Superdelegates are people, too, and as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) explained at a recent Democratic National Committee (DNC) meeting, they’re already shifting away from Hillary Clinton and toward Sanders. They watch the news, follow polling trends and they’ll side with Sanders for the same reasons that he’s surged to only 7 percentage points behind Clinton. In August, writing for Bloomberg, Mark Halperin and Jennifer Epstein offered a quick breakdown of delegates and superdelegates within the Democratic Party and explained that Clinton had “secured” a great percentage of these party officials:
Final numbers are still in flux, but current estimates peg the total number of delegates to next summer’s presidential nominating convention at about 4,491, meaning that a candidate would need 2,246 to win. The Clinton camp’s claim to more than 440 delegates means she’s already wrapped up the support of more than 60 percent of the approximately 713 superdelegates who, under party rules, are among those who cast votes for the nomination, along with delegates selected by rank-and-file voters in primaries and caucuses beginning next February.
Since their only goal is electing a candidate capable of winning the White House, it’s highly doubtful Clinton’s alleged 60 percent support among superdelegates will remain until the end of the primaries. Like his surge in the polls and the Clinton campaign’s continued decline, superdelegates will flock to anders for a number of reasons.
1. Polling trajectory and other factors show that Sanders is now the front-runner.
In late August, Jonathan Bernstein wrote the following for Bloomberg:
Could all of this support disappear? Sure. But it will hold as as long as Clinton keeps her large polling advantage; nor are party actors likely to panic while Clinton is leading in head-to-head trial ballots against each of the Republican candidates.
Today, Sanders is just as competitive (if not more so) than Clinton against the GOP, he has cut into Clinton’s lead substantially, and panic has already set in among party officials. Talk of Vice President Biden entering the race is taking place for a reason. When Sanders can go from barely any support within the Democratic Party early in 2015 to now about 7 points behind Clinton, officials within the DNC know that only one candidate is capable of providing enough enthusiasm to win the White House.
Clinton’s support has already deteriorated in national polls for the same reasons that Sanders continues to surge: Only one candidate is free to discuss topics important to all Americans. The other candidate tells voters that she used a private server for “convenience.”
2. Democratic superdelegates know that the Democratic Party has experienced a paradigm shift toward Sanders and away from Clinton.
When Sanders talks about wealth inequality, healthcare, education, Wall Street, foreign policy and other key issues, voters hear an honest man with a clear and distinct message. According to the Huffpost Pollster interactive chart, Clinton’s support within the Democratic Party in late June was at 58.3 percent, compared to only 15.6 percent for Sanders. Fast-forward a couple of months, and Sanders is now only 7 points from Clinton. Sanders has surpassed Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, even though 25 percent of voters have “not heard enough” of the Vermont senator. According to a Sept. 16 Gallup report, “when Gallup recently asked Americans to say what they recall reading or hearing about her, one word — ‘email’ — drowned out everything else.”
The paradigm shift within the Democratic Party has taken place because Sanders’s message resonates with progressives. Clinton’s campaign theme has already been “drowned out” by emails.
3. Superdelegates want to win.
Democrats can’t win with the FBI as a running mate. Sanders offers the Democratic Party a better chance of winning than Clinton. The FBI and other intelligence agencies now have access to Clinton’s deleted emails. A recent Politico piece, “Hillary’s FBI nightmare,” states that “If the feds have Clinton’s personal emails, too, some of them are bound to come out — exactly as she feared.” Also, it goes on to quote a former top Department of Justice Official:
“Those are no longer merely personal records,” said Metcalfe, a former director of Justice’s Office of Information & Privacy who now teaches law at American University. “Anything that the bureau pulls off that server, old messages, new messages, Hillary’s allegedly personal messages, Hillary’s admittedly official records is now an agency record of the bureau’s law enforcement activities.”
Democrats can’t win the White House with the FBI and a total of five intelligence agencies investigating her personal emails and private server. While many Democrats and Clinton supporters believe the email scandal is another Benghazi, others like Edward Snowden believe it’s “completely ridiculous” to believe Clinton’s emails were safe.
Clinton’s email practices might have been legal, but if they are deemed to be unsafe from an intelligence perspective, Democrats won’t be able to win the presidency with Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
4. Superdelegates who’ve publicly supported Clinton have no obligation to honor their pledge.
Any public claim by the Clinton campaign of securing delegates is simply public relations spin. None of these delegates need to honor their initial commitment to Clinton. Like in 2008, her lead in the polls and commitments will eventually shift to the challenger. In 2015, the FBI and other intelligence agencies are involved while Sanders continues to draw greater support daily with increased name recognition.
5. Sanders is ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire.
If he wins those states, and wins South Carolina like Obama did in 2008, superdelegates around the nation will pick the candidate with momentum.
The media attention alone will make Democratic delegates across the nation fearful of blocking political momentum and choosing Clinton over Sanders, if he manages to win the first three contests. If he succeeds in Iowa and New Hampshire, and continues to shock the country by winning South Carolina, establishment Democrats and political wonks will immediately view Clinton as the underdog.
6. Most Americans don’t trust Clinton.
According to a CNN/ORC poll in June, 57 percent of voters nationally say Clinton is “not honest and trustworthy.”
Another CNN poll in August found that 55 percent of voters nationally have an “unfavorable” view of Hillary Clinton.
Superdelegates know these poll numbers and they will factor Clinton’s public image into the equation when deciding between Clinton and Sanders.
7. Swing states don’t trust Clinton.
Quinnipiac University Swing State Polls in August for Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania report that voters have a negative favorability rating of Clinton and say she is “not honest and trustworthy.”
Similarly, Quinnipiac University Swing State Polls in July for Colorado, Iowa and Virginia report that voters have a negative favorability rating of Clinton and say she is “not honest and trustworthy.”
Democrats are looking at a Donald Trump White House if swing states don’t trust the Democratic nominee.
Sanders doesn’t have the obstacles faced by Clinton (foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation, email scandal, etc.) that make trustworthiness an issue with voters.
8. There are a great number of progressives around the country who will only vote for Sanders and would rather sit out an election, or write in Sanders, rather than vote for Clinton.
This is another startling reality of 2016. Progressives around the nation might sit out the election or write in Sanders if Clinton is nominated. Although not backed by any polls, this phenomenon exists and even obituaries are now asking mourners not to vote for Hillary Clinton. One woman even used her obituary to campaign for Sanders with a final wish: “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.”
9. Biden’s theoretical entrance into the race is yet another reason why Clinton’s campaign isn’t viable.
This was supposed to be Clinton’s nomination. The vice president wasn’t ever a part of the equation until recently. Sooner or later, the Democratic establishment will have to come to terms with the fact that Democratic voters and progressives want Sanders, not anyone else, as the Democratic nominee.
10. Superdelegates will be remembered for their vote.
When Sanders wins the Democratic nomination and the White House, historians will look back at this time and discuss why certain states went to Clinton over Sanders. Delegates will be bound by history as to why they voted for Clinton, amidst scandal and other issues, instead of Sanders.
While Hillary Clinton has to be defended against scandals and dodged questions, Bernie Sanders has energized the Democratic base and Democratic Party delegates fear the possibility of a mutiny on Election Day if they ignore reality. The reality is that only one candidate is tied to an FBI investigation, while nobody in the country questions the honesty and integrity of Sanders. His message and the manner in which he has energized Democrats will enable Bernie Sanders to win all the delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination.