Superdelegates: Why Bernie Faces an Uphill Battle, No Matter the Polls

National polls continue to show Senator Bernie Sanders catching up to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton; Sanders even appears to top Clinton in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, the truth of the matter is that Sanders is already operating at a major deficit and that securing the delegate votes necessary to win the presidential nomination will be an uphill battle.

Before we can really delve into this subject, it’s important to understand how the Democratic presidential nominee is selected. A total of 4,764 delegates will cast votes for the nominee at the Democratic National Convention, most of which are obligated to vote in a way that reflects how their state’s Democratic primary voters cast their ballots. However, 713 of these delegates are deemed “superdelegates,” bigwigs in the Democratic Party who are free to cast their delegate vote for whomever they choose.

These 713 superdelegates account for 15 percent of the total vote. Traditionally, these superdelegates largely throw their support behind the candidate that the American voters choose via the primary process as a sign of unity. This time, however, the superdelegates are coming out in favor of one particular candidate: Clinton.

After polling each of the superdelegates, the Associated Press found that 359 are already firmly supporting Clinton, meaning that more than half of the Democratic Party’s superdelegates are clinched for the former Secretary of State. In comparison, Sanders has just 11 superdelegates in his corner, while Governor Martin O’Malley had two superdelegates committed to voting his way.

Crunching the numbers, if Clinton has 359 locked votes out of the 2,383 votes she needs to secure victory, that means she’s already 15 percent of the way to victory. Clinton’s Democratic friends also give her a substantial lead on Sanders before Americans get a chance to cast a single primary ballot.

Again, it’s rare to see this many superdelegates pledging their votes to a candidate, especially for one particular candidate at such a wide margin. The message – for better or worse – is that party insiders have already chosen their preferred candidate and aren’t bothering to wait for input from the voters.

During the last election cycle, writer Dan Abrams pointed out that each superdelegate’s vote is worth the same as approximately 10,000 primary voters’ votes. Bearing that lopsided figure in mind, the Democratic Party doesn’t seem nearly as democratic as its name would suggest.

All of that is further proof of how the two major political parties have a stranglehold on elections. The average citizen probably assumes that the primary votes are what determines which candidates run for president, not realizing that superdelegates exist to potentially tip the scale and allow the party establishment to have the final say on the candidate.

Unlike the case with the Electoral College, states are not winner-takes-all in Democratic primaries. State delegates are awarded to candidates proportionately, so if current poll numbers continue to be close over the upcoming months, the delegates could show up to the convention pretty evenly split. In that scenario, it would be the superdelegates who would decide the nominee – and their decision is already pretty clear.

Can you imagine the pandemonium that would ensue in a situation where Bernie Sanders comes out on top in the primaries but still loses the presidential nomination? Hopefully, the superdelegates would realize that overriding the popular vote would make the party look shady and wind up alienating many of its supporters. Letting the election play out rather than declaring allegiance many months before the convention occurs seems like the better way for superdelegates to handle the situation.

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

130 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

This is from January 2016, with some interesting info -- educational. What does March 2016 look like.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

If Bernie comes out winner at the primaries, then He could possibly win the Presidential election.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

Please ignore the comment below. Thank you for the info in the article.

So, you are saying that even if the people vote for Bernie in the primary -- then the delegates can still elect Clinton. Does that seem fair? Obviously NO!

From the article: "These 713 superdelegates account for 15 percent of the total vote. Traditionally, these superdelegates largely throw their support behind the candidate that the American voters choose via the primary process as a sign of unity. This time, however, the superdelegates are coming out in favor of one particular candidate: Clinton."

Forget that people are still going for Bernie.
Thank you for the info! What do we do if Bernie is more popular? Will he still win -- somehow?

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

From the article:
"These 713 superdelegates account for 15 percent of the total vote. Traditionally, these superdelegates largely throw their support behind the candidate that the American voters choose via the primary process as a sign of unity. This time, however, the superdelegates are coming out in favor of one particular candidate: Clinton.

Thank you for the info!

What do we do if Bernie is more popular? Will he still win -- somehow?

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

Now let the candidates do something like -- clean up the oil in the bottom of the gulf that is like a blanket there -- and give homes to refugees and homeless people -- homes and communities that are self-sustaining, and organic, heirloom seeds being used, build with the earth -- maybe on the ocean -- in wave-power-ship communities. Put the candidates to work -- to prove they are worth your vote.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

After that pose of a topic, what does this country -- and the world look like -- if Bernie becomes the president?

What does this nation and the world look like if Trump becomes president?

What does this nation and the world look like if Hillary becomes the president?

These are all talented people -- will they please speak and behave civil -- i have jumped over-board, and thank you for the ride.

Let's ask all the candidates to give each paper a list of what they will do, and go to work on a project that will help the USA To get better!

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 months ago

Quote from the article:
"Can you imagine the pandemonium that would ensue in a situation where Bernie Sanders comes out on top in the primaries but still loses the presidential nomination? Hopefully, the superdelegates would realize that overriding the popular vote would make the party look shady and wind up alienating many of its supporters. Letting the election play out rather than declaring allegiance many months before the convention occurs seems like the better way for superdelegates to handle the situation."

James Maynard
James Maynard5 months ago

Interesting article and comments....

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld6 months ago

David,
He does not have everything backwards. The higher tax rates in the 1950s were to pay down the enormous debt incurred during WWII. The economy continued to thrive, and government tax revenue soared after JFK lower the marginal tax rates. The minimum wage is near its historic average, although it could us a bump up to $8.00/hr sometime soon to keep pace. Funny how Brian wants to limit CEO pay to below that of one-third of American households. I have yet to see him rail about sports player or the entertainment industry which have higher income disparities. The highest baseball player (Kershaw) makes $30 million annually, compared to the lowest at under $5000. This is more than 6000 times higher. At least a dozen movies stars earned even higher salaries, resulting in greater disparity. What about the White House, were the president makes $400K + benefits, while the interns earn squat? His corporate tax data comes from years when a company lost money, and hence pays no tax, compared to good years, when their tax rates can exceed 40%. He blames the companies, when it Congress that makes the rules.