Bernie Sanders has gotten more than 55 percent of the votes cast in the first three contests of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But as of Thursday, Hillary Clinton held a 505-71 lead over the Vermont senator in the overall delegate count.
That doesn’t sound very democratic.
But it’s no reason for supporters of either candidate to skip voting in Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary.
Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Sanders each won 51 delegates combined from the low-turnout Iowa caucuses (a slim Clinton victory if not a tie), high-turnout New Hampshire primary (a Sanders romp) and low-turnout Nevada caucuses (a five-percentage point Clinton victory).
Yet the former Secretary of State has a huge 454-20 margin among committed “superdelegates.”
Superdelegates, who comprise about 30 percent of the Democratic total, are party officials who can back candidates regardless of primary or caucus results. Republican rules give a far lower percentage of delegates such leeway in going against those outcomes.
Still, both parties’ establishments remain alarmed about unexpectedly powerful populist uprisings by unorthodox candidates who presumably would have severe general-election weaknesses.
For instance, GOP front-runner Donald Trump is rightly regarded by most party pros as an obnoxious showman who’s long on bluster, short on responsible policy proposals and high on polling “negatives.” They understandably fear that New York billionaire would drag many other Republicans down to defeat with him if he’s the presidential nominee.
However, after finishing second in Iowa, “The Donald” has demonstrated sustained popular appeal, winning the GOP’s New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and Nevada caucuses, which all had record turnouts, by substantial margins.
As for the Democrats, while Sen. Sanders is not their front-runner and is far behind in polls in our state, he is delivering a much more viable national challenge to Mrs. Clinton than pundits initially predicted.
That raises serious concerns among many of that party’s pros, who regard Sen. Sanders, a self-billed socialist who promises a dizzying array of “free” government benefits, as too far to the left to win in November.
Then again, Sen. Sanders has repeatedly pointed out that superdelegates can change their minds — and many likely would if he wins enough Democratic primaries.
As he put it Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I think we’ve got some states coming down the pike that we’re going to do very, very well in. I think, you know, if you look at national polling, our support is growing.”
And insiders in both parties should know if either of their bases eventually believes that Mr. Trump or Sen. Sanders was robbed of a nomination by stacking of the delegate-selection deck, that could have disastrous general-election consequences, too.
Meanwhile, if you didn’t vote in the S.C. GOP primary last Saturday and are considering voting in the Democratic one this Saturday, don’t let early delegate or poll tallies delude you into thinking that your ballot won’t count.
After all, both parties’ presidential races have already produced some stunning twists and turns. This soon in the primary season, it’s easy to imagine that there will be more surprises to come.
And here’s hoping that the next surprise is a reversal of Mr. Trump’s forward momentum.