On Elections

How people elect parliaments

Now a three week wait for Democratic nominee

With the Republican race for US presidential nominee now decided in favour of Donald Trump, there is still just a hint of interest left in the Democratic party contest.

Results from the second-last set of states – Kentucky and Oregon – are in today. Close contests in each: a narrow win to Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, a slightly less narrow win to Senator Bernie Sanders in Oregon. So hardly any movement in the delegate tallies.

Clinton leads Sanders in elected party convention delegates by 1,744 to 1,436.

There are 781 elected delegates still to be elected, but the final contests are now an agonising three weeks away.

The Virgin Islands elects just 7 delegates on June 4, and Puerto Rico 60 delegates on June 5.

Then on Tuesday, June 7 come the final six states contests: the large prizes California and New Jersey and the four smaller states New Mexico, Montana, and the two Dakotas.

As with all other Democratic party contests, the election of delegates will be strictly proportional to votes.

There is still a lot of sentiment behind Bernie Sanders, but little realistic hope. Clinton has two major advantages. Firstly, she has won 56% of the vote through the season so far, so she is well entitled to be regarded as the rightful leader.

Secondly, the convention vote will include over 500 unelected delegates – the current Democrat congresspeople, state party officials and others. The state-by state delegate election is proportional and very fair, but the party also chooses to give these ‘super-delegates’ a say in the nomination of their presidential candidate.

Clinton’s second advantage is that she is known to have the support of as many as 90% of these extra delegates – around 450 or more, to fewer than 50 favouring Sanders.

There is a theory that should Sanders surge late to win the most publicly elected delegates, many of the super-delegates will shift to him, on the basis that he would have the legitimacy of being the voters’ favourite.

Even if that theory holds ground – and to probably doesn’t to any great degree, as despite Sanders’ respectable performance over the past several weeks few super-delegates have been publicly shifting to him – the theory still requires Sanders to do so well in the last 8 contests that he overtakes Clinton.

What does he need to do that? He needs around 70% of the vote from now on.

US primaries - winners - Democratic

The Democratic map of state victories in 2016. Bernie Sanders has won 20 states, but they are on average smaller states than the 24 won by Hillary Clinton

In the past few weeks Sanders’ best state result is 55%. He has done better than 70% in just six states since the contest began in Iowa in early February.

The latest polling in California – by far the largest remaining source of delegates – has Clinton leading Sanders 51% to 41%. Turning that around to a 70% Sanders win in three weeks seems impossible now.

In any case, the kind of lead Sanders would need to not merely shift a few super-delegates, but shift hundreds of them, is probably higher than even 70% wins.

Up to the present, Clinton has won 13.1 million votes to Sanders 9.9 million. (Donald Trump, by comparison, has won 11.0 million votes.)

Sanders will go down as a very respectable second-place winner, and he and his campaign machine and vast supporter base will have significance influence throughout the remainder of 2016.

Sanders has won the Democratic party contest in 20 states, behind Clinton’s 24 states. By comparison with other Democratic runners-up in nomination contests, Sanders’ vote tally is already assured of being the second-best achievement ever.

The only more electorally successful runner-up Democratic candidate since the primary election system began in 1968 was the one who Barack Obama finally beat in 2008: Hillary Clinton.

Nonetheless, Clinton will rue the irritating three weeks delay in resolving the issue – time which could be better spent putting the party process cleanly behind her and dealing with Donald Trump.


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This entry was posted on May 18, 2016 by in Current issues, United States, US presidential primaries.
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