U.S. markets open in 5 hours 11 minutes

Bernie Sanders World Isn't Preparing For A Convention Fight Just Yet

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earned the distinction of front-runner in the Democratic presidential field on Tuesday night when he edged out his competition in New Hampshire, just over a week after a popular vote win in the Iowa caucuses.

The win, predictably, has handed him the most coveted ― if least quantifiable ― gift in politics: momentum. Days after the victory, Sanders sped past former Vice President Joe Biden in an average of national polls. The local Culinary Workers Union, one of the most powerful forces in Democratic politics in Nevada and a critic of Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, announced Thursday that it is choosing not to endorse a candidate in Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucuses. And on Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Sanders, announcing plans to campaign for him in the Silver State.

But the narrowness of Sanders’ win in the Granite State ― he bested former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg by a little more than a percentage point ― and the apparent failure of an overall increase in voter turnout to redound to his benefit, according to exit polls, spooked some Sanders partisans.

“Bernie campaign it’s time to talk to the rural and old parts of the coalition,” Michael Brooks, host of a popular left-wing podcast, tweeted as the primary results were coming in. 

Some hard-core Sanders supporters went further, though, imagining a scenario in which the party could deny the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived at the convention in Milwaukee this July with a bare plurality of pledged delegates. Reforms to the nominating process that Sanders pushed the Democratic National Committee to adopt  prevent the elite group of elected officials and party insiders known as superdelegates from breaking with their state’s pledged delegates on the first round of voting. But all bets are off on the second ballot, when superdelegates, who are almost uniformly opposed to Sanders, reassume their freedom to vote their conscience.

Michael Kinnucan, a Brooklyn-based member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has endorsed Sanders, laid out just such a doomsday outcome in a Facebook post on Tuesday night warning that the “results are frankly pretty discouraging for the left.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) addresses supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. The narrowness of his win there has spooked some supporters. (Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Kinnucan, whose lengthy Facebook commentaries have a following in socialist circles, envisioned an optimistic scenario in which Sanders accelerated enough to win an outright majority, a pessimistic case where a centrist won a majority instead, and a middle ground he called “both the likeliest and scariest” in which Sanders arrives at the convention with a plurality, but his ideological enemies collectively have more delegates than he does.

“The centrists legitimately think the party isn’t behind Bernie’s politics, the leftists legitimately feel like Bernie deserves the nomination, and whatever results from that ― probably a centrist getting the nomination ― is brutally divisive and puts us in a situation where some idiot shill like Buttigieg is going up against Trump in a context where a good chunk of the base think he stole the primary,” Kinnucan wrote.

Kinnucan’s fears are not baseless. The statistics-heavy election analysis site FiveThirtyEight now ranks Sanders as the second most likely person to win the Democratic presidential nomination after “no one” ― the site’s shorthand for a situation where there is no winner of a majority of pledged delegates going into the convention.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to inquiries about whether it is planning for some kind of a contested nominating convention, and if so, what it has in mind.

But several of Sanders’ top surrogates dismissed the worries of some grassroots supporters as premature, even as they provided different reasons for their confidence in Sanders’ path to the nomination. 

Given the crowded nature of the field, multiple candidates were only ever going to be able to win pluralities of the contested Democratic primary vote, according to Jim Zogby, a Democratic National Committee member and executive director of the Arab American Institute.

“The votes aren’t there for anyone to be the decisive nominee,” he said.

The question, Zogby argued, is whether the party will rally behind Sanders once it nominates him. He warned Democratic strategists and commentators against disparaging him in the way they did to George McGovern in 1972, depriving him of the support he needed to compete against Richard Nixon.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a co-chair of Sanders’ campaign with ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Silicon Valley donors, was likewise not worried about entering the convention with less than 50% of pledged delegates.

“People are overthinking this,” Khanna said. “We will nominate the candidate who has the plurality lead.”

Larry Cohen, a DNC member and former head of the Communication Workers of America labor union, expressed some concern. He had been in discussions with supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) about finding a way for Sanders and Warren to forge a delegate-swapping deal in the event that neither one achieves an outright majority prior to the convention. 

But with Warren faltering, he is now countenancing the more precarious situation where Sanders goes into the convention with a plurality and Warren has few delegates to offer against the moderate candidates.

In that situation, he believes a compromise assuring Sanders the nomination on the first ballot, though not ideal, would still be possible. He cited as a potential model the horse-trading between then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008 that reportedly helped facilitate Clinton’s formal withdrawal from the presidential primary after Obama clinched enough national delegates to win. She went on to halt the roll call vote and call for Obama’s nomination by acclamation in a daytime spectacle at the August 2008 convention that was designed to avoid intraparty acrimony.

“The centrists have lots of things that they want to see,” Cohen said, likening it to the kind of give-and-take involved in assembling a governing coalition in parliamentary democracies. “Somebody gets this, somebody gets that, and together they have a majority.”

Before the deal-making begins, though, Sanders would be in the unusual position of having partisan shame at his disposal as a weapon to wield against wayward Democratic officials. 

Because establishment Democrats blame Sanders for Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election and he has maintained his independent status, he has been asked constantly to affirm his support for whomever the Democratic presidential nominee ends up being. He would ironically have the opportunity to demand the same of his Democratic adversaries if he arrived at the convention with a plurality of convention delegates.

“The argument that’s been thrown at him for the last four or five years ― he would need to make that case plainly: that to maintain party unity, he’s the leader now,” said Shant Mesrobian, a Democratic communications consultant who worked on the Obama 2008 campaign. “The way I would put it is that whoever is the delegate leader is the unity candidate of the Democratic Party. And if you don’t see it that way, you’re asking to lose to Donald Trump again.”

But if Sanders’ many antagonists in the Democratic Party will heed that appeal eventually, his victories to this point have not been enough to get them to admit it.

When the Miami Herald asked three Democratic congresswomen from Florida this week if they’d support Sanders as the nominee, they refused to even entertain the premise of the question.

“He’s not going to be the nominee,” Rep. Donna Shalala told the Herald.

In the meantime, Sanders’ allies believe they can expand his coalition beyond his racially diverse, but largely young, core of supporters in time to lock up a majority of delegates.

For Khanna, that means emphasizing that Sanders’ version of democratic socialism is, by his own admission, simply an extension of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s beloved New Deal. Khanna tried out the line in an interview with MSNBC anchor and Sanders skeptic Chris Matthews on Monday, calling Sanders “an FDR Democrat.”

Sanders is running on “completing the work of the New Deal ― a new New Deal for the 21st century,” Khanna told HuffPost. “We want to make sure people can stay with their families and where they grew up and still get good jobs.”


The Big Roadblock For Bernie Sanders' Agenda

Influential Nevada Union Declines To Endorse In Democratic Caucus

Bill De Blasio Endorses Bernie Sanders For President

Also on HuffPost

Love HuffPost? Become a founding member of HuffPost Plus today.

NSA Surveillance

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), left, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), center, exit the Senate floor after Paul spoke about surveillance legislation on Capitol Hill on May 31, 2015.

National Anthem

From left: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) place their hands over their hearts during the playing of the national anthem during a presentation ceremony for the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the American Fighter Aces' service to the United States at the U.S. Capitol on May 20, 2015. Congress honored the service of the pilots with the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.

Remembering Officers

President Barack Obama (from left), Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson attend the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill on May 15, 2015.

Elton John

Singer Elton John (right), founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Pastor Rick Warren (left) of the Saddleback Church, arrive to testify about global health programs during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 6, 2015.

Loretta Lynch Testimony

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (right) appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2015. The committee is hearing testimony on the Justice Department's budget request for fiscal year 2016.

Bernie Runs

U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) leaves after a news conference to speak on his agenda for America on Capitol Hill on April 30, 2015, after announcing he would run for U.S. president.

Japanese Prime Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves before he addresses a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2015.

Subway Smiles

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), second from left, smiles as he rides a Senate subway with a member of the press, left, after a vote April 23, 2015, to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general.

Hotdish Competition

Members of the Minnesota delegation taste each other's entries during the Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Capitol Hill on April 22, 2015. Hotdish is a meal similar to a casserole.

Advocating For Loretta Lynch

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks while flanked by members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a news conference on Capitol Hill on April 22, 2015. Pelosi urged the Senate to immediately confirm Loretta Lynch's nomination as attorney general.

Justice March

Henry Singleton of New York City holds up a sign as U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) speaks during a rally to mark the finish of March2Justice on April 21, 2015, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Dozens of marchers took part in an eight-day, 250-mile march from Staten Island, New York, to the nation's capital to demand congressional intervention to tackle "the national crisis of police violence."

Special Guest

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, second from left, speaks with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), second from right, as they pose for a photo alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), right, prior to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2015.

Gyrocopter At The Capitol

Capitol Hill police officers and other officials lift a gyrocopter that landed on the U.S. Capitol's South Lawn, onto a trailer on April 15, 2015. A man identified as Doug Hughes, 61, illegally landed his aircraft on the Capitol lawn, triggering street closures around the building and prompting a police investigation. Hughes is described as a mailman, and a logo appearing to be that of the U.S. Postal Service was visible on the tail fin of the aircraft.

Secretary Of State Parade

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trailed by staff and security while departing a meeting with members of the U.S Senate on the proposed deal with Iran at the U.S. Capitol on April 14, 2015. Kerry met with members of the House and Senate to discuss the ongoing Iran nuclear negotiations.

Harry Reid's Retirement

A large abstract painting of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is visible on a wall next to a stuffed eagle in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 27, 2015. Reid recently announced he will not seek re-election to another term.

McCain Applauds

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) applauds the final comments from fellow committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), as they conclude a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 26, 2015, to discuss the situation in Yemen. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is at right.

Ben Affleck

Actor, filmmaker and founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative Ben Affleck testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on March 26, 2015. His wife, Jennifer Garner, looks on.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates testifies during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on March 26, 2015.

Twin Tears

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, left, and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) wipe away tears after listening to the remarks of Nicklaus' son Jack Nicklaus II during the elder Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on March 24, 2015. Nicklaus was lauded by family, friends and politicians for his many sports achievements and his philanthropy.

Affordable Care Act Anniversary

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lead the way down the House steps for the House Democratic Caucus media event to mark the fifth anniversary of President Barack Obama signing into law the Affordable Care Act on March 24, 2015.

Meerkat In The House

Conference aide SoRelle Wyckoff films a news conference in the Capitol after a meeting of the House Republican Conference using the live streaming app Meerkat on March 24, 2015.

Congressional Gold Medal

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, center, is presented the Congressional Gold Medal by, from left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Capitol Rotunda on March 24, 2015.

Secret Service Talks To Congress

Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in on March 19, 2015.

Spring Cleaning

Code Pink peace activists discuss a letter to Iran's leaders written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) outside his office in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 19, 2015. The group organized a "spring cleaning of Congress."

Supreme Women

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) right, prepares to take a picture in her Capitol office with Supreme Court Justices, from left, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, before a reception on March 18, 2015. The justices were in the Capitol to be honored at Pelosi's annual Women's History Month reception in Statuary Hall.

When Irish Ties Are Smilin'

From left: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), President Barack Obama (D) and Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny depart the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill on St. Patrick's Day 2015.

Colonial Visit For Marijuana

Dressed in colonial garb, Adam Eidinger and fellow D.C. marijuana advocates visit the office staff of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 17, 2015, to protest the congressman's stand in regard to legalized marijuana in the District of Columbia. Legislative Director Amber Kirby Talley receives a pipe from Eidinger.


Shawna Blair, of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery, holds her dog George Clooney, a 4-month-old Goldendoodle, for Kate Hunter of Bloomberg News to pet in the Capitol's Senate Press Gallery on March 13, 2015.

Code Pink

Protesters from Code Pink hold up signs as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrive to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on March 11, 2015.

Cruz Waves

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Presidential Forum at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2015.

Warren Talks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on March 9, 2015.

Speaking On Gun Control

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords, is joined by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) for a news conference about background checks for gun purchases in the Canon House Office Building on March 4, 2015.

Selfie Time

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), shoots a video selfie as he heads to the House floor for votes on March 4, 2015.

Giffords' Voice

Former Congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) speaks during a news conference about background checks for gun purchases at the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 4, 2015.

Netanyahu Speaks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he steps to the lectern prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) applaud.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.