In Friday, while Hillary Clinton was addressing the Democratic National Committee in Minneapolis, Minnesota, senior campaign officials announced that Clinton had already received pledges of support from at least 440 of the party’s estimated 713 super delegates. That total includes 130 superdelegates who have publicly endorsed Clinton, as well as an additional 310 who have made private commitments to support Hillary.
Superdelegates are elected officials and party leaders who are given special voting delegate status at the national convention separate from the delegates who are chosen by Democratic primary voters and caucus attendees. While they make up just over 15 percent of the total delegates at the Democratic convention, they can be decisive in a close nomination contest.
To become the party’s nominee, a Democrat will need to secure a majority of the approximately 4,491 delegates at stake in 2016. If the Clinton campaign’s count is accurate she has secured the support of over 60 percent of the superdelegates, which puts her 1/5th of the way to locking down the 2,246 delegates she would need to win a majority at next year’s convention.
Delegates who have pledged their support this early are under no obligation to honor their pledge. However, the high number of superdelegates planning to back Clinton demonstrates her enduring popularity with party leaders and current elected officials. Barring a campaign collapse, it would be unlikely for many pledged superdelegates to defect away from supporting her.
Clinton is putting a strong focus on garnering support from superdelegates, after falling short in her 2008 presidential bid. In the 2008 campaign, Clinton actually won a plurality of the Democratic popular vote amassing 18 million votes to Barack Obama’s 17.6 million, but she fell short on the delegate count, losing to Obama by less than 100 delegates. Her downfall that year was not specifically her inability to attract superdelegate support, but rather that she allowed Barack Obama to rack up high percentages in several caucus states, while she performed better in many large primary states like California, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton is trying to be attentive to every detail in her 2016 campaign, and to avoid making any tactical errors that might cost her delegate support. She intimated as much by arguing that one lesson she learned from the 2008 campaign was to “be well-organized and focused from the very beginning this time” on delegates and superdelegates.
While the press is directing the bulk of its coverage to the Donald Trump GOP side show and to various polls being released, Hillary Clinton is quietly working behind the scenes to amass the support of party leaders and elected officials who will cast delegate votes at the 2016 convention. Although she will still need to do well in next year’s primaries and caucuses to become the Democratic nominee, she is doing everything she can in the meantime to make her path to the nomination easier, by gathering the support of a majority of the party’s superdelegates.