AP FACT CHECK: Sanders’ shift on delegates needed to win
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders is misrepresenting his stance on how many delegates a Democratic candidate must amass before clinching the party’s presidential nomination.
Heading into key Super Tuesday contests and leading the AP delegate count, the Vermont senator argues that the candidate with a plurality of delegates at the end of the primary and caucus season should be automatically anointed the Democratic nominee — a position he says is consistent with his view in 2016, when he competed against Hillary Clinton.
That’s not true.
SANDERS: “If I, or anybody else, goes into the Democratic convention with a substantial plurality, I believe that individual, me or anybody else, should be the candidate of the Democratic Party.” — CNN town hall on Feb. 24.
JOE BIDEN, arguing Sanders flipped his position from 2016: “There’s not a lot of consistency coming out of some of these campaigns.” -- interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
SANDERS: “I’m not being inconsistent with what I said in 2016. ...If we go into Milwaukee, into the Democratic Convention with a lead, having won many, many states, having won the people’s vote, and that is reversed at the convention, how do you think people all over this country are going to feel?” — interview Sunday on ABC.
THE FACTS: Biden is right. Sanders’ position has shifted since 2016, when he said superdelegates should consider backing him even though he trailed in the number of pledged delegates because he had other strength factors, such as an ability to beat Donald Trump. Late into the 2016 primary season, Sanders also publicly urged a “contested convention,” explaining that democracy is “messy” and requires vigorous debate.
At one point in May 2016, after falling behind Clinton by more than 300 pledged delegates and millions in primary votes, Sanders called on superdelegates -- members of Congress and other party leaders who can support the candidate of their choice -- to side with him as the best candidate.
“It’s a steep hill to climb,” he acknowledged to reporters. “At the end of the day the responsibility that superdelegates have is to decide what is best for the country and what is best for the Democratic Party.”
“Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle but that is where the Democratic Party should go,” he told The Associated Press at the time.
His top strategist then, Tad Devine, argued that a plurality of pledged delegates should only be one factor in picking a nominee, along with a candidate’s momentum over the course of the primary season, such as winning the California primary being held in June.
Ultimately, Clinton prevailed in the California primary, and Sanders conceded the nomination after superdelegates showed no signs of switching their support from her.
Biden, currently running second to Sanders in the delegate count, could face a possible scenario analogous to Sanders in 2016.
Since Democratic contests award delegates in proportion to the vote, it will be difficult for any one candidate to amass a majority to clinch a nomination.
Under new DNC rules, if no candidate receives support from a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot at the convention, about 770 superdelegates would be allowed to vote on a second ballot.
Those rules changes came about after the 2016 election because Sanders and his top advisers insisted on diminishing the role of superdelegates at the convention.
Sanders is now dismissing a process that his own campaign team helped create.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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