It’s very peculiar timing that The Associated Press called the Democratic presidential primary in Hillary Clinton’s favor on the eve of a potentially devastating loss in California.
Not to say Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t have won the nomination eventually — she has been winning the popular vote and was just shy of grabbing the number of delegates she needed to clinch the nomination after wins in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands this weekend.
Still, the timing is suspect. Mrs. Clinton was losing her way to winning the nomination and the press was reporting it as such. California is a demographically diverse state which she won in 2008 during her first presidential bid. A loss there to rival Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders would paint her as weak, while giving Mr. Sanders the boost he needed to take his campaign to the convention.
Exactly what Mrs. Clinton doesn’t want.
So is it possible the Clinton political machine tried to tip the scales on her behalf by having previously uncommitted superdelegates come forward Monday to force the AP’s hand into making a call? Before any votes were cast on Tuesday?
In a statement to the media, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll defended her organization’s calling of the election on the eve of a primary night.
“By Monday evening, 571 superdelegates had told us unequivocally that they intend to vote for Clinton at the convention,” she said. “Adding that number to the delegates awarded to Clinton in primary and caucus voting to date gave her the number needed to be the presumptive nominee. That is news and reporting the news is what we do.”
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, who supports Mr. Sanders, implied in his column, “Perfect End to Democratic Primary: Anonymous Superdelegates Declare Winner Through Media,” that some of the superdelegates withheld their support for Mrs. Clinton to the AP until they saw a politically convenient moment.
They are political insiders, after all.
According to a Washington Post analysis, more than half of the 714 superdelegates are members of the Democratic National Committee and 261 others are members of Congress or state governors. The AP has declined to name the superdelegates who gave their support to Mrs. Clinton on Monday.
“AP claims that superdelegates who had not previously announced their intentions privately told AP reporters that they intend to vote for Clinton bringing her over the threshold. AP is concealing the identity of the decisive super-delegates who said this,” Mr. Greenwald wrote.
The Post’s Philip Bump, who writes politics for The Fix, noted the announcement of a Monday win for Mrs. Clinton held no downside for her campaign.
“Intuitively, it seems as though it might benefit Clinton, since Sanders’s younger base of voters who planned to come out to the polls on Tuesday might no longer do so — and Clinton’s older, more-likely-to-vote base would be less affected,” Mr. Bump wrote.
“It’s possible that the goal wasn’t to affect the results but, rather, to re-frame them,” he wrote. “No matter what happens in California on Tuesday, it will be accompanied by an asterisk. If Sanders wins, Clinton and/or her supporters can claim that it was backlash to the AP’s call. If Clinton wins, Sanders can make the same case — but his long-shot argument for earning the support of superdelegates will be significantly undercut.
“In other words, the leak is probably win-win for Clinton — which may have been exactly what the superdelegates that tipped hoped,” Mr. Bump concluded.
The Democratic deck has always been stacked against the Vermont self-described socialist. This might just be the latest and last example.