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How Important Are Superdelegates In Securing The Democratic Nomination?


The math is stacked against Senator Sanders. Hillary Clinton leads in both votes cast and pledged delegates. To match her delegate lead, Bernie Sanders would need landslides in all the remaining primaries. But then there are superdelegates, who are free to support whomever they want, although many have already pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Sanders campaign has told NPR they believe that they can make the case for superdelegates to support Bernie Sanders and win the Democratic nomination for president. Jason Rae is a superdelegate from Wisconsin. He joins us from the studios of WWM in Milwaukee. Thanks so much for being with us.

JASON RAE: Oh, thanks so much for having me.

SIMON: Who are you going to vote for?

RAE: I'm committed at this point in time, so I'm actually going to vote for whoever leads in pledged delegates at the end of the day across the country.

SIMON: I mean, it sounds like you kind of have to vote for Hillary Clinton because I haven't - I haven't heard any plausible scenario by which he would have more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton by June 15.

RAE: Absolutely. You know, we saw this in 2008. Superdelegates switched from then-Senator Clinton to Senator Obama. Obviously, Senator Sanders would need to win large, large percentages of the remaining pledged delegates to have an opportunity. But we've got several more states yet to vote in caucus, and we'll see what happens in June.

SIMON: Philosophical question, if I'm entitled - I thought the whole idea of creating superdelegates was that they would exercise independent judgment.

RAE: Absolutely.

SIMON: But it sounds like you're saying, you know, (laughter) whichever way the crowd's going, I'll go, which doesn't sound like independent judgment.

RAE: Well, I think there's different ways. I think we've seen some superdelegates who have endorsed early. I think - superdelegates are really there should something happen, should something be revealed at the end, should there be a contested convention. So, you know, to use an example, in 2008, had Senator Edwards stayed in the race, you would've had three candidates competing for the nomination, and none of them could get that majority needed. Superdelegates might be able to come in then. But, you know, as I look at it right now, you know, I want to make sure that voters across the country get a chance to be heard. And that's what we're seeing in this campaign, and that's what I'm pledging to do.

SIMON: How do you feel about Senator Sanders remaining in the campaign?

RAE: You know, I think it's good for the country. You know, I know that in 2008, it was great to see so many states getting a chance to weigh in and make sure their voice was heard. You know, it was a real good party building exercise. And it's good for discussion of issues. You know, I'm excited, but I'm also ready for - when the final event is done, to unite behind whoever our nominee is and start the work we need to do to make sure that we win November.

SIMON: Would you be concerned that your party might nominate the candidate who has shown to not be doing as well in the polls against the apparent Republican candidate, as the person who has the second-largest number of delegates right now?

RAE: Once we as a party really unite behind our candidate, once we get out there, once we get that person's bio and issues and stuff talked about, I really think it's different. I don't think polling right now is any indication of what's going to happen come November.

SIMON: Jason Rae, Democratic superdelegate in Milwaukee, thanks so much.

RAE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.