Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, suggested in an
exchange with MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki that Bernie Sanders would challenge the nomination even if Hillary Clinton secured the pledged delegates by winning the support of superdelegates. Weaver said:
It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to get to [the number needed to secure the nomination], right? So it’s going to be an election determined by the superdelegates.
Many ridiculed Weaver on social media for suggesting that superdelegates, who overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton, could flip their support to Sanders. Bloomberg reports that 502 superdelegates have thrown their support behind Clinton compared to 38 for the Senator.
While I don’t blame anyone for thinking that way, it turns out that Bernie Sanders does have an opportunity to flip the superdelegates. Here is how:
Will Trump Be the Republican Nominee?
The Republican National Convention in Cleveland will be held on July 18-21. This is one week prior to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia on July 25-28. This timing can prove to be game changing because Democrats will know ahead of time who the Republican nominee will be.
Donald Trump won New York decisively carrying 90 of the 95 delegates and now has 846 delegates. He needs to reach the magic number of 1,237 to clinch the Republican nomination. Despite his massive lead over his opponents, it is still unclear whether Trump will be able to secure the nomination on the first ballot. Five Thirty Eight predicts that Trump will eventually reach 1,191 delegates, just short of the magic number needed to clinch the nomination.
But there is a catch! There are 132 uncommitted delegates who may vote for whichever candidate they prefer. So it’s still possible for Donald Trump to win the nomination on the first ballot. Randy Evans, who is part of the RNC rules committee, believes that Trump would win the nomination if he reaches 1,100 delegates. It’s unclear if others share that view with Evans.
The Republican Party will do whatever it takes to prevent Donald Trump from being the nominee. Although Trump threatens to run as an independent and warns of violence if “he finishes with the most delegates, and the nomination goes to someone else,” the Republican Party may take its chances because he is “the weakest GOP front-runner in the modern era.” It is virtually impossible for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. It’s a lose-lose situation.
If Donald Trump fails to win on the first ballot, Nate Silver explains that it’s more probable that Trump will not be the Republican nominee. Even Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Paul Manafort acknowledges this reality. Analysis by Philip Bump from the Washington Post shows that contested conventions haven’t been kind to the front-runners. He explains:
But come on, you might be thinking. Clearly, if Trump is that close to a majority, he’ll end up taking it, right?
And the answer is: Not if history is any guide.
Using CQ’s Guide to U.S. Elections, we looked up every convention in which no one had a majority on the first vote since 1872. And in the majority of those, the person who had the most votes on the first ballot did not end up as the party’s nominee.
So it’s not far-fetched that the Republican Party would nominate a more electable candidate such as John Kasich or Marco Rubio.
Kasich Would Defeat Clinton in the General Election
A recent WSJ/NBC News poll shows Clinton with a net 24 percent negative favorability (32 percent viewed her positively compared to 56 percent who viewed her negatively.) Her favorability is only getting worse as the campaign carries on. Only Trump has a worse negative favorability than the former Secretary of State.
However, if Kasich is nominated, he would prove to be a formidable candidate to beat. He has a net positive favorability of 12 percent, which is better than any other candidate in either party. Bernie Sanders comes a close second with a net positive favorability of 9 percent.
Clinton’s troubles are not only borne by the Republican Party. In New York exit polls, a closed primary where only registered Democrats can vote, only 60 percent considered Hillary Clinton honest and trustworthy.
That’s 60 percent of Democrats in her own state! Her numbers among independents are much worse. In a Fox News poll, 56 percent of independents question Hillary Clinton’s integrity, compared to 17 percent for Sanders.
Head-to-head matchups are also very concerning to the Secretary. According to Real Clear Politics, Kasich leads Clinton by 7.8 percent on average polling and has consistently performed better than Clinton in the last 15 polls in a row.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is the only Democratic candidate who has a real chance of defeating Kasich in the General Election. Average head-to-head matchups has him leading the Ohio Governor by 4 percent.
Can Sanders Convince Superdelegates To Support Him?
As I mentioned earlier, Democrats will know who will be the Republican nominee before a superdelegate gets to cast a vote. If Trump, or even Cruz, is the GOP nominee, it’s extremely unlikely that Sanders would be able to flip their vote. But if Kasich or Rubio were nominated, Bernie Sanders will have a very strong argument to make that many Democrats could consider. He could argue that a vote for Hillary Clinton is essentially a vote for John Kasich.
But it actually gets much worse than that!
Bernie Sanders could also stress how Democrats would be doomed if Kasich is the nominee. A Kasich win will help Republicans maintain control of the 24 Republican seats that are up for grabs in November due to the coattail effect. It’s very likely that Republicans will retain control of both houses of Congress as well as win the White House.
In the upcoming midterms in 2018, 24 Democrats, 8 Republicans and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats will face reelection. This is problematic as Democrats have often fared poorly in the midterms, and it’s not inconceivable that Republicans will have a supermajority in the Senate where Democrats won’t be able to filibuster any legislation no matter how extreme it is.
Sanders can warn Democratic leaders that their signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, would be repealed. Planned Parenthood would be defunded. In fact, the so-called moderate Kasich signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio earlier this year. The next nominee to the Supreme Court would most likely be very conservative. To put it simply, it would be a disaster.
While Bernie Sanders will have a very strong argument to make, it’s still unknown whether superdelegates will have the heart to switch their support to the Senator especially if Clinton wins more pledged delegates.
I Disagree With This Strategy
I am a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, but I don’t agree with this approach. I believe that the candidate who gets the most number of pledged delegates should become the Democratic nominee. I strongly believe that “the ends do not justify the means”, and I will not hold an exception to the rule just because I support Sanders. I also believe that American voters are responsible for the decisions they make. That’s democracy. Yes, I worry greatly from a Clinton presidency and her hawkishness, but we progressives can sometimes choose the high road at our own peril.
If you are a Clinton supporter, you should pray that Trump becomes the Republican nominee.