Having sewn up the Republican nomination earlier this month, Donald Trump is now actively positioning his campaign for the general election, lobbing daily attacks against “Crooked Hillary” Clinton. Clinton, still facing Bernie Sanders’s quixotic primary challenge, has no such luxury. But as Bloomberg’s Steven Yaccino points out today, a handful of hesitant Democratic superdelegates could push her over the top right now, freeing her campaign to focus on the coming battle with Trump. Why don’t they?
First, a quick caveat — the 719 Democratic superdelegates are not bound to a candidate up until the moment they actually cast their vote on the convention floor, meaning a “committed” Clinton or Sanders superdelegate could conceivably flip at any moment. But most delegates are anxious to avoid being labeled a flip-flopper, and in practice very few change their minds after publicly backing a candidate.
That makes the approximately 150 superdelegates who remain undecided particularly powerful. Their combined weight could put Clinton over the top before the last few states hold their primaries, allowing the Democratic party to unify and steel itself for November. Instead, wary of alienating Sanders and his passionate base of supporters, most of them are staying on the sidelines.
“It’s a pretty divided electorate, and I want to give people a chance to decide,” Jason Rae, a superdelegate from Minnesota, told Bloomberg. “We as superdelegates don’t want to come in and make the decision.”
Clinton seems to agree — despite her campaign’s obvious interest in wrapping up the primary, uncommitted superdelegates say they’re surprised at how little contact they’ve had with the Democratic front-runner’s campaign. Even as Trump’s daily strafing runs take their toll, Clinton seems seems unsure if the chance to clinch the nomination now is worth the risk of further antagonizing Sanders voters.
Many free-agent superdelegates hold elected positions in their state parties or in groups allied with Democrats, and are wary of any potential challenge led by furious Sanders supporters. “There’s no need for me to jump out there,” said Richard Ray, a superdelegate from Georgia and the president emeritus of the AFL-CIO.
And there may be more at stake for superdelegates than their own political survival. After refusing to change the rules to benefit the Sanders campaign during a state-party convention on Saturday, Nevada Democratic party chairwoman and uncommitted superdelegate Roberta Lange has been inundated with threatening phone calls and e-mails. Chairs were thrown during the convention itself, prompting security to abruptly shut down the meeting. Democratic superdelegates could be forgiven for hoping to avoid that kind of harassment — especially since the process will almost certainly work itself out in Clinton’s favor over the next two months, regardless of what they do.