Sanders’ Final Strategy

By Jim Ellis

June 3, 2016 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) has repeatedly said he plans to take his campaign to the Democratic National Convention, but what he really expects to attain from doing so has been a relative mystery. Now, however, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources, his plan is beginning to come into focus.

As we head into the final major primary day on next Tuesday, Hillary Clinton stands with 2,291 to 2,312 pledged and Super Delegate votes to Sanders’ 1,544 or 1,545 total, depending upon what count you view. Many media outlets have differing delegate tabulations because their Super Delegate information is inconsistent. Most of the Super Delegates can change their votes, so there is an inherent variance in the true vote count.

On Tuesday, Democratic voters in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and California will vote. It is likely that Clinton will score enough delegates from the first three voting entities of that day, the USVI, Puerto Rico, and New Jersey in the Atlantic and Eastern time zones, respectively, to officially claim the nomination.

But, Sanders won’t necessarily be through, if his convention plan gains legs. His strategy is to force a rules fight and move to bind the Super Delegates to their respective statewide vote totals instead of allowing the vast majority of them to remain as free agents.

The ploy is an unusual one because it is hard to imagine the Super Delegates voting en masse to reduce their individual power. Therefore, Sanders would have to rely on his pledged delegates and a large number of similar Clinton voters to prevail. Though the delegates are bound on at least the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, they are free to vote as they choose on rules and procedural questions.

The media paid a great deal of attention to the efforts of Sen. Ted Cruz to enlist his own supporters as Republican national delegates even though they would be bound to vote for Donald Trump or another candidate at least one time. The theory being that after the delegates fulfilled their legal commitment, and assuming no candidate secured a majority, they would gravitate to Cruz on subsequent ballots. Is it possible that the Sanders forces could have quietly elected delegates through the various state conventions in similar fashion to what the Cruz campaign did, and actually have latent support among the Clinton delegates? Yes, but highly doubtful.

The Sanders’ strategy, if this is in fact what the candidate and campaign is implementing, has only a long -hot chance of succeeding. Though Sanders’ argument saying that Clinton is highly damaged and will lose to Trump could gain steam, it is not enough to alter the outcome. Additionally, the Vermont senator will make the point that he carried almost as many states and territories as the former Secretary of State and US senator, including a presumed victory in the nation’s largest voting entity, California.

However, the Clinton forces can debunk all of Sanders’ arguments. First, the latest California poll, from NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (May 29-31; 557 likely California Democratic primary voters) finds the former Secretary of State leading the Vermont senator, 49-47 percent. While Sanders has captured Golden State momentum, Clinton still manages a lead. Finishing behind her, regardless of the spread, will defeat his argument about the California vote being indicative of where the national Democratic electorate is currently trending.

Furthermore, at the end of the primary season it will be Clinton, and not Sanders, who will have received a majority of the Democratic primary vote, a majority of the pledged delegates, and the overwhelming support of the party’s Super Delegates. Though it appears Sanders will take the fight to the convention floor there is no denying that Hillary Clinton, political warts and all, has passed every electoral test and will win a legitimate nomination victory at the convention in Philadelphia.

Though the outsiders continue to chirp and clamor within both party structures, the Clinton vs. Trump general election pairing remains inevitable.

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