Superdelegates, in case you don't know, are elected officials, former elected officials and other eminence grises of the Democratic Party who function as free agents in the nominating process. Unlike delegates allocated in, say, Iowa or New Hampshire, superdelegates are not bound to vote for any particular candidates based on the election results in their states. There are 712 superdelegates, which accounts for approximately 30 percent of the 2,382 delegates Clinton or Sanders need to formally secure the party's nomination. (Worth noting: Republicans do not have superdelegates.)
That Clinton is winning the lion's share of these folks should come as no surprise. She is the unquestioned establishment candidate in the race. Always has been. Always will be. I wouldn't be surprised if she wins 90 percent (or more) of the available superdelegates. But, the idea -- being forwarded quietly by some Clinton allies -- that her strength among superdelegates makes it impossible for Sanders to be the nominee simply doesn't hold water.
Before I explain why, let me make this very clear: I think Clinton is still the heavy-to-very-heavy favorite to be the Democratic nominee without needing to rely on her superdelegate edge. Yes, Sanders appears to have made Nevada surprisingly competitive, but viewing the primary race more broadly, Clinton still has an edge in the 48 states yet to vote.
Could Sanders trajectory in Nevada -- way behind all the way to tied with Clinton -- be replicated elsewhere? Sure. But to truly make a run at Clinton, Sanders needs to win large chunks of support in the Hispanic and black community, which polling up to this point suggests will be a long, hard slog for him.
But, let's say it happens that among delegates allocated by actual votes Sanders and Clinton are neck and neck at the end of primary season. I don't think at that point that Clinton's massive superdelegate margin will matter for much of anything. Can you imagine the message the Democratic Party would be sending if it puts down the challenge of a liberal outsider via elected officials and other graybeards of the party? The superdelegates are exactly the sort of people that Sanders has positioned his campaign in opposition to -- the aristocrat class of the party, who for decades have offered a half loaf when people like Sanders have demanded a whole one.
Imagine the outrage on the liberal left if Sanders got up at in June and said some version of the following: "All 50 states have voted, and Secretary Clinton and I are in a virtual dead heat when it comes to delegates allocated by primaries and caucuses. The only way Secretary Clinton winds up as the nominee is if these unelected so called "superdelegates" are included in the mix. But, this is the Democratic Party. And these people don't represent anyone or anything other than the corrupt access class who have sold out to Republicans and Wall Street time and time again over the years."
Sanders's supporters would be ready to man their battle stations at the Democratic National Convention rather than capitulate to everything they detest about the Democratic Party. Could Clinton and her allies simply push through and secure the nomination via her superdelegate support? Sure. But, that would risk both the possibility of a very public revolt from the Bernie forces at the convention and the absence of those voters come Nov. 8. The Clinton people seem to know that; "Our campaign strategy is to build a lead with pledged delegates," Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson told the AP.
As I said above, that scenario isn't likely to happen. Unless Sanders can reverse or mitigate his current problems among black and Hispanic voters, Clinton will out-point him in the delegate fight without ever having to fall back on her superdelegate edge. That's a good thing for her because while the idea of superdelegates putting her over the top for the nomination is well within the rules, it would sit very badly with Sanders and his supporters. Clinton has to work to make sure it never comes to that.