Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 MORE’s allies are fuming over Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids Manchin: 'I think we'll get a framework' deal MORE’s vow to take the presidential nominating contest to a floor fight at the Democratic convention this summer.
Many Democrats believe Clinton effectively clinched the nomination after a string of victories across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic gave her what looks to be an insurmountable lead in delegates.
But rather than rein in his efforts, Sanders has declared that he’s playing to win, even if he’s trailing badly in delegates after the last votes are cast in the final primary contests next month.
The Vermont senator says he plans to campaign and lobby superdelegates to support him over Clinton all the way through the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July.
Some Clinton supporters, believing the nomination is at this point only a formality, are frustrated by Sanders’s threat to drag things out.
“At this late stage in the primary, he should stop trying to rile up his people and start to bring everyone together,” said one longtime Clinton ally. “That’s what Hillary did for Obama. He needs to set an example and start bringing his people over if he cares about defeating [Donald] Trump in the general election.”
Clinton leads by more than 300 unpledged delegates, with about 1,000 still up for grabs. Because Democrats award their delegates proportionately, Sanders is unlikly to make up enough ground before the convention.
To secure the nomination, Sanders would need the support of a signficant number of superdelegates even if he were to win all of the remaining pledged delegates.
Clinton, however, is also unlikely to clinch the nomination solely based on the delegates she’s been awarded in primaries and caucuses.
Like most Democratic nominees in the past, Clinton will rely on the superdelegates — party leaders who can vote for any candidate — to push her over the top.
A strong majority of them have already announced their support for Clinton.
Counting those superdelegates who have committed to her, Clinton only needs to win 21 percent of the pledged delegates in states with upcoming primaries.
But at a press conference on Sunday, Sanders said he’d continue to pressure those superdelegates to switch their allegiance, even though he’s likely to enter the period between the elections and the convention trailing in both votes and delegates.
“The convention will be a contested contest,” Sanders said.
“We intend to fight for every vote in front of us and for every delegate remaining.”
Many Democrats are rolling their eyes at Sanders’s insistence that he has a case for a contested convention.
“Hillary leads in pledged and unpledged delegates, and there is little opportunity for that dynamic to change over the next few weeks,” said former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Holly Shulman. “Nothing about these numbers says we’re headed to a contested convention.”
And none of the more than half-dozen Clinton supporters The Hill interviewed believe Sanders would risk casting the Democratic convention into the kind of chaos that Republicans are bracing for in Cleveland.
If he tries, they say, he’ll fail.
“If his plan is to turn the convention into a messy floor fight, then he’s running head-first into brick wall,” said Mo Elleithee, a veteran of Clinton’s 2008 campaign and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
“He might make the convention loud and noisy, but he’s not going to make it messy,” Elliethee said. “Hillary Clinton is going to win. She’s going to win easily, and I don’t think Sanders wants to do anything that will embolden Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE. At the end of the day, he’s not going to want to be the skunk at the garden party.”
Rather, Democrats view Sanders’s rhetoric as a last-ditch effort to stay relevant in a race that has gotten away from him.
That’s fine with most Clinton supporters, at least for now.
Many Democrats are at peace with Sanders staying in the race through the end of the primaries and using his leverage to push for a more progressive Democratic platform at the convention.
There is little pressure on Sanders to drop out, even though he trails.
Last week, following victories over Sanders in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, Clinton vowed to “unify” the Democratic Party in a victory speech meant as an olive branch to Sanders supporters.
Clinton allies reached by The Hill are following her lead and hesitant to criticize Sanders at this point.
Instead, they lauded him for running an impressive insurgent campaign that has energized the liberal base and gone further than anyone could have foreseen. And they said he’s earned the right to go the distance and try to influence the party platform at the convention.
Still, Sanders’s rhetoric about a contested convention signals he’s not merely content to play out the string, and that’s now a concern among some Clinton backers.
“I don’t know what his motives are, considering he’s not going to have the delegates he needs,” said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who is on Clinton’s leadership team in Colorado.
“I was hoping his primary emphasis would be on impacting the platform in regard to the issues he feels so strongly about,” Webb said. “So maybe he’s just trying to keep his followers fired up and engaged, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail.”
Because Democrats rely so heavily on superdelegates, it takes a huge blowout for a candidate to arrive at the convention with enough earned delegates to have already won the nomination outright.
In 2008, then-Sen. Obama needed the help of superdelegates to get over the top. But Clinton made this easy on him, bowing out of the race after the last primary contest rather than arguing that superdelegates should back her instead.
Most Democrats interviewed by The Hill still hold out hope that that is the end game for Sanders as well.
“I think a majority of Democrats would rather he be more supportive and take a page out of Clinton’s book in 2008, which was the adult thing to do and ended up helping the party,” said a second Clinton ally.
“But even if he doesn’t, we’re in a position where it really doesn’t matter much what he does,” the ally said. “Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee, and it’s not going to be a contested convention, so whatever he’s saying is more of a nuisance than something that will impact us in the long run. It’s up to him now how he wants people to remember whether he positively or negatively impacted the race.”