The Democratic primary race offers a stark contrast to the GOP race in policy and tone. It’s also much clearer…. (More)
At the Races, Part II: Democratic Clarity
This week Morning Feature looks at the status of the 2016 races. Yesterday we began with the chaos in the GOP. Today we’ll see the comparative clarity in the Democratic presidential primary. Saturday we’ll look at each party’s prospects for November.
“It’s not a matter of delegate arithmetic”
You know a campaign is on the rocks when the campaign manager starts challenging the rules. And that’s what Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager Tad Devine did Wednesday in his “Path Forward” conference call with reporters:
On "Path Forward" call, Sanders strategist Tad Devine notes pledged delegates are not always obligated to vote as pledged…
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) March 16, 2016
As a matter of legal technicalities, Devine is correct. The Democratic Party has “pledged delegates” but not “bound delegates,” as DNC press secretary Stacie Paxton explained in 2008:
Delegates to the Democratic National Convention who are elected based on the results of a primary or caucus are “pledged” to support the presidential candidate whom they represent as a delegate.
Under the Democratic Party’s Rules, pledged delegates are not legally “bound” or required to vote according to their presidential preference on the first ballot at the Convention. Rather, these delegates are, pledged “in all good conscience [to] reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” [Rule 12.J]
Pledged delegates are not “bound” to vote for the candidate they were elected to represent. They can, and have in the past, cast a vote for the presumptive nominee when their candidate has dropped out of the race. As a sign of good faith, most former candidates will “release” their delegates from voting for them; however, this is not required, and only has a symbolic meaning to it. Delegates can vote for another presidential candidate without being “released.”
So yes, Hillary Clinton’s pledged delegates could decide to vote for Sanders at the convention. But they won’t. He’s not the presumptive nominee, nor should he be based on the primary results so far. Quite simply, Devine is grasping at straws …
“Barring some sudden and seismic change in the race….”
… or perhaps he shares the right wing’s hope that Clinton will be indicted before the convention. Because short of that, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained on Tuesday night, Sanders faces almost impossible odds:
Bernie Sanders fell so far behind Hillary Clinton Tuesday night that it’s all but impossible for him to catch her, barring some sudden and seismic change in the race.
The votes are still being counted in some states, and Sanders was leading Missouri at press time. [Clinton eventually won by a razor-thin margin.] But Democratic proportional delegate allocation rules mean that if a race in a state is close, the identity of the winner barely matters – both candidates will get a comparable amount of delegates.
The states that matter the most for the delegate count are, instead, the landslides. Before Tuesday, Clinton had already built up a lead of 215 pledged delegates over Sanders due mainly to her landslide victories across the South.
And the landslides tonight all went in Clinton’s favor.
As of this morning, Clinton has 1147 pledged delegates and 467 super-delegates, for a total of 1614 delegates committed. Sanders has 830 pledged delegates and 26 super-delegates, for a total of 856 committed. A candidate needs 2383 delegates to win, and there are 2295 left to be pledged in primaries.
To win, Sanders would need to win 66% of the remaining delegates. Right now he trails Clinton by 21 points in New York and by 11 points in California. Both have been tightening, but not even narrow wins in those two states would save him. He has to win both of those delegate-rich states by 2:1 landslides … and repeat that same outcome in every other primary left on the calendar.
That is so unlikely as to be sheer fantasy … and that’s why Tad Devine is making noises about flipping Clinton’s pledged delegates. In Team Sanders, it seems, Feeling The Bern should trump primary votes at the convention.
But it won’t, and Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Photo Credit: K Johansson (Wikimedia)