Clinton expands lead in delegates despite Sanders' win in NH

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 7:33 PM
Clinton expands lead in delegates despite Sanders' win in NH

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite Bernie Sanders' win in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is adding to her big lead among the delegates who will choose the Democratic nominee for president.

Since the New Hampshire primary, Clinton has picked up endorsements from 89 more superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention, and Sanders has added just 11, according to a new Associated Press survey.

These party leaders and elected officials can change their minds. But if they continue to back Clinton overwhelmingly, Sanders would have to win the remaining primaries by a landslide just to catch up. He would have to roll up big margins because every Democratic contest awards delegates in proportion to the vote, so even the loser can get some.

After the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has a small 36-32 lead among delegates won in primaries and caucuses. But when superdelegates are included, Clinton leads 483-55, including two new superdelegate endorsements she picked up on Friday, according to the AP count. It's essentially a parallel election that underscores Clinton's lopsided support from the Democratic establishment.

The disparity is sparking a backlash among some Sanders supporters, who complain that the Democratic nominating process is decidedly undemocratic, rigged in favor of Clinton.

Some of them are contacting superdelegates who have publicly endorsed Clinton. Their message isn't subtle, or always welcome.

"They were saying 'We're not going to forget this,' " said Lacy Johnson, an Indiana superdelegate who backs Clinton.

"I'm an African-American male who is in my 60s," Johnson said. "I have experienced the struggles. The experiences they are sharing don't faze me in comparison."

Superdelegates have been part of the Democratic Party's nominating process since 1984. They automatically attend the national convention and can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of whom primary voters back. They are party leaders — members of Congress, party officials and members of the Democratic National Committee.

There are 714 Democratic superdelegates, about 30 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed to claim the nomination.

The Republicans have far fewer automatic delegates who can back the candidate of their choice.

Clinton's campaign expresses confidence that she will maintain a strong lead among superdelegates even as she focuses on state-by-state voting. "Our campaign strategy is to build a lead with pledged delegates" won in primaries and caucuses, spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email.

Sanders campaign adviser Tad Devine said he doesn't consider an early superdelegate count to be very meaningful. Sanders' ability to attract younger people and independent voters, as he did in New Hampshire, will be a strong selling point to change people's minds, he said.

"We are confident that superdelegates want to be behind the strongest candidates in a general election and have a nominee to help candidates win up and down the ballot," Devine said.

Many Clinton supporters question whether Sanders could win the general election.

"He'd get killed!" said Rosalind Wyman, a DNC member from California. "A socialist independent?"

Others talk about their relationship with Clinton, who has been in Democratic politics for decades.

"Superdelegates are interested to see who can win, and many of them have strong ties to the Clintons, like me," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Sanders supporters are tired of hearing these arguments.

"I'm so damned sick of people saying I love this guy but he can't win," said Troy Jackson, a DNC member from Maine who supports Sanders. "People need to start voting with their heart, what they know is right,"

Jackson, a superdelegate himself, said he will push to have all five of Maine's superdelegates back the candidate who wins the state's caucuses in March. Three have endorsed Clinton and another is undecided.

"I want someone who's going to fight for me, not cut deals, not compromise on core values," Jackson said. "While I have respect for Secretary Clinton, she does that too much."

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Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis, Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Missouri, David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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