On superdelegates and being the presumptive nominee

Based on new Superdelegate commitments, the AP has declared Hillary the “presumptive nominee” even before today’s primaries.  As you can imagine, this has brought all manner of complaint from Sanders’ forces about how unfair, etc., this all is.  I love this NPR article on the matter because it points out that, sorry Bernie, this is how we always do things.  Most notably, in 2008 when the pledged delegate gap between Obama and Clinton was much smaller:

Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates to be the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, according to an updated count by The Associated Press. She is the first woman ever to head a major-party ticket in this country.

New superdelegate commitments, party leaders and elected officials, have put her over the threshold of 2,383 necessary to be the nominee. She was widely expected to cross the threshold Tuesday when polls closed at 8 p.m. ET in New Jersey, as she was just 23 delegates short. But the AP canvassed more undeclared superdelegates and enough came forward to publicly declare their support for Clinton Monday night ahead of voting Tuesday…

Most caveats are no longer necessary — with one hitch: Clinton is not officially the nominee. That won’t happen until delegates actually vote at the Democratic National Convention in July in Philadelphia. (Donald Trump, for that matter, won’t officially bethe Republican nominee, either, until voting at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.)…

It won’t be without controversy, however. Sanders supporters argue it is “misleading,” “unfair,” and even a “lie” that news networks would declare Clinton the winner because “superdelegates” don’t officially vote until the convention.

Well, it’s true that superdelegates don’t vote until the convention. But neither do ANY of the delegates. If that were the standard, Trump wouldn’t be the “presumptive nominee” for the Republicans, either, because “unbound” delegates put him over the top. [emphasis mine]…

The reason NPR includes superdelegates in our count, which comes to us via the AP, either for Clinton or Sanders is because these officials have publicly pledged their support to one or the other candidate.

The 2016 Democratic contest is, in fact, unique in the sense that superdelegates, which were introduced in 1984, have always been included in counts. The focus has never so strongly before been on PLEDGED delegates. By that count, by the way, Clinton has a291-delegate lead (1,812 to 1,521)…

Instead, what is all but certain to play out after Tuesday is Clinton will have defeated Sanders soundly with primary voters over the course of this campaign, by far more delegates than Obama did in 2008. Obama finished just 69 delegates ahead of Clinton in 2008, and Clinton won the popular vote against Obama.

What’s more, Clinton’s current pledged-delegate lead (291) is bigger than what Obama had over her OVERALL (238.5). Overall, Clinton currently leads Sanders, including superdelegates, by 814…

It’s true that neither candidate will cross the line with pledged delegates alone. If they split the 694 delegates at stake Tuesday, Clinton will be a couple hundred short.

But that’s not the standard.

And it certainly doesn’t mean it will be a “contested” convention, given that Clinton leads Sanders currently by 523 superdelegates (571 to 48).

Tough facts for Sanders supporters, but that’s the reality.  Of course, the comments to the story are full of complaints about how unfair this all is, NPR is in the tank for Hillary, etc.  It would be totally unfair to compare Sanders supporters to the Tea Party, but there are similarities in the propensity for denying certain political realities in favor of ideological purity.

Anyway, Clinton will be the nominee.  Period.  And, sure it will really hurt if Sanders beats her in California tomorrow.  But I have a hard time imagining that truly mattering in November.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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