AP, NBC Should Have Absolutely Held Off Calling Clinton Presumptive Democratic Nominee
Hillary Clinton said she was “flattered”… and who wouldn’t be?
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 7, 2016
The flattery, of course, comes from the Associated Press and NBC News calling the Democratic race over. Done. All before primary voting continues today in major states like California and New Jersey thanks to voting in Puerto Rico last night. Because in the eyes of those news organizations, Mrs. Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee, all thanks to her combined total of pledged delegates and Superdelegates going over the needed 2,383 number… albeit with the latter of which won’t be voting until next month.
Clinton supporters — particularly those in the media — have been pointing to “math” for weeks in their dismissal of Bernie Sanders, who once trailed her by more than 50 points in national polls. But math by its very definition is the science that studies and explains numbers, quantities, measurements, and the relations between them. And in the case of the number of delegates pledged to Mrs. Clinton, she still isn’t at the magical 2,383 number to clinch the nomination, holding only 1,812 at this time (Sanders has 1,540). The rest come from said Superdelegates, who by party rule state cannot not vote for their candidate of choice until the party convention on July 25.
So what gives? Why would the AP and NBC jump the gun in declaring Clinton the winner? These Superdelegates (party power brokers) – most of whom pledged to Clinton long ago – might consist of some who change their minds and therefore aren’t definitive numbers or quantities or measurements. But know this: The whole “change their mind” part will not be because Bernie will somehow persuade them between now and then to come to his camp, but because of James Comey, the FBI director, would sway Superdelegates to flip after recommending Clinton be indicted over handling of her State Department emails And if that happens between now and July – regardless of Loretta Lynch’s decision to actually indict or not – isn’t it only fair to not declare Clinton the presumptive nominee until the final votes are cast next month?
The AP’s U.S. political editor, David Scott, explains the decision:
“It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination of the Democratic Party, and our count finds that Hillary Clinton has reached that number. Most are pledged delegates won in a primary or caucus. Some are superdelegates, who have unequivocally told AP they will vote for her next month at the party’s convention. Clinton is now the ‘presumptive nominee,’ because according to our count, she now has enough delegates backing her candidacy to win the nomination.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes also defended the decision last night: “Additional Superdelegates have been interviewed,” he said. “Nothing has changed with respect to pledged delegates.”
The Sanders campaign obviously sees things differently: “It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of Superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer,” his campaign said in a statement.
The optics on today’s vote now changes as a result. Clinton could lose California and a handful of other states (North and South Dakota, Montana, for example) and continue to back into the convention with no wind at her back by losing much more often than she wins. The AP and NBC News calls now diminish any positive narrative around a Sanders victory in California, with the Clinton folks and many talking heads supporting her simply pointing to the fact that voting today really didn’t matter, anyway… nothing to see here.
Bottom line: Math is the science that studies and explains numbers, quantities, measurements, and the relations between them. A Superdelegate vote as it stands now isn’t a tangible variable. It’s air. And the winds of the FBI could change many votes if a recommendation of indictment does occur. The “Too Big to Jail” factor may win out here… nobody really knows. But until the numbers are solid and can truly be counted, the Associated Press and NBC News should have held off in their calls. “Measure twice, cut once” is the old saying…
That didn’t happen here. Suddenly California and New Jersey – where cable news has sent significant resources to the former – doesn’t feel like it matters very much. Sanders will keep fighting right through the party’s convention in Philadelphia next month. He should.
Because if the Comey primary goes against his competition, the assumed math suddenly gets very fuzzy for the presumptive nominee.
Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.