Could Hillary Clinton Win Without Superdelegates? There Are Two Ways To Look At The Democrats' Delegate Race
Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to the Associated Press. But that's only with the support of superdelegates. The news agency surveyed Democratic elected officials and party leaders to see which candidate they plan on supporting. There are a total of 714 such folk, and they're free to vote for either candidate come July. Enough of them committed to Clinton in the AP interviews that it pushed her over the top, sewing up the support of 2,383 delegates — the magic number. But what if we counted them out? Could Hillary Clinton still win without superdelegates?
The short answer is yes. But there are two scenarios to consider. In one, it's highly unlikely if not impossible. The magic number of delegates needed to win is, again, 2,383 according to the DNC's rules — but that includes super delegates, not just pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. According to the Associated Press delegate count, Clinton has 1,812 delegates going into Tuesday's race. That means she's 571 delegates short if we're shooting for the 2,383 majority.
That would be a tricky number to hit. The total number of pledged delegates available in Tuesday's six races is 694 — with 475 coming from California alone. Another 20 will be awarded next week in Washington D.C.'s primary. For Clinton to win a majority of total delegates without any support from superdelegates, she would need to win more than 75 percent of the vote in these upcoming races. She's currently polling ahead nationwide — and in California — but nowhere near that margin. She'll probably take home just over half the votes if the AP announcement doesn't change the outcome.
That is the scenario the Sanders camp keeps talking about. He has said the Democratic National Convention will be contested because Clinton will be relying on support of superdelegates to put her over the top (just as Obama did in 2008). He claims he can sway their votes between now and July, and therefore it's contested. But this scenario doesn't truly get rid of superdelegates. It just challenges Hillary to win without their support in a system designed with them in mind.
If we actually counted out superdelegates all together, Clinton would easily win the nomination. That would bring down the magic number to just 2,026. That means Clinton would be just 214 short. She would then only need to win about 30 percent of the vote in the remaining contests — something she will easily surpass. By the end of Tuesday, the pledged delegate majority should easily be called for Clinton.
As Nate Silver wrote Monday, that's because Clinton is winning the election. "Clinton will be the Democratic nominee because substantially more Democrats have voted for her," Silver wrote, adding that the AP announcement and Sanders' argument distract from the fact that Clinton is winning the pledged delegate count and the popular vote. She's ahead by about 3 million at this point. As the FiveThirtyEight team previously showed, even if all the rules were bent — or rigged — in Sanders' favor, Clinton would still be winning.
Combine that with her 14-point lead in the most recent national polls, and it's official. The majority of Democrats — their votes, their delegates, and yes, their superdelegates — are with her. Under the current rules or in some imaginary scenario without party leaders having a say, Clinton would still be the nominee.