Bernie Sanders' delegate count could surge in the blink of an eye if a large share of the superdelegates simply changed their stated support. It could be as easy as 1-2-3. Well, actually, the numbers are 3-4-5.
Millions of Americans have voted in 37 democratic primaries so far, but at this moment, it would only take 345 people to make Bernie Sanders the front-runner – if those 345 people are superdelegates who switch from declaring Hillary Clinton to feeling the Bern.
Switching may seem unlikely, but in 2008, the delegate count shifted away from Clinton when superdelegates "...defected from her corner to Obama's," a sea change noted as far away as the UK, in The Guardian.
According to RealClear Politics, Clinton has what is deemed a total of 1,758 delegates, but 469 of those are promises to vote by superdelegates -- people defined by US Politics as top officials in the Democratic National Convention, past presidents and vice presidents, democratic members of congress, and other elected representatives.
Those 469 people have said they will support Clinton, but cannot vote in favor of her or Sanders until the Democratic Convention in late July.
Although he is behind Clinton, Bernie Sanders is riding an enormous wave of popular support. His delegate count has increased to 1,069 after a recent winning streak and includes 31 promises by superdelegates to vote for him.A superdelegate may switch their stated support to a different candidate. In 2008, superdelegate and former DNC Chairman Joe Andrew told Fox News that he abandoned Clinton and declared for then-candidate Barack Obama because Andrew was "...inspired by how and what [Obama] is doing and how he's trying to bring... a new attitude to this process."
Inspiration and a new political attitude are prominent in Sanders' campaign to be the democratic nominee and may sway superdelegates his way. But how exactly would the math work?
If 345 of Clinton's 469 superdelegates made the move to Sanders, they would be added to Sanders' count and deducted from Clinton's. Her total of 1,758 would fall to 1,413, while Sanders' would increase to 1,414, putting Sanders in the lead.
Sanders supporters are on to this strategy, and some have contacted Clinton-supporting superdelegates to urge them to change their minds. Some Bernie followers have reached out to superdelegates so fervently that the Chicago Tribune published the complaint of one superdelegate – DNC member Bob Mulholland.
But Mulholland has a history of mud slinging. In 1992, the Los Angeles Times called him an "old hand at attack-style politics," and in 2010 the Chico Enterprise-Record published a letter warning about Mulholland's "dirty tricks" in election campaigns.
Now, Mulholland is objecting to the practice of people calling on superdelegates to switch their support away from Clinton.
However, many superdelegates are also politicians who, unlike Mulholland, need public support to stay in elected office. For them, getting re-elected means relying on math that is more straightforward than in a presidential primary. Since their elections are based on the number of votes from registered voters, without the boost of super delegate votes, it is vital to convince their constituents to vote for them.
Therefore, when voters tell superdelegate politicians to back Bernie or lose their support, those superdelegates may be choosing to end their elected careers if they choose not to listen.But wait, there's more… more superdelegates than those who already have promised their votes to Clinton or Sanders – 212 superdelegates have yet to announce their support for either candidate. Should those 212 proclaim their promises to vote for Bernie, then, to reverse the scales, only 239 of Clinton's 469 superdelegates would have to change their stated support.
In that case, Clinton would drop to 1,519 total delegates while Sanders would climb to the lead with 1,520.Many people, especially Bernie Sanders' supporters, question the superdelegate system. The Washington Times referred to the superdelegates as "party insiders," a term that underscores Sanders' message that a few powerful people in establishment politics unfairly run the show.
Whether the system is unfair or not, Bernie Sanders' delegate count could surge if two things happen -- the superdelegate elected officials come to the belief that their constituents will re-elect them only if they vote for Bernie, and they choose the will of the people (and their own careers in elected office) over a sense of personal or party obligation to Clinton.
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