It’s true that Mike Bloomberg is gaming out a way to nab the nomination at the convention. And it’s also true that some Democratic insiders appear to be thinking about potentially denying Sanders the nomination if he gets only a plurality.
But in reality, someone will almost certainly win the nomination outright. Even in the most outlandish scenario, the leading candidate will fall just short on the first ballot, then wrap things up on the second ballot.
The candidates were asked at the Nevada debate whether, if no candidate has a majority of delegates at the convention, the rules should be changed so that whoever has a plurality becomes the nominee. They all answered that the process should be run according to the existing rules — except for Sanders, who said, “The person who has the most votes should become the nominee.”
Those rules stipulate that the first convention ballot will include only pledged delegates — which are awarded based on voting in primaries and caucuses. If no candidate gets a majority, a second convention ballot will then include several hundred superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders who support whichever candidate they like — along with pledged delegates. A majority of that total will then be needed.
We should note that these existing rules were written in 2018 by a committee that included multiple Sanders representatives. The biggest change they made, in response to Sanders’s complaints, was that the superdelegates don’t vote on the first ballot. Only if no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates allotted by the primaries do the superdelegates weigh in.
Let me suggest what I think is happening now, as Sanders supporters express their outrage that a candidate (i.e., their candidate) could get more votes than any other but not wind up as the nominee. I suspect different people are thinking of different scenarios.
Sanders supporters, and Sanders himself, may be envisioning a situation in which he has 49 percent of the delegates and a bunch of other candidates each have 10 percent or so, making him the clear leader. Then the nefarious DNC swoops in to give the nomination to some corporate stooge.
Other people may be thinking of a situation in which one candidate — maybe Sanders, maybe someone else — has 30 percent and a bunch of other candidates have 15 or 20 percent, leaving no one with anything near a majority of the Democratic electorate’s support, meaning there would be no obvious nominee.
But both of those scenarios are extremely unlikely.
To repeat, only three states have voted. Don’t forget that the field has already been winnowed dramatically; no fewer than 20 Democrats have dropped out.
South Carolina is coming up on Saturday, followed by Super Tuesday, when 14 states (plus American Samoa) will vote, including California and Texas. After that, we’re almost certain to see a couple more candidates drop out. Others who stay in but are lagging will stop getting media attention and they won’t have much impact on the outcome.
The result will be a race that has concentrated on a few candidates, probably three or four. And even after Super Tuesday, nearly two-thirds of the delegates will still wait to be allotted, including in big states such as Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia. At some point, it’s going to come down to two candidates, and one will emerge the victor.
While it’s theoretically possible that after all that you could still have a field where no one candidate has managed to build enough momentum to head toward a majority, it’s exceedingly unlikely. That’s why there hasn’t been a convention in either party that went past the first ballot since 1952.
So please, folks: Settle down. This race has a long way to go, and by the time Democrats get to the convention in Milwaukee, they’ll have a nominee.