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Sanders supporters make a play for Delaware super delegates

Delaware Public Media

Because of its size and relatively late position in the primary process, Delaware rarely gets much attention from presidential candidates.


But with delegate counts becoming more important with each vote cast for either party, some are shifting their focus to the First State.

Last week, we examined the battle over delegates on the GOP side.  This week, Delaware Public Media’s James Dawson focus on the Democrats, specifically those upset with how that party chooses its nominee.


With a few clicks of a keyboard, you’re seconds away from getting detailed information about top-level Democratic Party members in your state compiled onto one website called the ‘Super Delegate Hit List’.

Super delegates can pledge their support to either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time, making them valuable allies as each candidate vies for the roughly 24-hundred delegates needed for the nomination.

Clinton, who’s been a star figure within the Democratic Party for decades, has tallied more than 500 of the roughly 700 super delegates available, with Sanders netting just 38 according to Real Clear Politics.

But Sanders supporters are trying to net him those who are undeclared – and flip those who have committed to Clinton.

“Some of them take me to task for not committing to vote for the candidate that my state has chosen – and I haven’t chosen to respond to those emails and point out that Delaware doesn’t vote until April 26th. Some of them just make a very strong pitch for Sen. Sanders. Some of them make a very strong pitch against Secretary of State Clinton, so they’re really all over the place," Lisa Goodman, the first vice-chair of the Delaware Democratic Party and a Delaware super delegate.

She says she’s gotten dozens of emails from those hoping to sway her towards backing Sanders’ populist movement.

But with Delaware having long been a state that bases its politics on relationships and cordiality, full-throated debates aren’t likely to sway many.

Goodman says they also might’ve thought more deeply about how to describe their efforts, even though the website isn’t officially connected to the campaign.

“Frankly, I think part of the issue with the site, in addition to the tone that the people who are acting are taking, is frankly the name of the site. I mean, no one likes to be on a ‘hit list’ and it’s a somewhat charged term that potentially wasn’t the best choice of language,” said Goodman.

That strong call-to-action may be the only path to the nomination for Sanders, though.

Paul Brewer, director of the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, says the Sanders campaign’s focus has shifted recently toward super delegates and their power in the nominating process.

“You’ve heard the Sanders campaign talk more and more about super delegates over the past two weeks because if Clinton shows up with the majority of the pledged delegates – which, again, I think is quite likely – then the only possible way that Sanders could get the nomination is to flip the super delegates,” said Brewer.

Sanders lost New York by 16 points on Tuesday, with delegates in every state on the Democratic side being awarded proportionately.

Delaware is among several states in the Mid Atlantic and New England regions hosting primaries, with 31 delegates at stake.

Reed Millar, state director for the Sanders campaign, says his main strategy is to boost voter turnout in order to win by a wider margin to make up ground.

A recent poll conducted by Florida group Gravis Marketing shows Clinton ahead by seven points, which Millar says is a good position to be in with just days left to go before the primary.

“Which, you know, gives us hope. I think that’s not a bad place for us to be in the State of Delaware and, hopefully, with a good turnout and the added campaigning over the next couple of days we’ll be able to make up that difference,” said Millar.

The message he and the campaign want to send to super delegates is that Sanders’ calls for a political revolution is reverberating throughout the country, meaning they should align their votes with how their states vote.

When asked about the so-called hit list, Millar says ideological rancor won’t help Sanders in the long run.

“In the states I’ve been in and here I encourage folks to be civil and I think the most powerful thing anyone can do to influence super delegates is to cast their vote,” said Millar.

Of Delaware’s 10 super delegates, half have already committed to supporting Clinton – including the state’s congressional delegation, Gov. Jack Markell and former Speaker of the House Bob Gilligan.

Vice President Joe Biden is among those uncommitted, along with party chair John Daniello, Karen Valentine and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst.

Other super delegates aside from Goodman have also gotten calls and emails from Sanders supporters, which she says likely will have the opposite effect they want.

“It’s likely to irritate super delegates who either have not publicly committed, or have committed in ways that the Sen. Sanders people view as not correct," Goodman said.

The profile of a typical Delaware Democrat reads socially progressive and fiscally conservative – a reflection of the state’s role as a financial and corporate artery of the country.

Whether Sanders’ message of breaking up big banks plays in a state heavily reliant on taxes and fees from those companies – or if its more moderate political establishment would embrace an outsider – remains to be seen when residents cast their votes on Tuesday.


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