Superdelegates may decide the nominee- again
As we move into the next leg of the primary race, Super Tuesday is on the minds of every candidate. Coming off of a somewhat surprising win in Nevada last weekend, Hillary Clinton is riding that momentum into a sure victory today in South Carolina- she currently leads Sanders there by an almost 30 point margin. The real contest will come next week when Sanders and Clinton compete in several state primaries/caucuses. Clinton is looking for a breakaway moment from Sanders to try and move her way towards the nomination in July. Let's take a look at what polling is looking like so far:
Mrs. Clinton is looking to solidify the southern vote, and it looks like she will have no problem doing it. In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia Clinton leads Sanders by at least twenty points each. These states are home to a more diverse population- places where Sanders is still struggling to gain traction. In fact, Sanders is continuously hurting with minority voters, particularly with black voters- taking away only twenty-two percent of the vote in the Nevada caucus. There are states, however, where Sanders may be able to pick up some delegates. Oklahoma, which had Clinton up fourteen points in one poll, now only shows her with a two point lead going into Tuesday. Vermont is an obvious win for Sanders, showing him up nearly seventy points in certain polls and Massachusetts looks to be leaning towards Sanders. Sanders may also have promise in Minnesota and Colorado, two caucus states, where he is seen to do better than Clinton in terms of support. Nevada was a hard hit for Sanders, but he may be able to take a few states away from Mrs. Clinton in this next stretch of the race. All in all, Clinton could walk away with close to 571 delegates compared to Sanders' 288.
While this contest on Tuesday does award a fair amount of delegates to the victors, there is still more of a race to go. But does Sanders have a chance to clinch the nomination from Clinton in any way? Several pundits and experts believe that Clinton will eventually win the nomination by winning the necessary delegates to be nominee. The magic number to win is 2,382 delegates out of the 4,763 attending the convention. Right now, Sanders and Clinton are tied at 51 pledged delegates each. But the actual number of candidates that each has looks something like this:
So how is it possible that the candidates have more delegates than the ones that have awarded by the contests? How does Clinton have 503 compared to Sanders' 71? The answer lies with the so called "superdelegates"
To understand the massive lead that Clinton has with delegates right now, we have to look at the way that Democrat Party runs their delegate process. Just like Republicans, Democrat candidates compete with one another in each state primary/caucus for the delegates in that state. Each candidate wins a proportion of the total delegates for that state based on the amount of the vote that they pull in. For example, Iowa has a total of 52 delegates. Clinton won that state with 49.9 percent of the vote compared to Sanders' 49.6 percent. Clinton was awarded 22 delegates and Sanders was awarded 21. Each state has their own rules on how delegates are awarded but they are all done on a proportional basis. These are PLEDGED delegates- they are the people who will go to the convention in July and formally cast their vote for the candidate they are tied to. So where do these superdelegates come in? This is where it gets tricky.
Just like regular delegates, there are a certain number of superdelegates in every state. Unlike a pledged delegate, these delegates are free to support whichever candidate they choose- they are not bound to anyone. These people also go to the convention in July to formally cast their vote for a candidate. But who are these superdelegates? They tend to be high-level people within the Democrat Party. Congresspeople, governors and state officials of the like make up the pool of superdelegates from every state. They're a response to the disastrous 1972 Democratic convention where grassroots support behind Governor George McGovern, a non-favorable candidate to the party at the time, carried him to the nomination. These superdelegates make up about 20 percent of the total 4,763 and are picked by state delegations. As stated before, these candidates are not bound to anyone and cast their vote for any candidate at the convention. Do you see where this could pose a possible problem? Could superdelegates decide the nominee at the convention even if they did not actually win the majority of the votes? Let's look at the Democrat's 2008 primary as an anecdote.
The battle for the Democratic nomination was fought all of the way to the convention in 2008. Then-Senators Obama and Clinton fought a tough competition and neither candidate received enough delegates to become the nominee at the convention. The magic number of delegates needed to gain the nomination in 2008 was 2,117 and neither candidate had that number by the time the convention came. Obama came to the convention with a total of around 1,766 and Clinton with around 1,639. This is where the superdelegates come in. In this race, there were a total of 823 superdelegates up for grabs. Because neither candidate took the nomination with a majority of the pledged candidates, the superdelegates were needed to decide the race. At the end of the day, 463 out of the 823 superdelegates pledged their support for Obama which gave him the nomination. There is more to this story, however. Clinton technically won the popular vote with a total of 17,857,501 compared to Obama's 17,584,692. Despite this, Obama became the nominee because of the support of superdelegates- people who show no loyalty to any candidate regardless if they won their home state's popular vote or not. In theory, Obama could have had a significantly less amount of delegates going into the convention, with Clinton possibly being the clear choice and one delegate away from the nomination, and Obama could have still won with the support of superdelegates.
Now let's bring this back to the 2016 election. As stated before, Clinton and Sanders are nearly tied at this stage in the game. Clinton will begin to expand her lead with pledged delegates following South Carolina today and Super Tuesday next week, however. Clinton will also most likely continue to expand her gap between Sanders with the support of superdelegates in the states that they compete in. If we look at New Hampshire, where Sanders trounced Clinton by a near 30 point lead, Sanders gained 15 pledged delegates compared to Clinton's eight from the overall vote. There are eight superdelegates in that state, however, and six of them have already pledged their support to Clinton with two not yet supporting anyone. This why at the end of the night Clinton and Sanders left with roughly the same amount of delegates even though Sanders was the clear winner. When we take superdelegates who have already come forward and pledged their support for Clinton, we see a massive gap of 501-71 in Clinton's favor and it's not even March yet. In actuality, Clinton is already about 15 percent of the way to the nomination because of the stated support of superdelegates. This will most likely carry her on to win the nomination in July.
So is this a repeat of 2008 for the Democrats? Will the nominee be decided by a handful of superdelegates? Possibly. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), stated recently that the reason that unpledged, or superdelegates exist, is "to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don't have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists." Could Sanders be the new McGovern? To many in the party he is indeed and this is the best way to stop him. Now if this process is making you mad and making you think that your vote does not matter, remember that these superdelegates are free to change their vote at the convention so nothing is set stone. But with the numbers looking the way that they do now, Sanders has an uphill battle ahead of him if he is to take on Clinton and win the necessary pledged delegates to become the nominee. Hillary Clinton could go on to win the nomination in the same way that she lost it in 2008.
If you would like more info regarding the superdelegate process, click here.