Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn’t a fan of superdelegates. But rules are rules.
The Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential hopeful was asked by a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders during a CNN town hall Wednesday night why she didn’t believe a candidate with a plurality — but not a majority — of pledged delegates from the primary contests should necessarily be chosen as the nominee.
In the very possible event that no candidate has a majority of delegates entering the convention, the Democratic National Committee’s rules say that so-called superdelegates would be allowed to weigh in.
Sanders, the current leader in the race, was the only one who said during a debate last week that superdelegates should give the nomination to the candidate with the most first-ballot delegates, despite being short of a majority. But like almost every other 2020 candidate, Warren expressed openness to a scenario in which superdelegates pushed someone else to a majority.
During the town hall Wednesday in South Carolina, she was challenged on that position.
“This essentially means the will of the voters could be denied by the superdelegates and the DNC, which is basically undemocratic, and in my opinion is a bunch of baba booey, to put it politely,” Jason Pietramala, a local Sanders supporter, said. “Can you explain why the will of the voters should not matter if no candidate reaches a majority of delegates?”
Warren appeared ready for the question, noting that Sanders shared — and even went further than —her current stance late in the 2016 primary race, when he urged superdelegates to flip the nomination to him — even after Hillary Clinton had secured a majority of pledged delegates.
“His last play was to superdelegates,” she said.
At the time, superdelegates cast their votes on the first ballot. And as much as Sanders briefly lobbied for superdelegate support, the Vermont senator and his progressive allies pushed to change the DNC rules in 2018 so that the group of elite party leaders and elected officials would only be able to vote on the second ballot if no candidate reached a majority of pledged delegates from the 57 state and U.S. territory nominating contests.
“The way I see this is you write the rules before you know where everybody stands, and then you stick with those rules,” Warren said. “So, for me, Bernie had a big hand in writing these rules. I didn’t write them. But Bernie did.”
Sanders has called for abolishing the role of superdelegates altogether. And during the 2016 cycle, Warren agreed.
“I’m a superdelegate, and I don’t believe in superdelegates,” she told reporters at the time, after Massachusetts Democrats passed a resolution to scrutinize the process.
Warren, who as a U.S. senator was a superdelegate herself, said she agreed with the resolution.
“I don’t think that superdelegates ought to sway the election,” she added.
Would a second-ballot superdelegate vote to sink a candidate with a plurality of pledged delegates count as swaying an election? Warren’s campaign declined to comment Thursday.
The Cambridge Democrat says she’s simply abiding by the rules that Sanders helped set.
“Everybody got in the race thinking that was the set of rules,” Warren said Wednesday night. “I don’t see how come you get to change it just because he now thinks there is an advantage to him for doing that.”
The debate around the limited, but still present, role of superdelegates became ever more so poignant amid a New York Times report Thursday about the Democratic establishment’s worries about Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, winning the nomination. According to the Times, interviews with 93 of the 771 superdelegates revealed overwhelming opposition to choosing Sanders as the nominee if he arrived to the convention in July with the most delegates, but not a 50 percent majority.
Warren, who is fourth in the pledged delegate race through three states, indicated Wednesday that she would continue to campaign all the way to the convention, even if another candidate was ahead in the delegate count — just as Sanders did in 2016.
“I’ve told little girls we persist,” Warren said.