Sanders Pressures Clinton Superdelegates to Jump Ship
The Bernie Sanders campaign is pressuring some Democratic leaders who are superdelegates that have already pledged their support to Hillary Clinton to switch to his team.
The Vermont Senator has been making the argument to the press that superdelegates will see that he has momentum and the best shot to win, and thus they will see him as the smart bet.
“I still support her 100 percent,” New Hampshire superdelegate Kathleen Sullivan told The Hill.
“I believe the [nominee] will be Hillary Clinton. I don’t see a path for a lead in the pledged delegates for Sen. Sanders.”
The Hill reports:
Clinton currently leads Sanders by 268 pledged delegates. But her lead increases to 708 thanks to support among superdelegates, who are given a vote at the convention with no strings attached.
She has won the support of 469 out of the 712 superdelegates, compared to just 29 for Sanders, according to The Associated Press as of Monday. The remaining superdelegates have not yet publicly pledged their support.
Adding in superdelegates, Clinton needs 671 delegates to win the nomination, while Sanders needs 1,379 more.
Sanders broached the topic of capturing superdelegates on Sunday’s CNN “State of the Union,” where he claimed that “the momentum is with us” and “a lot of these superdelegates may rethink their positions with Secretary Clinton.”
The Sanders camp continued its pressure on Monday, contending in a conference call to reporters that Clinton’s campaign is in trouble and that superdelegates will start to side with Sanders’s campaign.
“There are a few hundred superdelegates currently unpledged. It would be very easy for them to be pledged to Hillary Clinton given the media narrative and the establishment support she has,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver said.
“The fact they have yet to do that demonstrates there’s certainly a large number of superdelegates who have some reluctance with Secretary Clinton’s campaign.”
The Sanders campaign also claimed there are “dozens” of superdelegates who have privately pledged their support and will come forward down the road, but would not identify specific names.
Clinton’s camp swatted aside Sanders’s plan to flip superdelegates during its own press call Monday, scheduled just hours after the Sanders call ended.
Joel Benenson, the Clinton campaign’s top pollster who served in a similar role on the Obama campaigns, needled the Sanders team for refusing to name the secret superdelegates supporting him. He told reporters that he “chuckled” upon hearing that, joking that it was an empty promise.
Superdelegate defections are not unheard of — many of Clinton’s 2008 backers left her for Barack Obama once it became clear she would not become the nominee.
Because of the freedom of superdelegates and their establishment leanings, Sanders’s supporters have seized on the idea of superdelegates as a symbol of insiders working to grease the skids for Clinton.
That doesn’t mean Sanders doesn’t want those superdelegates.
Major progressive group MoveOn, which backs Sanders, launched a petition in February calling on superdelegates to stand by the “will of the voters.”
But on Monday, Sanders strategist Tad Devine noted the importance of superdelegates and said that more party leaders will defect from Clinton because, he said, Sanders is better positioned to win the general election.
For now, Clinton does not appear to be bleeding any superdelegates.
For example, in New Hampshire, where Sanders won with 60 percent of the vote, Gov. Maggie Hassan remains committed to Clinton, a spokesman said, even while the governor said she “appreciates” that Sanders has highlighted voters’ frustration against special interests.
“Governor Hassan supports Hillary Clinton because she believes that Secretary Clinton’s strong record of leadership has proven that she’s the right person to lead our country and get things done,” spokesman Aaron Jacobs said.
A spokesperson to Michigan Sen. Gary Peters told The Hill that he’s “not considering changing his support” despite Sanders’s victory in Michigan.
And Clinton-backing superdelegates such as Washington Rep. Adam Smith, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and Colorado Democratic National Committee member-at-large Blanco O’Learyhave also pledged to local media that they will not waver despite her loss in their states.
Sanders and his supporters have tried to woo Clinton supporters away from the front-runner. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Clinton supporter, received a note in a takeout meal over the weekend imploring him to “Feel the Bern,” tweeting a picture to his followers.
The pitch about Sanders’s claimed general election supremacy over Clinton did not convince Sullivan, the New Hampshire superdelegate siding with Clinton. When the Sanders pitch was repeated back to her by The Hill, she laughed.
“That’s not true. I have to laugh at that. Secretary Clinton is the stronger general election candidate,” she said, noting that both Sanders and Clinton would defeat Donald Trump.
She added that Sanders has not yet faced the onslaught of Republican attacks that Clinton has over her years in the public eye.
Sanders’s recent electoral success may not have swayed defectors at this point, but he reportedly picked up three who had been uncommitted. Politico reported Monday that Alaska Democratic Party vice chairman Larry Murakami, Idaho Democratic Party chairman Bert Marley and Utah Democratic Party chairman Peter Corroon will back Sanders.
And while he stayed uncommitted even after his state voted for Sanders, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson told the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead over the weekend that he’d side with his constituents.
For now, the Sanders camp says it remains focused on amassing pledged delegates, hoping that he’s able to narrow Clinton’s gap and ultimately convince the superdelegates to jump aboard.
“If we do very well with voters in the weeks and months ahead, we believe we can make a very strong case not just to people who haven’t decided to support, but people who have already publicly endorsed Secretary Clinton,” Devine said.