Clinton Has 2.5 Million-Vote Lead, So Who Is More Popular?

Clinton Has 2.5 Million-Vote Lead, So Who Is More Popular?
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On the eve of the April 5 Wisconsin primary, which most polls show Bernie Sanders will win, the Vermont senator and his campaign leaders have been all over the media in the last several weeks calling on Hillary Clinton-committed “super delegates” to switch sides. Their argument: Sanders is more popular so such a switch would be consistent with “small d” democratic principles.

Sanders is making this argument because he has done the math and he knows that this is his only realistic way to capture the Democratic nomination.

So far, in the 35 primaries and caucuses prior to Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton has amassed a total of 1,712 delegates (1,243 elected pledged delegates, and 469 super delegates) vs. Sanders with 1,011 delegates (980 pledged, 31 super delegates). Thus, before Wisconsin votes, Clinton leads by 701 delegates. According to a story Sunday by the Associated Press, this means “Sanders must win about 67 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted super delegates … through June to be able to clinch the Democratic nomination.”

This is made even more difficult by the nature of the nearly two dozen remaining contests.

They include less than a handful of caucuses (a system that favors Sanders, as we have seen, since the low-turnout caucuses, as compared to primaries, give progressive activists a decided advantage).

Moreover, 13 of the remaining contests are “closed,” meaning only registered Democrats can vote. This favors Clinton, based on passed results, since she has consistently received double-digit margins among Democratic voters over the non-Democrat Sanders.

So it appears that, realistically, the only way Sanders can win the nomination is to persuade large numbers of super delegates publicly committed to Clinton to switch and support Sanders because of sensitivity to the “democratic will.”

Of course, the argument is contradicted by the facts: By any measure of democracy, Hillary Clinton is winning by a large margin and deserves the support of the super delegates.  

First, she has won more than 2.5 million votes that Sen. Sanders in the 35 Democratic primaries and caucuses held so far (prior to the April 5 Wisconsin primary)—a landslide margin of 58 percent to 42 percent so far.

Second, Clinton’s lead among elected pledged delegates from those 35 contests by is 263 delegates. Last time I looked, elected pledged delegates were a product of democratic processes.

Finally, even if super delegates were to ignore these hard data proving Hillary Clinton is the choice of most voters thus far, super delegates hardly can be described as anti-“democratic.” To the contrary.  I was a Democratic National Committee member elected by hundreds of Democratic committee members from Maryland in 1982 when super delegates were first created. We did so by a large margin – I believe the vote was nearly unanimous – precisely because we believed elected governors, senators and House members, who received millions or hundreds of thousands of votes, were far more representative of the broad electorate -- racially, economically, religiously, ideologically -- than the relatively small fraction of eligible Democrats and independents who participated in party primaries and particularly the low turnout caucuses.

It is a somewhat amazing argument that delegates elected in the Idaho caucuses, where just 24,000 voters turned out statewide and where Sanders won by a margin of 13 votes over Clinton, reflects a more “democratic choice” than senators from states who are elected with millions of votes. I guess it depends on your definition of “democracy.”  

In any event, party rules were adopted many years ago allowing super delegates to be unpledged because of their status as elected and party office. The rules allowing super delegates to vote at the 2016 convention were specifically approved by the Democratic National Committee, which consists of party members from all of the states and jurisdictions that participate in caucuses and primary elections.

Surely, Sen. Sanders cannot be seeking the votes of super delegates at the same time he is repudiating their right to vote.

Surely, he cannot be thinking about changing the rules of the game after the game is in process – simply because he is behind.

Surely, the senator can’t claim with a straight place that, although he is behind Clinton by 2.5 million votes up to now, democratic principles dictate that super delegates committed to Clinton should switch to him.

Surely he can’t.

But if he does, will the media let him get away with it?

Lanny Davis, a Washington attorney specializing in legal crisis management, is a weekly columnist in The Hill newspaper and author of “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics and Life.” He served as special counsel to President Clinton from 1996-98 and is a longtime friend and supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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