016, the Democratic Party expected to prosper from a divided GOP. Instead, it now has to worry about drama at its own convention and figure out how to unite voters who are becoming increasingly adversarial.