Hillary Clinton is losing among Democrats in the most recent national poll, yet she remains the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, thanks to some strange party rules and the unwavering support of party bigwigs.
Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton in the latest national polling, won the first Democratic primary by a huge margin, and essentially tied the former Secretary of State in both the Iowa and Nevada caucuses.
Despite all that, however, Clinton has already racked up an impressive 502 delegates to Sanders’ 70, even though the three states that have voted thus far have only allocated a total of 102 delegates to either candidate.
Why the discrepancy? The Democratic Party’s nomination process gives the party establishment a significant voice in choosing the party standard bearer, empowering hundreds of elected officials and state party leaders to cast a vote at the party convention.
In the present election cycle, there are 712 unpledged delegates, or “superdelegates," who have the liberty of supporting whichever candidate they see fit. A candidate needs at least 2,383 delegates to secure the nomination, making the support of superdelegates crucial.
Unfortunately for Senator Sanders, 96% of the 470 superdelegates who have settled on a candidate have chosen Clinton, giving her 451 superdelegates to his 19. And his superdelegate problem is more than a nuisance – at his present level of superdelegate support, Sanders would have to win around 60% of all state delegates to clinch the nomination.
Another factor that’s neutralized the Vermont senator’s growing popularity among the Democratic base are the Democratic caucuses. Unlike primaries where voters choose candidates directly, caucuses operate more like extended town hall meetings, where local groups of party members gather to choose regional delegates who then go on to allocate state delegates to candidates.
The caucus format tends to reward large field operations rather than popular appeal, which is often diluted by the technicalities of caucus voting. Clinton narrowly won the Iowa caucus earlier this month in part due to a series of coin tosses used to resolve ties. The former Secretary of State also won several ties in the Nevada caucus using that state’s preferred method of tie-breaking – drawing cards.