They are not talking about super-delegates
Bernie Sanders’ campaign believes it can win the nomination by persuading delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton to defect.
In a call with journalists just now, Senior Strategist Tad Devine suggested that a string of victories from his candidate in the second half of the race would put “enormous” pressure on Clinton delegates.
“A front-runner in a process like this needs to continue to win if you want to keep hold of delegates,” he said. He said pledged delegates are not bound to the candidate they are pledged to.
“I think that pressure is going to build. If we can win, I think the pressure on the other side is going to grow and be enormous.”
This is a major step beyond the Bernie camp’s reported push to persuade superdelegates to switch their endorsement.
Here are Devine’s comments in full, made in a briefing call that we were on this afternoon.
“My point is that a front-runner in a process like this needs to continue to win if you want to keep hold of delegates. The delegates we have on the Democratic side fall into two categories. Un-pledged delegates – who are free to vote for whoever they want – and pledged delegates, who usually and traditionally have voted for candidates for whom they have been elected, but who under our rules are not bound to do so. The standard of pledged delegates is the standard of fair reflection that is embodied in the rules of the delegate selection process and also in the call for the convention. So if a front-runner wants to keep those delegates in place I believe you need to continue to win. And if you don’t win, you know, you are then going to be under pressure from your own people and your own delegates. And I think the pressure is going to build in the weeks and months ahead, particularly if Bernie Sanders has the kind of winning streak that I believe he can get on.”
The party rule he was referring to is that of “fair reflection”:
“Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”
He acknowledged that some states have rules that legally bind a delegate to the candidate they are pledged to, but said the party rules will reign – suggesting a legal wrangle might be down the track if this scenario plays out.
Devine and Bernie’s Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver used the call to persuade reporters that last night’s defeats to Hillary in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois and Ohio were not disastrous.
“We’re at half-time here, I agree we’re behind, but we are going to win this game,” said Weaver. “This is the high watermark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” he said, arguing that upcoming victories will “steadily erode her current advantage in pledged delegates.”
“We just are not intimidated by the numbers” he said in response to a question from a New York Times reporter.
Responding to a question from Politico, they said they are consulting lawyers about whether they have grounds to contest the wafer-thin Missouri result, but said it wasn’t a matter of urgency and said they are looking forward.
The call followed a briefing from the Clinton campaign earlier in the day, which made the case that Sanders faced an almost impossible task in the months ahead.
Seemingly anticipating today’s argument from the Sanders campaign, the email sought to lower expectations about the races ahead, saying “Looking ahead to the rest of March, Sen. Sanders is poised to have a stretch of very favorable states vote, including 5 caucuses next week, which he is likely to win.”
In the email Hillary’s campaign Manager Robby Mook wrote: “Our pledged delegate lead is so significant that even a string of victories by Sen. Sanders over the next few weeks would have little impact on Sec. Clinton ’s position in the race.”
Let the games begin.
UPDATE: People are beginning to respond to this story.
It's weird how quickly Team Sanders went from arguing about super dels to arguing that pledged delegates aren't legally bound to the winner
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) March 16, 2016