Straight off three major caucuses wins, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is eyeing the superdelegates that frontrunner Hillary Clinton secured even before the nominating contests commenced. After his big primary wins on Western Saturday, Sanders appeared on the political talk show circuit on Sunday morning, March 27, 2016, including CNN’s “State of the Union” and on ABC News. Sanders discussed his possibility to win still the nomination the battle over superdelegates especially in the states were won.
Sanders appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper where he explicitly discussed the superdelegate issue. Sanders told Tapper, “I think the momentum is with us. A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their positions with Secretary Clinton.”
Sanders is hoping the superdelegates especially in the states he won and by large margins will rethink their support for Clinton. Sanders pointed out, “And then you’ve got superdelegates in states where we win by 40 or 50 points. I think their own constituents are going to say to them, ‘Hey, why don’t you support the people of our state and vote for Sanders?'”
Superdelegates are non-binding and can change their decision of who to vote for up until the vote on the convention floor. As ABC News notes, the superdelegates “will face grassroots pressure — and pressure from the campaign — to back the will of their hometown voters.”
In most general election matchup polls, Sanders does better than Clinton against the possible Republican presidential nominee beating them all by larger margins. This includes matchups with frontrunner Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Sanders pointed this out to Tapper showing he is the stronger candidate and should affect superdelegate support. Sanders commented, “I think when they begin to look at reality, and that is that we are beating Donald Trump by much larger margins than Secretary Clinton.”
Sanders won the Alaska, Washington and Hawaii caucuses on Western Saturday, March 26 by huge or as Sanders put it “yuge” margins winning each contest with nearly 70 percent of the vote and more. With the three states, 142 delegates were at stake, including 101 from Washington. Sanders won a majority of the delegates. Sanders made a dent in Clinton’s pledged delegate count. The current count for pledged delegates shows a difference of less than 300.
Even before any of the nominating contests started, Clinton amassed the support of over 400 superdelegates party insiders in each state. A “candidate needs 2,382” delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Besides the delegates a candidate garners from state primary and caucuses votes there are 712 superdelegates up for grabs. Superdelegates are party insiders as NPR explains, “they include state and national elected officials, as well as Democratic National Committee members.”
University of Georgia lecturer Josh Putnam described the creation of the superdelegate in a blog post from 2009 on his personal blog, Frontloading HQ. Putnam recounted, “The reason superdelegates came into being in the interim period between the 1980 and 1984 elections was to allow the party establishment an increased voice in the nomination process.” Putnam pointed out that the Democratic Party created superdelegates to be able to override voters only if Democrats voted for a candidate party leaders believed was too “extreme” or could not be elected.
NPR indicated, “political scientists” found “endorsements a candidate racks up in the so-called invisible primary have in the past been a strong indicator of who will eventually win the nomination.” Unlike delegates pledged during primary and caucus votes, superdelegates are not bound to the candidate they promise themselves to and are open to changing their minds.
Clinton as the establishment candidate had long relationships with many of the superdelegates, from her husband former President Bill Clinton’s tenure, and her tenures as a New York Senator and Secretary of State. Sanders has less than 30 superdelegates in his corner. Sanders is an outsider despite serving in the House of Representatives and Senate for over 25 years he did so as an independent and is not a Democratic insider.
Regarding pledged delegates, Clinton’s lead is not an insurmountable lead with delegate-rich states coming up Sanders could still catch up. Clinton has 1243 delegates to Sanders 975 with 2383 needed to win the nomination. Clinton has 469 superdelegates to Sanders’ 29. Most media outlets include the unpledged delegates boosting Clinton’s total.
Sanders told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, he realizes he is still the “underdog” in the race, but believes that his campaign “do have a path to victory.” Continuing, Sanders pointed out, “What we showed yesterday is in fact the momentum is with us. We think we’re going to do well in Wisconsin. We think we got a real shot in New York. And then we go out to California. You go out to Oregon. That’s the most progressive part of America.”