On such fairy tales do Team Bernie’s hopes for the Democratic presidential nomination rest. As of Tuesday evening, Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic race to the nomination by 774 delegates over Bernie Sanders, and there are only 804 delegates left to allocate. Either Sanders needs to win every remaining contest by a 97/3 margin just to pull even, or convince a lot of the 513 superdelegates who have committed to Hillary to switch sides. Team Bernie campaign manager Jeff Weaver told MSNBC’s host that it has happened before — in 2008, when over 120 superdelegates flipped from Hillary to Barack Obama in the primary race:
During the course of 2008, over 120 superdelegates switched their quote-unquote allegiance in that process. In fact, there is a lot of movement of superdelegates in these contests.
Math is hard. Let’s say “over 120 superdelegates” flipped this time, too. In fact, let’s put the number at 200, just for giggles. That would put the delegate race at Hillary 2018, Bernie 1644. To get to the magic number of 2383 delegates, Bernie would need 739 of the 804 delegates left to allocate to win the nomination outright, which would require him to win 92% of the vote in every remaining state. Hillary would still need 365 delegates to win the nomination, or 45% of those remaining after a 200-superdelegate flip, which means she’d need to lose every remaining state by a 40/60 ratio to end up in a contested convention.
But even that scenario is a fantasy, as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler points out, because Hillary didn’t lose 120 superdelegates before suspending her campaign in 2008. The real number was … ten:
The best list we could find was maintained by the 2008 Superdelegate Transparency Project, which stopped counting switches on June 4.
This list shows 29 people switched from Clinton to Obama, though one later switched back to Clinton. That’s a total of 28. Some of these switches were undoubtedly noteworthy and symbolic, such as the announcement by civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis of Georgia on Feb. 14. But 18, including former vice president Walter Mondale, switched after the last primaries in South Dakota and Montana—and the same week Clinton dropped out. So it’s really just 10 people during the primary season.
How did Weaver get to “over 120”? They extended the count to after Hillary’s withdrawal:
The Sanders campaign provided a list of 116 superdelegates that it said had switched from Clinton to Obama. The list did not include the date that a superdelegate switched, which made us instantly suspicious. (The list is embedded below.)
Clinton dropped out of the race on June 7, when she gave her “18 million cracks” speech. By any reasonable calculation, switches by superdelegates after she conceded the race shouldn’t count.
On the Sanders list, one major oddity is that it includes 23 members of the New York congressional delegation. These lawmakers were among Clinton’s earliest and strongest supporters in 2008, and they adamantly refused to switch as long as she remained in the race. But on June 8, one day after Clinton dropped out, the entire New York congressional delegation collectively endorsed Obama.
Kessler gives Weaver four Pinocchios for counting the superdelegates who switched after Hillary “began to urge party unity behind Obama.” Perhaps Team Bernie deserves a Porky Pig as well: