Despite the media’s early coronation, Hillary hasn’t clinched anything yet

Bernie’s right. Too many of her delegates are unpledged for the deal to really be sealed.

Look, I still expect Hillary to be the Democrat nominee. I wouldn’t be writing every day about the need to defeat her in the general if I didn’t think she’d be running in the general. But you don’t have to think she’s going to fall short to be interested in accurate reporting about where the race stands today, and the media’s ubiquitous proclamations that she has already “clinched” the nomination are simply wrong. She probably will eventually. But as of today, the following from the Associated Press is utter nonsense:

Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination, according to the Associated Press, emerging from a long and bruising primary season to become the first woman to lead a major party in the race for the White House.

A bitter nomination battle that Clinton was once expected to win in a walk ended abruptly late Monday as she claimed exactly the number of delegates needed to secure victory in her contest against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according the AP’s latest tally.

Clinton was widely expected — even inside her own campaign — to clinch the nomination Tuesday, when California, New Jersey and four other states are scheduled to vote. But according to the AP, Clinton continued to pick up commitments from superdelegates over the weekend, and on Monday, those gains effectively guaranteed her the nomination.

With that milestone, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state has ended more than two centuries of national history in which only men have been the standard-bearers for the major political parties. She also overcame her crushing loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries, as well as a political environment this year that favored outsiders at the expense of her establishment credentials. And she became the first spouse of a former president to win the presidential nomination.

She’s done nothing of the sort. Again, I think she almost certainly will. But when you report something has already happened that in fact has not, you’re not vindicated if later it comes true.

The reason she clinched anything yet is that not one of the superdelegates who have indicated their intention to support her is actually pledged to do so. The Democrat race doesn’t work exactly the same as the Republican race, where pledged delegates won in primaries are actually required to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged on the first ballot. Whether people like it or not, that’s why Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee – because those delegates have to vote for him on the first ballot, barring a major rule change that does not appear to be in the offing. The superdelegates don’t have to vote for Hillary, regardless of their public pronouncements that they intend to.

Now, I suspect that even if she is indicted she will hold onto enough of them to win the nomination. The Democrats will do their best to spin the whole investigation as partisan and that will give cover to enough of these superdelegates to put Hillary over the top – if only because the Clintons control so much of the Democratic Party apparatus and they’ll make sure that’s the case. That’s what I think will happen, but unless Hillary actually wins 2,383 pledged delegates via the primary process – which is mathematically impossible because it wraps up in California tonight – no one can say she’s clinched anything until the delegates actually vote.

From all indications, Sanders intends to fight for those pledged delegates. And even if he gives up the ghost there’s still the chance that more damaging information prompts party leaders to dump her in favor of Joe Biden or some other white knight who swoops in to save the day – which, by the way, I think would make it more likely that the Democrats hold the White House in November.

The way the political media works these days, this column is likely to meet with eye-rolling from hacks who argue: Come on, you know she’s got this.

Yeah. I know she’s probably got this. But news reporting and prediction-making are two different things. She could still lose if things proceed according to the currently established rules, and that means she hasn’t won. It doesn’t make you right to say she has, even if she ultimately does.

That said, the prospect that Hillary could become president is sufficently horrifying that I’m going into crisis management mode immediately. That starts with not only pointing out her lies, but with calling the media out when they do the lying for her, as they’re doing today.

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