The news headlines have been blaring the good news for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders following his big win in New Hampshire. In poll after poll, the Sanders campaign has been gaining ground on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s so-called “firewall” primary states, Nevada and South Carolina.
But fearing revolt from their Democratic base, party insiders appear to be doing everything they can to circumvent voter preference. According to some reports, their backroom deals have practically guaranteed a Clinton 2016 nomination victory, no matter what happens in Nevada, South Carolina, or any other state.
Since the New Hampshire primary, the Clinton machine has been busy — and has picked up endorsements from 87 more superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention, dwarfing Sanders’ gain from the New Hampshire primary, according to a new Associated Press survey.
In Nevada, three superdelegates have already pledged their loyalty to Clinton before a single vote has been cast in Saturday’s caucus. Half of South Carolina’s delegates have done the same.
Sanders has just one superdelegate in Nevada, none in South Carolina, and has added just 11 superdelegate endorsements nationwide since New Hampshire.
That means Clinton has effectively added the total of two Nevadas to her delegate count, without need of a single vote.
If these party insiders continue to back Clinton overwhelmingly, Sanders would have to win the remaining primaries by a landslide just to catch up. He would have to roll up big margins because every Democratic contest awards delegates in proportion to the vote, so even the loser can get some.
After the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has a small 36-32 lead among delegates won in primaries and caucuses. But when superdelegates are included, Clinton leads 481-55, according to the AP count. It’s essentially a parallel election that underscores Clinton’s lopsided support from the Democratic establishment.
The disparity is sparking a backlash among some Sanders supporters, who complain that the Democratic nominating process is decidedly undemocratic, rigged in favor of Clinton.
Some of them are contacting superdelegates who have publicly endorsed Clinton. Their message isn’t subtle, or always welcome.
“I’m sick and tired of them,” Cordelia Lewis-Burks, a superdelegate from Indiana, said of the Sanders backers. “It’s very aggravating to be bashed on my own computer by these people who it’s probably the first time they’ve ever voted. I’ve been in the trenches since I was 20.”
Pressure tactics won’t sway Lacy Johnson, another Indiana superdelegate who backs Clinton.
“They were saying ‘We’re not going to forget this,'” Johnson said.
Superdelegates automatically attend the national convention and can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of whom primary voters back. They are party leaders — members of Congress, party officials and members of the Democratic National Committee.
There are 712 superdelegates, about 30 percent of the 2,382 delegates needed to claim the nomination.
Clinton’s campaign expressed confidence that she will maintain a strong lead among superdelegates even as she focuses on upcoming voting. “Our campaign strategy is to build a lead with pledged delegates” won in primaries and caucuses, spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email.
“To my knowledge there has been zero outreach to the New Hampshire automatic delegates from the Sanders campaign,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a DNC member from New Hampshire. “Not just since the primary, I mean since he first decided to run.”
New Hampshire, which Sanders won by 22 percentage points, has eight superdelegates. Six back Clinton, meaning despite Sanders huge win in the state, the two campaigns split the delegate total.
Some talk openly about their relationship with Clinton, who has been in Democratic politics for decades.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said of the superdelegates, “Many of them have strong ties to the Clintons, like me.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.