SocraticGadfly: A word or two with you about Democratic superdelegates

January 30, 2016

A word or two with you about Democratic superdelegates

Friend Brains thinks that Hillary Clinton is a sure winner of the Democratic nomination, and that Bernie Sanders may not have serious hope much beyond Super Tuesday, in part because of the superdelegate math.

But, is that really true?

First, the basic math of the Democratic nomination process. The party has 4,764 delegates, requiring 2,383 for nomination. Of these, an estimated 713 are superdelegates, or 15 percent of the total.

And, so far, many of them have already committed to Clinton. NPR, two months ago, said she already had 359. But, does she?

Well, for now.

But, is this guaranteed?


H.A. Goodman addressed a number of questions about superdelegates already last October.

The biggies are that superdelegate endorsements are  not "locked in," and that superdelegates, as head honcho types, like a winner.

In relation to Iowa, yes, Sanders winning the caucus delegates is the bottom line, per NBC. But, winning the popular vote over Clinton, even without that, is big enough. That's doubly true if he can get Republican and independent cross-overs in New Hampshire.

South Carolina, two weeks later, will be his first real test with black voters. But, even with Clintonista black surrogates like Ta-Nehisi Coates already focusing heavy fire on him, if he wins the popular vote in one or the other of the first two states, let alone both, he'll be getting better known by South Carolinians. And, in Nevada, the Democratic side skews younger, which will help.

That leads to "Super Tuesday," the single biggest day of the primary calendar.

Clinton is already on record as having little ground operation in most these states, even to the point of saying she'll be depending on the likes of union officials. Given that several unions have endorsed Sanders, and that some that have endorsed Clinton seem to have gone against their rank and file's wishes, this is kind of dicey.

Colorado, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, let alone Vermont, all look favorable to Sanders. Virginia might be, if party regulars in the Beltway are unenthusiastic. Georgia might be.

Two weeks later comes a semi-Super Tuesday. Five states here put the Dems at the halfway mark on non-superdelegates. Sanders' goal, at a minimum, is to win enough on both these dates to at least keep any more superdelegates from going Clinton. If he can get some of them to actually endorse him, all the better, in addition to actual delegate wins.

Beyond the momentum of some wins, the increased visibility of some wins can't hurt. Nor can it hurt when more and more people recognize that Sanders, not Clinton, is the "can-do" candidate. (Eventually, even a few superdelegates may admit that.)

Brains may still be right. But if Super Tuesday plays out as I note, especially if Sanders gets, say 30-35 percent of South Carolina's black vote (still a high "get" at this point, I'll admit), this race is going to be a definite contest through semi-Super Tuesday at least.

Jacobin tackles the minority support, or relative lack of to this date, for Sanders, in a definite read. It's basically saying in terms of minority voters what I say, and what Goodman has said about superdelegates. Sanders wins, he'll get more attention. Plus, Jacobin adds that Sanders has had to focus on the leading two states so that he can get those wins, and that bounce. Related? Though he's not yet caught her nationally, nationwide, Sanders has steadily been closing the polling gap.

Nate Silver tries to throw cold water on this, but take note that with all of his accuracy, Nate also has a whiff of Inside the Beltway cologne about him at times.

Throwing shade back at Nate, per NPR, Clinton had a 100-plus superdelegate lead on Obama early in the 2008 cycle. Yet more on that, with specific numbers, here. We know how that ended. Clinton's lead is bigger now because she announced earlier to what seemed less formidable opposition. (Remember how 2004 VP nominee John Edwards was the big tout before Babygate hit.)

Meanwhile, Silver's main polling analysis rival, Sam Wang, is claiming Iowa is must-win for Sanders. He not only doesn't make that claim for Clinton, he makes it for no GOP candidate, either.

And, he goes beyond that to claim that Sanders must win by "a fairly large margin," essentially rejecting everything that Goodman and Jacobin state will happen, especially with good performances in both states.

Rather, let's say Sanders wins Iowa. Just wins it, but not by a huge margin. And then strongly wins New Hampshire.

Suddenly, South Carolina is must-win territory for Clinton.

Finally, throwing further shade at both Silver and Wang, it's arguable, per a bar graph about halfway down this piece, that there's been big media coverage bias against Sanders in some ways.

(Brains believes I'm too optimistic on Democratic superdelegates. I noted back to him that my angle is they "may" shift somewhat to Sanders. It's not a "will." No, I'm not that naive. I added that this is just part of another medium-small blogger's efforts at, to use a hoops analogy, working the refs. And there's two sets of refs here — the Democratic establishment where the supers are, and the MSM.)


PDiddie said...

I'd be happy to be mistaken, but I don't think that I am. Look again at polling just in SC and TX. Texas has specifically jiggered its process to avoid n Obama-like caucus-driven insurgent as in 2008.

If Bernie gets a turnout surge on Monday night and wins Iowa (still somewhat out of his reach; and I thought he would win it a month ago) then history is definitely on his side, and Nevada and perhaps even SC get scrambled a bit. Bu today I would have to agree with Nate Silver and give her about a 75% chance at the nom.

Gadfly said...

I think you're right, IF he doesn't develop momentum and name recognition. But, I think Goodman has covered teh former, and Jacobin the latter.

And, how many "locked up" superdelegates did Clinton have at this point in 2008, before a guy named Obama got name recognition and momentum by winning?