The caucus and primary rules entail many fine details which benefit Hillary Clinton. Even so…
In the candidate selection process, the Democrats take a detour to Nevada on Feb. 20 before the primary in South Carolina on Feb. 27. After Iowa and a close victory, and New Hampshire and a stinging defeat, the experts are now declaring a victory for Hillary in Nevada, and perhaps even a crushing one at that. Bernie mania has just reached beyond American borders and touched the rest of the world. Does that mean that the phenomenon is over before it’s even really begun? Have we missed a stage?
In fact, there is actually a new piece that has been added to the complex puzzle we call “the primaries.” During the last several months, the candidates have traveled across the country and faced a series of elections whose rules vary from one state to another. According to the outcome, the candidates win a certain number of delegates proportional to their results. The number of delegates is fixed in each state with a somewhat complex base, affected by the size of the state, the number of inhabitants and the political representation in place. Thus, there were 44 delegates in place in Iowa and 23 in New Hampshire for the Democratic Party. Across the country, it varies from six for North Dakota to 476 in California for the Democrats. Bernie Sanders has already won 21 seats in Iowa and 15 in New Hampshire, making a total of 36. Hillary Clinton has collected 23 and 9 respectively, with 32 in total. Therefore she is a little bit behind, but all that is not very decisive as this only represents 2 percent of the total. Indeed, 4,764 Democratic delegates will be appointed. In the end, these delegates will meet in the summer and will be counted. The candidate with the most support will be the winner.
With the Democrats, there is, however, a finer detail which was rather unexpected: the “super delegates” in the party who do not go through the same election process but who are designated by the party’s leadership at the state level. These 712 “super delegates” do not owe their allegiance to any candidate in particular and are not obliged to vote according to the results of the primaries or caucus of their respective states. They hold elective offices in the states or are government officials, and therefore are more in favor of the establishment and, in turn, Clinton. To be precise, 414 of the super delegates are clearly affiliated with Clinton and only 14 have stated that they support Sanders. Some 282 are not affiliated with any candidate but are very likely to lean, without hesitation, toward Hillary for a crushing majority.
Thus, Bernie Sanders’ excellent result of 15 to 9 in New Hampshire, which has designated eight super delegates, like Iowa, could be transformed into 15 to 17, and so, the final winner is … Clinton!
And What About Nevada?
If the weight of the party is that crushing, we can indeed fear that it won’t even be a fair match in Nevada. This state opted for a closed primary, which means that only hardcore, lifelong Democrats at the heart of the party and duly registered can vote. It is true that you can sign up today if you wish and participate this way in making the choice. But, compared to Iowa and New Hampshire, that process excludes tens of thousands of independents from voting, independents whose voices Sanders represents. It is therefore the weight of the candidate at the heart of the party which will be the decisive factor.
Winning Territory and Networking
A party resurgence requires work over a long time… and networking. That means votes given to a candidate due to long-standing links, and by voters who are influenced by the candidate’s own stance with regard to a union, an opinion or a project. The difference will principally consist of the powerful catering union, the Culinary Workers Union, which has 60,000 members scattered between Las Vegas and Reno, the two largest cities in the state. Even if Sanders’ team arrives in force on the Las Vegas strip and invests in the casinos to convince the thousands of employees working there, Hillary’s advance is undeniable and it is hard to see how Sanders can reverse this trend.
We must also take note of the electoral behavior of minority groups, especially Latinos. As their presence is almost nonexistent in Iowa and New Hampshire, nobody can imagine how they will vote this year. But by analyzing past polls and connections nurtured by the Clinton clan with respect to minority groups, it is likely that she will succeed. Among women, all the options are now open, as Sanders surprised everyone in seducing these voters by more than 80 percent if we do not include women under the age of 30. But be careful: The young electorate is far from being a majority in Nevada where the over 60s age group represents almost 40 percent of the total electorate.
Not Easy for Bernie
It is a real conundrum for Bernie Sanders. But it is not restful for Clinton either. The surprises of the last two polls made her very prudent. She is advancing step by step and with the certainty that a defeat in Nevada would represent a catastrophe for the rest of her campaign. All the surveys give her a head start of 20 percent, and the most recent survey yesterday by the Washington Free Beacon announced a tie of 45 to 45.
And If It Happens?
We will have to wait for “Super Tuesday” on March 1 to really see how things pan out between the two candidates. At least let’s hope so. There will be 208 delegates in play in Texas, 98 in Georgia, 95 in Massachusetts and in Virginia, 68 in Tennessee … around 900 delegates distributed in total and in only one day in the dozen states that will make it to the polls (13 states, including 3 caucuses).
If, however, we have more close results in this campaign, we will perhaps end up in a situation which the United States has never seen before, where the super delegates will decide the election. In this hypothetical scenario, they will find themselves in a totally unprecedented situation where they will have to vote against their convictions and interests. How can we imagine that if the people decide to choose Sanders, they can make the opposite choice outside of conventional nomination practice? This would mark political suicide for Clinton. But we have a long way to go before such a scenario occurs.