Contested convention, here we come?
With just two 2020 Democratic presidential nominating contests in the history books, pundits are beginning to speculate that for the first time since the 1950s, no candidate will win the magic number of delegates on the first ballot at this summer’s convention.
To be sure, there’s a long way to go until the July 13-16 Democratic convention in Milwaukee, and Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucuses and South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary could provide more clarity. Delegate-rich Super Tuesday is also looming on March 3.
But Bernie Sanders’ narrow victory over Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire, combined with the Iowa caucuses’ tight results, boosts the likelihood of such an outcome, say CNN and FiveThirtyEight analysts.
Here’s the math: It takes winning 1,991 pledged delegates — a majority of Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates — to secure the nomination on the first ballot.
Subsequent votes would happen if no candidate clinches a majority of delegates the first time. On those later votes, all delegates would become unpledged, and so-called superdelegates will join in. A candidate would then need 2,376 to win — a majority of all 4,750 delegates — as election-tracking site 270toWin explains.
Superdelegates are party insiders including governors and members of Congress.
The last time the Democrats’ convention went past the first ballot was 1952.
According to NBC News’ tracker, Buttigieg is in the lead with 23 delegates, edging out Sanders’ 21. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is expected to have an uphill battle in Nevada and South Carolina.
John Briggs of NatWest Markets is skeptical of a contested convention. “That said, if [Joe] Biden is able to recover, and [Amy] Klobuchar hangs in there, and [Mike] Bloomberg puts in a decent showing on Super Tuesday, this may last longer than desired,” he said in a note about the former vice president, Minnesota senator and ex-New York mayor.
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