Clinton Needs Only 199 Supers to Win Nomination

by James M. Wall

(Drew Angerer, Getty Images)Following her strong 55% to 43% defeat of Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic primary Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is now within 199 delegate votes to become  the first woman ever nominated as a candidate for president for a major U.S. political party.

The New York Times reported that after returns from six states in Tuesday’s elections, Clinton had 2,184 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,804 pledged delegates.

The total number of delegates required for the the nomination is 2,383, a majority of the 4,765 delegates who will attend the convention.

Since the 1980s, the Democratic conventions have had two classes of delegates, pledged and unpledged. As the names indicate, a pledged  delegate is a man or woman who ran, and won, on behalf of a candidate in a state primary or state caucus.

Under the party’s “faithful delegate” rule, pledged delegates are required to vote for their candidate on the first ballot at the Democratic Convention which will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25-28.

The unpledged delegates are party officials and leaders whose votes at the convention may go to any nominated candidate, which this year will include Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Contrary to shallow and lazy media reporting, these unpledged (“super delegates” to use a media-derived name) are announced openly in their various states. There is nothing secret about their selection. They are chosen from inside a state and include state officials and party leaders.

The only remaining secret is how they will actually vote on the first ballot.

Under Democratic party rules,  unpledged delegates are also chosen to insure that each state delegation conforms to the party rules that mandate an equal number of men and women, and minority representations that conform to a percentage of those minority voters in the state.

Clinton is now so close to her required number of delegate votes that, going into the DC primary she will need the support of only 199 unpledged delegates to give her the nomination.

Most of these super delegates announced their support for Clinton early in the primary/caucus season, long before Sanders became a serious candidate. They are free to change their minds, but given Clinton’s strong delegate lead, they are unlikely to do so.

The Associated Press interviewed a number of these super delegates and found them holding to their initial support for Clinton. The AP reported that the super delegate count is currently 571 for Clinton and 47 for Sanders.

Sanders’ final, and almost futile hope, is to keep Clinton from adding at least, her necessary 199 unpledged delegates to her current delegate total. For Sanders to “flip” promissory unpledged votes relies entirely on his argument that he would be the better candidate against the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

In her victory speech, delivered in Brooklyn Tuesday night, the near-Democratic nominee emphasized two themes for her general election campaign: Defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump, and smash a final political glass ceiling for American women.

Donald Trump now has sufficient Republican delegates to become his party’s nominee at the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21.

There is no “faithful delegate” rule for Republicans, but given the fervor Trump has aroused among his supporters, faithfulness is not the problem among his delegates. There are also no mandated equal number of men and woman, nor mandated minority representation in the Republican delegations.

eaa6ceab25bf790bf48123164116ea9db22dfe8fTrump’s problem is to gain the support of Republican party leaders, an uphill climb, thanks to Trump’s unpresidential-like tirades against minorities.

The New Republic tallied up the Republican leaders who initially and reluctantly supported Trump, only to “disassociate themselves from Trump’s line that Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot be expected to be an impartial arbiter of the case against Trump University simply because of his Mexican ancestry”.

Paul Ryan, who officially endorsed Trump only days ago, said Trump’s remarks are “indefensible” and a “textbook case” of racism. Mitch McConnell urged Trump to drop the attacks against “various minority groups in the country” and “get on message.”

Two Republican Senators withdrew their support for Trump Tuesday: Senators Mark Kirk, of Illinois, and Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina.

In the Democratic race, Clinton’s challenger Bernie Sanders, has a different problem. His last chance to defeat Clinton lies in his ability to keep Clinton from picking up at least 199 promissory notes she has received from party officials and party leaders.

There appears to be no chance he will be able to do that.

There is a contentious history to the current set of rules that govern the Democratic nomination process.  In reaction to the street-fighting experiences of the 1968 Chicago convention, the Democratic party rules slowly shifted in a progressive direction.

New rules were adopted to reduce the power of party leaders (“bosses”) to control the results. Presidential candidates chose their own delegate candidates. Party leaders rarely wanted to commit early to candidates so the party created super delegates in each state to bring them to the convention.

I live in Illinois, where the City of Chicago political machine controlled the state. When I first became active as a volunteer in politics, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was still one of the last powerful party “bosses”.

My job as chair of the Illinois Jimmy Carter delegation at the 1976 and the 1980 New York conventions was to recruit and manage the delegation. I was also Jimmy Carter’s liaison with Mayor Daley.

Daley died after Carter’s election and inauguration in November, 1976.  It was unfortunate that he was not still with us at the 1980 New York Democratic convention.

I do not believe he would have wanted Senator Ted Kennedy to continue his campaign to the convention, lacking enough delegates to defeat the incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Before the 1980 primary season, Kennedy gained the support of the new Chicago Mayor, Jane Byrne, who had earlier and privately pledged her support for Carter to Carter’s wife Rosalynn. That pledge came during a parade in Chicago. I already knew this was not going to  happen.

Before the convention, Mayor Byrne announced her support for Kennedy. Byrne’s switch was a striking contrast to the conduct of Mayor Daley in 1976, who had thrown his considerable political weight behind the then-Georgia Governor Carter’s campaign.

That happened after Carter won the Ohio primary, a victory which persuaded Daley to stick with Carter.

Kennedy’s 1980 convention strategy was to defeat Carter by introducing a proposed change that would overturn the party’s faithful delegate rule. Carter had sufficient delegates to gain his renomination, but Kennedy stubbornly fought to overturn primary and caucus votes at the convention.

The Kennedy family mystique had considerable clout. Mayor Byrne’s forces in the Illinois delegation roamed the convention floor, as did other Kennedy supporters, pressuring Carter’s pledged delegates to vote against the President and overturn the faithful delegate rule.

Before the rule change vote on the convention floor, a young Carter Illinois delegate came to me to say he had to go against Carter and support the rule change. He told me he was a Chicago city employee. He feared for his job unless he supported Kennedy on this rules vote.

After releasing him from his commitment, I notified our Carter floor manager that we had lost one Illinois Carter vote. That delegate later voted for Carter’s nomination.

The in-fighting on convention floors can be brutal, seldom physical but always mentally stressful. One thing I have learned in my years inside convention delegations is that media representatives rarely know what is actually happening within those delegations.

The faithful delegate rule prevailed in the 1980 convention by a vote of 1,936 to retain the rule, and 1,390 to overturn the rule. Carter had 1,981 delegates, sufficient for the nomination, while Kennedy had only 1,226, Carter lost only 45 delegate votes to the Kennedy effort to scuttle the faithful delegate role. There were 122 abstentions.

I know the identity of only one Illinois Carter delegate who gave his vote to the Kennedy “stop-Carter” effort. And that vote was pre-approved.

There is no indication that Bernie Sanders would seek to change the faithful delegate rule for pledged delegates.  He says his effort will focus on “flipping” unpledged delegates from the promissory notes they have previously given Clinton.

Sanders will meet with President Obama Thursday. Their discussion will most likely involve Sanders’ future role in the party, and in the general election.

Sanders has fought the good fight, but he has lost. We will hear from him and his supporters again at the convention, especially around Clinton’s choice of a vice president and the party’s platform where a stronger stand on the Middle East will be discussed.

 The picture of Hillary Clinton is from the Chicago Tribune. It is by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. The picture of Donald Trump is from the New Republic. It is by Josh Edelson/Getty Images.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Clinton Needs Only 199 Supers to Win Nomination

  1. A fascinating and informative vignette of history-cum-current events. Thanks, Jim!

  2. Jack Graham says:

    Thanks, Jim, for the informative insight on how the Democratic national conventions work. I used to be a good Democrat who believed in honest money, the middle class, and the foreign policy that minds our own business. But the party of William Jennings Bryan and John F. Kennedy no longer exists as far as I am concerned.

    My take on this business is that the conventions of both major parties work for the Council on Foreign Relations which speaks for the largest institutions on Wall Street installed as the invisible government of the United States under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and subsequent amendments. I am a disciple of Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. of Minnesota. The CFR has traditionally determined who may or may not run credibily for President, but Trump has broken the pattern for 2016, so now Wall Street will not control who is the Republican nominee, although they will control the Democratic nominee, and the “American people” may not be a better substitute.

    The question in this election will be who runs the United States. I am satisfied that Hillary will do the bidding of the CFR, which will cause her to promote a North American Union on the ruins of Mexico, the United States, and Canada, and to promote more wars initiated by the United States to support the wishes of the Likud in Israel. Trump has dumped the CFR, but repulsively pandered to AIPAC without actually saying he will do what they want, as Hillary surely has, and he disregards the North American Union with contempt, which can only be a good thing as far as I am concerned.

    Hillary is a sophisticated woman, but corrupt, and will avoid indictment only because of corruption of the Department of Justice. That proves that corruption is not more male than female. On the other hand, Trump has a problem with temperament. I will vote for Trump, because he is less corrupted by Wall Street, is less committed to the Lukid, and he and Putin like each other. But my vote will be like making a bet on intuitive grounds, and I greatly admire your wonderful insight, while trembling over my fallibility. — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Jim, Thank You.
    You certainly have a great way of simplifying for me, and I suspect many other readers, what goes on with Delegates and ‘Super’ delegates, and behind the scenes..
    The historical examples when President Carter was running were fascinating, indeed.
    Thanks, again.

  4. Samir khalil says:

    Although I am involved in the political scene
    still didn’t understand fully the convention
    mechanism. Your article made it simple to comprehend
    the complexity of the process.
    Thank you as always

  5. Jim Patterson says:

    Thanks, Jim

  6. says:

    A fascinating and informative vignette indeed. Thanks Jim.

    Because I, like the majority of us, am not allowed to vote for the thus unelected and self-proclaimed “leader of the free world,” my interest is only in foreign affairs. On that basis, I pray that Bernie will run as an independent, which at a minimum might destroy the two-party oligarchy in the US while putting Hillary into retirement, because “The LORD hates her that loves violence” (Ps. 11:5)

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