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“Bernie’s Math Problem”: Why Sanders Campaign Has Resorted To Arguments Of Swinging Superdelegates In His Favor

Bernie Sanders won the Indiana presidential primary and has so far garnered 43 delegates to Clinton’s 37. But that’s pretty much where the good news ends. As Nate Silver documented prior to knowing the final results:

But let’s suppose Sanders pulls it out and wins a narrow victory instead, claiming 42 of Indiana’s 83 pledged delegates. He’d still then need 611 of the remaining 933 pledged delegates to catch Clinton, or about two-thirds. Here’s a scenario for what that would look like: Sanders would need to win California by 31 percentage points, for instance, and New Jersey by double digits despite having lost every neighboring state.

Even if Sanders was able to pull off winning California by 31% and New Jersey by 13% (which would only happen if an unforeseen event upset the demographics that have dictated this race so far), he would still only manage to catch up with Clinton on pledged delegates. If you include superdelegates, Gabriel Debenedetti explains how the situation gets even more bleak for Sanders.

Here’s how it works: After winning Indiana, Sanders has 1,399 pledged delegates and superdelegates to his name, according to the Associated Press’ count. That means he needs 984 more to reach the threshold of 2,383 needed to win.

The remaining contests, however — Guam, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia — only have 933 pledged delegates to offer.

So even if Sanders were to win 100 percent of the pledged delegates in each of those states, he wouldn’t make it past the mark.

That explains why the Sanders campaign has resorted to arguments aimed at swinging the superdelegates in his favor.

To sum up Bernie’s math problem, he is now faced with needing to win the remaining states by improbable margins AND convince a significant number of superdelegates to change their minds. On the other hand, Clinton could lose all of the remaining states by the margin we saw in Indiana yesterday and still garner enough delegates to win the nomination. It is probably too soon to say that Hillary is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, but it’s even more clear today that we are headed for a Clinton/Trump contest in November.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 4, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Supers Are Now Supposed To Anoint Sanders”: Bernie Sanders Legitimizes Those Damned Superdelegates

Considering how loudly the Sanders campaign has complained about the nominating role of superdelegates – a group of 712 Democratic party and elected officials appointed rather than elected to the convention — Bernie’s current plea for them to deliver victory to him instead of Hillary Clinton carries a strong whiff of…expediency.

Over the past few months, Sanders supporters have inundated print and airwaves with angry denunciations of the superdelegate system as elitist, unfair, undemocratic, biased against their candidate, and fundamentally illegitimate. Many observers agreed that they had a point (although to me the caucus system seems worse). The most fanatical Berners in the press even openly accused party officials of plotting to “steal” the nomination. Most Sanders voters seemed to view superdelegates just as dimly as big corporations and billionaire donors, elements of a discredited system ripe for “revolution.”

And since last winter, major progressive organizations that support the Vermont senator, such as MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, have circulated petitions demanding that all of the superdelegates cast their convention votes for the candidate that won a primary or caucus in their respective states. Sponsoring the DFA petition was none other than Robert Reich, the economic commentator and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich.

Having gathered more than 400,000 signatures total, the petition sponsors now find themselves awkwardly in conflict with their own candidate, who said on May 1 that the superdelegates supporting Clinton should switch to him – regardless of who won their home states.

But that was then and this is now, as a cynic would observe. Beyond his disorderly abandonment of what was previously advertised as democratic principle, Sanders has now validated the role of the superdelegates, no matter whom they ultimately choose. By urging them to deliver the nomination to him, he is agreeing that their votes alone can determine the validity of a presidential nomination, even if that means overturning the popular vote (where Clinton leads him by around three million ballots or so).

Coming from a candidate whose campaign and supporters righteously criticize Clinton for insincerity and flip-flopping, this latest strategy is refreshingly pragmatic (to put it politely). Yet more than a few #FeelTheBern activists can still be heard complaining about those dastardly establishment superdelegates. Evidently they haven’t gotten the memo yet, explaining that the supers are now supposed to anoint Sanders.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 4, 2016

May 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Super Scapegoats”: Sorry Bernie Supporters, Superdelegates Aren’t The Reason Sanders Is Losing To Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders’ supporters seem to be getting their guy confused with Donald Trump.

It’s true that both are anti-establishment candidates and native New Yorkers; but despite what some Bern-ers seem to think, only one of them has a legitimate case to complain about the system potentially robbing them of the nomination or distorting the will of the people. Spoiler alert: It’s not Bernie Sanders.

Trump, the putative GOP front-runner, has been complaining for weeks about the intricate rules of the Republican Party nominating process, mostly because he apparently never gave them much thought and is now distraught to realize Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign not only did but is using them to maximum advantage. (Trump’s complaint about the unfairness of a rigged system is rich coming from someone who brags about “taking advantage” of bankruptcy laws and worked the system to get 9/11 recovery money intended for small businesses.)

As a result of the Trump campaign’s political malpractice, conventional wisdom for some weeks has held that a contested convention is plausible-to-likely (see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describing himself over the weekend as “increasingly optimistic” about the scenario coming to pass), with Trump seen as a dead candidate walking if he can’t secure the nomination on the first ballot. He will almost certainly go into Cleveland as the leader in delegates and (of symbolic importance) votes. So make what you will of Trump’s complaints – whether you think he was robbed or should have known the rules – he’ll have legitimate grounds to complain.

The same can’t be said for Team Sanders: As I noted last week, there’s simply no metric by which he is winning the race for the Democratic nomination. Here’s The Washington Post’s Philip Bump summarizing the state of play:

In fact, by every possible democratic measure, Clinton is winning. She’s winning in states (and territories) won … She’s winning in the popular vote by 2.4 million votes – more than a third more than Sanders has in total. In part that’s because Sanders is winning lower-turnout caucuses, but it’s mostly because he’s winning smaller states. And she’s winning with both types of delegates.

The types of delegates in question are pledged – those won in primaries – and superdelegates, the party’s official free agents who can support whomever they see fit. Setting aside the supers, Clinton holds a roughly 200-delegate lead over Sanders among delegates earned at the ballot box. That means, per NBC News, that Sanders must win 57 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to hold a majority of that group. Keep in mind that to date, he’s won roughly 46 percent of the pledged delegates (and that from only 42 percent of the raw votes), per FiveThirtyEight’s David Wasserman, so in order to pass her in pledged delegates, Sanders would have to start performing dramatically better than he has thus far. It’s true that Sanders has won seven of the last eight contests, but all states are not created equal, and because he’s been running up his win streak in small states he hasn’t been able to meaningfully close the gap in votes or (more important) pledged delegates.

To put it another way, if the Democratic National Committee passed a rule today eliminating superdelegates altogether … Clinton would still be overwhelmingly well-positioned to win the nomination because she’s won substantially more votes and thus more delegates.

And yet some Sanders partisans seem to think that – Trump-like – he is somehow being robbed of the nomination or that superdelegates are distorting the will of the people by handing Clinton the election, unearned.

Case in point is a piece that ran in Salon over the weekend under this rather lengthy headline: “Superdelegates have destroyed the will of the people: As a political activist and hopeful millennial, I won’t support a broken system by voting for Hillary.”

What follows is a bewildering argument asserting that a “broken, corrupt and unjust” system is foisting Clinton over (the barely acceptable despite being not quite liberal enough) Sanders because … well, superdelegates or something. The author cites the Vermont senator having won Wyoming by 12 percentage points but coming out behind Clinton in that contest because, per the allocation rules, they split the 14 pledge delegates and Clinton persuaded the state’s four superdelegates to support her. She goes on to quote MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski bemoaning the unfairness of such an outcome and for good measure throws in a lengthy comment from Trump about the injustice of the superdelegate system.

But if you want to indict “the system,” look at the system – don’t cherry-pick one result. As I noted earlier, Sanders has won 46 percent of pledged delegates while only winning 42 percent of raw votes – so if anything “the system” is overstating how well Sanders is doing. If anyone is positioned to complain about distortion, it’s the Clinton campaign, not the Sanders-ites.

(The Salon piece then starts to read like a parody of an earnestly self-involved millennial, with the author complaining that “voting no longer provides me the indulgence and satisfaction it once did” and analogizing her refusal to participate in the presidential political process to boycotting Walmart; the difference of course is that if enough people refuse to spend their money at Walmart it could hurt and ultimately shutter the store, while if enough progressive activists refuse to vote the system will endure and simply be run by conservatives.)

Here’s a kernel of an idea: MoveOn.org has started promoting a petition arguing that CNN should not include supers in its delegate tallies (why only CNN and not MSNBC, Fox News Channel, The New York Times and so on is unclear), because the practice is misleading since even supers who have declared for a candidate are free to switch their allegiance at any time and thus the tally overstates Clinton’s lead over Sanders. It’s important to note, by the way, the supers’ ability to switch since Sanders’ candidacy is now predicated on their doing just that – the idea being that regardless of whether he catches her in either pledged delegates or raw votes, superdelegates will flock to him on the basis of late-season momentum.

And in fairness, most news organizations do tend to break down the pledged-versus-super totals; but if media organizations discounting superdelegates will help bring greater clarity to the process then by all means they should do so. Because while including Clinton’s supers in her total may exaggerate her lead, Bern-er fixation with them covers up the scope of his pledged delegate deficit.

The bottom line is that Clinton isn’t poised to win the nomination because superdelegates are contravening the will of the voters, but because she’s simply winning more votes. Team Sanders needs to reconcile itself to that reality.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor, U. S. News and World Report, April 19, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Bernie Sanders’s Superdelegate Hypocrisy”: What Are Sanders’s Real Metrics For Political Success?

For months, superdelegates, or unelected representatives of the Democratic Party who have votes at the nominating convention, have loomed large as a force in the presidential primary. Hillary Clinton has dominated Bernie Sanders in “committed” superdelegates (though they can always change their vote), and Sanders and his supporters are vocal about the uphill battle they’ve faced as a result of the Democratic establishment’s pro-Clinton bias.

Superdelegates aren’t small-d “democratic.” They aren’t bound to represent the will of their state’s Democrats, and in this primary season especially, many chose a candidate to support before their state’s voters even indicated their own preferences.

Still, superdelegates know that voters see them as undemocratic: in 2008, as it became clear Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton, superdelegates supporting Clinton switched their vote to support him in order to keep the party united. There’s no winning a general election if you defy the will of the people.

Which is why it’s especially rich that Bernie Sanders’s campaign has begun recruiting superdelegates to challenge Clinton’s increasingly large lead.

After Sanders’s huge wins in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii on Saturday, he went on television to make his case.

“A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their position with Hillary Clinton,” he said on CNN. After such large states had supported him in such large numbers, he went on, they should re-evaluate their allegiance.

In an interview for the Washington Post, Sanders advisor Tad Devine told Greg Sargent that “Sanders would call for this [superdelegate] switch if Sanders trailed in the popular vote and was very close behind in the pledged delegate count, too.”

But in November, Devine told the Associated Press that “The best way to win support from superdelegates is to win support from voters.”

Now who’s being undemocratic?

I support Sanders’s campaign for president. But more than that, I support the “revolution” of newly-politically engaged primary and general election voters he claimed would transform American politics into a fairer arena. If such a revolution fails to win the majority of democratically-elected delegates, and even fails to win the majority of the popular vote, how can it be said to be a revolution at all?

There’s a case to be made that Clinton’s early advantage in committed superdelegate support may have discouraged would-be Sanders supporters from voting for him, but that doesn’t seem likely: First, Sanders and Clinton have long been the only two viable Democratic candidates, so why wouldn’t primary voters choose Sanders even if they knew about Clinton’s superdelegate lead? And also, as the “anti-establishment” candidate of the pair, Sanders’s populist support has more often than not been emphasized by Clinton’s superdelegate support, not undermined by it.

The question then is: what are Sanders’s real metrics for political success? If he continues with his current delegate strategy, it seems popular support isn’t one of them.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 28, 2016

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Surprises With Controversial Superdelegate Strategy”: Going To Do The Best We Can In Any And Every Way To Win

Strictly speaking, Democratic primary and caucus voters are principally responsible for choosing their presidential nominee, but the power is not entirely in their hands. While those voters elect pledged delegates for the party’s national convention, the Democratic process also includes superdelegates – party officials who are able to cast their own votes, separate from primary and caucus results.

The system is not without critics. Though it’s never happened, the existing Democratic process leaves open the possibility that actual, rank-and-file voters – the folks who participate in state-by-state elections – will rally behind one presidential candidate, only to have party officials override their decision, handing the nomination to someone else. For many, such a scenario seems un-democratic (and un-Democratic).

It therefore came as something of a surprise this week when Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign first raised the prospect of doing exactly that. Sanders aides told reporters that he may not be able to catch Hillary Clinton through the primary/caucus delegate process, but the campaign might come close, at which point Team Bernie might ask superdelegates to give Sanders the nomination anyway, even if he’s trailing Clinton after voters have had their say.

On the show last night, Rachel asked the senator himself about the possibility. Initially, Sanders responded by talking about his optimism regarding upcoming contests and some national polling, but he didn’t answer the question directly.

So, Rachel asked again whether he might try to convince superdelegates to side with him, even if he’s behind in pledged delegates. Sanders said he and his campaign are “going to do the best we can in any and every way to win,” but he still avoided comment on the specific approach he’s prepared to take.

So, Rachel asked again. For those who missed it, this was the exchange that stood out.

MADDOW: I’m just going to push you and ask you one more time. I’ll actually ask you from the other direction. If one of you – presumably, there won’t be a tie – one of you presumably will be behind in pledged delegates heading into that convention. Should the person who is behind in pledged delegates concede to the person who is ahead in pledged delegates in Philadelphia?

SANDERS: Well, I – you know, I don’t want to speculate about the future and I think there are other factors involved. I think it is probably the case that the candidate who has the most pledged delegates is going to be the candidate, but there are other factors.

It was arguably one of the more controversial things Sanders has said this year.

When the race for the Democratic nomination first got underway, many saw this same scenario, but in reverse: it seemed possible that Sanders would do well in primaries and caucuses, and Clinton would turn to powerful superdelegates to elevate her anyway.

That possibility, not surprisingly, enraged many of Sanders’ backers. The Hill published this report in early February:

MoveOn.org Political Action and a group of backers of White House hopeful Bernie Sanders have launched petitions calling for superdelegates to support the candidate chosen by Democratic voters, not party insiders.

Ilya Sheyman, the group’s executive director, in a statement Thursday said voters “will not allow Democratic Party insiders to determine the outcome of this election.” … “The race for the Democratic Party nomination should be decided by who gets the most votes, and not who has the most support from party insiders,” Sheyman said.

Except, now Democrats face the prospect of seeing the entire scenario flipped on its head: Sanders and his team may ask those party insiders to help him, even if the results from primaries and caucuses favor Clinton.

For what it’s worth, such a strategy seems unlikely to succeed. As things currently stand, Clinton’s lead over Sanders among superdelegates is roughly 467 to 26. It’s difficult to imagine the circumstances in which most of Clinton’s official backers switch allegiance to Sanders, especially if Clinton leads the overall race once the primaries and caucuses are over.

But the fact that Sanders and his team are thinking along these lines is itself striking – and the sort of strategy his progressive backers may find difficult to explain after months of making the exact opposite argument.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 18, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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