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Apr 5, 2016 6:14 PM

Steinhauser: 2 months after NH primary, Democratic superdelegate debate still going

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Bernie Sanders is on a mission.

“In states where we have won by 20, 25 points, you know what, I think it might be a good idea for superdelegates to listen to the people in their own state,” the senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate said recently in an interview on CBS News.

“When you have states for example, say in New Hampshire, where we won by 22 points, and in other states where we’ve won by 25 or 30 points, I think it is not unreasonable for the people of those states to say to their superdelegates ‘hey how about representing the people of our state and the outcome of the caucus or the primary’,” Sanders added in an interview with CNN.

Six of New Hampshire’s eight Democratic superdelegates are backing Clinton, with the other two remaining neutral. And it appears that Sanders’ suggestion is falling on deaf ears when it comes to the six backing the former U.S. secretary of state.

“I am supporting Hillary Clinton and I will continue to do that,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told NH1 News last week.

It was a similar message from Gov. Maggie Hassan, who told NH1 News recently that “I support Secretary Clinton as our nominee for president of the United States because I think she is by far the most qualified person in the race in either political party to lead our country forward.”

And that’s perfectly within the bylaws of the Democratic party. Superdelegates, which were created in the 1980’s, are seated automatically at the Democratic convention, and aren’t pledged to any candidate. They’re free to vote for whomever they want for the nomination. They mostly consist elected statewide and federal lawmakers and executives, and leading state party officials.

In the race for the nomination, going into Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin, Clinton had 1,712 delegates, including 469 superdelegates. Sanders stood at 1,011 delegates, which included only 31 superdelegates. The magic number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination is 2,383.

Progressive radio talk show host Arne Arnesen said “there seems to be a disconnect, a sense of tone deafness, between how the super delegates like the governor, the senator are going to be supporting Hillary Clinton when the base of the Democratic party certainly doesn't hold those same views or values.”

And Arnesen, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, warned that “people are beginning to say who is the party, the upper crust or us."

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a vice chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and one of the two superdelegates staying neutral, told NH1 News that “I believe in order to maintain integrity of the process, that it’s important that we should not commit ahead of time to how we’re going to vote as super delegates.”

Longtime state party chairman Ray Buckley, who’s also staying neutral in the battle between Clinton and Sanders, predicted that “I don’t think in the end super delegates are going to make the decision on who the nominee is.:

Superdelegates can change their minds. Eight years ago many of the superdelegates who were backing then Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York crossed over to then Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois as he moved closer and closer to locking up the nomination in their marathon primary battle.

Buckley says that could happen again, telling NH1 News that “I think in mid-July when we’re at the convention and if he’s (Sanders) ahead certainly New Hampshire people will be voting for him.”

Fuller Clark agreed, highlighting the flexibility of the super delegates.

“I understand the significance of representing your state, but we also remember that superdelegates were created for a particular purpose was to really be able to evaluate during the convention the ability of the candidate that we would put forward for the general election the ability to win,” she said.

Buckley also mentioned a longstanding New Hampshire Democratic delegation tradition “that we are unanimous for who the nominee is. And if Bernie Sanders is the person who’s going to be our nominee, I trust that we’ll be unanimous for Bernie Sanders, just like we were for Barack Obama.”

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