It’s over. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president
In one of the thousands of emails made public in recent months, Hillary Clinton referred to caucuses as “creatures of the parties’ extremes.” When she wrote the message four years ago, it must have been an understandable sentiment. Having run the third best campaign in the history of the Iowa caucuses back in 2008, Clinton still lost the state by eight points to Barack Obama. Imagine nearly doubling John Kerry’s support from four years prior and having the effort mis-characterized from that point forward as a disaster. Adding insult to injury, Clinton actually won the state of Nevada by six points a few weeks later but earned fewer delegates than Obama because of the “quirks” of the caucus process (or its deficiencies depending on your point of view).
However, eight years can change everything. Clinton’s narrow win in Iowa this year followed by her victory this past Saturday in Nevada provided the foundation necessary for the campaign to wage a more broadly national campaign that plays to several of its key strengths. Today, she’s less of a front-runner than the party’s nominee in waiting.
That may sound somewhat presumptuous given that voters in only three states have actually held a nominating contest so far. However, the trends within this race point heavily in that direction. For starters, the voting populations of the states holding primary and caucus contests in the next two weeks will be far more diverse. During that time period, seventeen of the 19 states with nominating contests will have larger and in many cases substantially larger percentages of African-Americans than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Clinton’s support levels here far exceed her opponent. In Nevada over the weekend, Clinton earned 76 percent of the support among African-Americans. Recent polls show she leads among African-Americans in South Carolina 65 percent to 28 percent. Other polls show her lead among African-Americans is at 45% in Alabama, 62% in Arkansas, 56% in Georgia, 59% in Tennessee, 40% in Texas, 58% in Virginia, 57% in Louisiana, 52% in Michigan, and 47% in Mississippi.
Of course, some will argue that Senator Sanders and his legitimately impressive organization of paid staff and volunteers will be able to close the gap in these states through candidate visits, phone calls, door knocking and other paid communications. It’s possible. However, this isn’t a situation like Iowa and New Hampshire where there is an extended timeframe for a campaign to engage thousands upon thousands of voters through meaningful communications that may alter perceptions and move numbers. If history is any guide, these states will be heavily influenced by a combination of existing public perceptions and recent developments in the race. With Clinton likely to score a double-digit win in South Carolina and then enter largely friendly terrain, it is much more plausible that she will generate the type of momentum that can clinch a series of states if not the nomination itself.
However, even if that scenario doesn’t come to pass, Clinton maintains a distinct advantage with superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders who are automatically granted a vote in the Democratic primary. Learning the lesson from eight years ago when she lost the superdelegate tally to Obama, Clinton has earned substantially more support from, well let’s just say it, the establishment. Whether you like it or not, superdelegates have been part of the nominating process since 1984 and any Democratic campaign for president should have factored it into their overall plan. Gregg Popovich may not like the three point shot, but he better have a plan to defend it when his Spurs take the court.
In the presidential campaign, superdelegates dramatically increase the degree of difficulty for the Sanders Campaign. Even when Clinton suffered a sizable loss, as was the case in New Hampshire, she had the support of several of the state’s superdelegates so the final defeat wasn’t as steep as it originally seemed. Sanders will not only need to win states moving forward, he will need to win decisive victories if he wants to secure nomination. While there may be a scenario where Clinton loses contests in the coming weeks and months, it’s hard to believe that she will continually face the type of landslide losses that would result in her losing the edge in the overall delegate count.
Can anything still happen? Is nothing over until the votes are actually counted? Sure. But it’s over. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.