On supporting winner of Democratic primary with her superdelegate vote.  

Martha Laning on Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 in an interview

Full Flop

Has Wisconsin's Democratic Party leader flip-flopped on how she'll cast her superdelegate vote?

Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin, but the chairwoman of the state party has indicated she may not cast her superdelegate vote for him at the party's national convention.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (AP photo)

The speeches, the balloons and the calls of "the great state of" (fill in the blank) -- all part of the pageantry of the 2016 Democratic and Republican national conventions -- won't fill the air until well after Independence Day.

But already there are pitched battles among the presidential campaigns for delegates. Those are the folks who, in accordance with -- or perhaps in spite of -- the primaries and caucuses, will choose the party nominees.

Ahead of the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia, Bernie Sanders is causing fireworks by trying to pry away superdelegates who have pledged to support Hillary Clinton.

And Republican delegate leader Donald Trump has threatened to run as an independent if he is not treated fairly in Cleveland.

All of which is to say there is significance attached to a delegate’s support -- particularly when the delegate, or in this case a superdelegate, is the head of a state party.

On April 6, 2016, the day after Wisconsin's presidential primary, Wisconsin Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer tweeted that in 2015, state Democratic Party chairwoman Martha Laning told him she would give her superdelegate vote to the winner of the primary -- but that now she was telling him her vote would go instead to the presumptive nominee.

So, has Laning flip flopped?

That’s what our Flip-O-Meter is for -- to determine whether a political leader has been consistent on an issue.

What she said

In November 2015, in response to a question from the Associated Press, the Democratic Party sent a statement from Laning saying:

"I will be supporting the candidate who wins the primary in Wisconsin next year. The Democratic voters in Wisconsin will evaluate each candidate and pick the strongest one and I will cast my vote for the candidate that they pick."

As we noted, Sanders’ Wisconsin win was decisive -- he captured more than 56 percent of the vote, to Clinton’s 43 percent.

At least one other Democratic superdelegate from Wisconsin has attributed the margin to the fact that Wisconsin holds an open primary, which allowed anyone -- voters who identify as Democrats or not -- to cast a ballot for the Vermont senator or the former secretary of state.

Whether that influenced Laning isn't clear.

But she did reverse her position, with her spokesman telling the AP after the primary she would back the presumptive nominee. She had also made such statements a few weeks earlier.

At this stage, the presumptive nominee is Clinton, not Sanders.

(As of April 10, 2016, Clinton is within 627 of the 2,383 delegates needed for the nomination. Sanders is 1,315 short, leaving him little chance of winning the nomination with the remaining primaries and caucuses. The tally, from the Associated Press, includes superdelegates.)

When we asked the state party about Laning’s apparent change, we received this statement from Laning:

"As the party chair, I feel one of my main goals is to bring our party together to work together to defeat the Republicans.  As our primary race has evolved and I have had the opportunity to talk to many voters across the state, I concluded it would be better for me to remain neutral and thereby be supportive of all our members’ individual choice. Once we have a nominee I will work with Democrats across the state to create unity and ensure that candidate becomes our next president."

Our rating

In November 2015, Laning said she would cast her superdelegate vote at the Democratic National Convention for the presidential candidate who wins the Wisconsin primary.

But after the primary, which was won by Sanders, she reversed that position. She now says she will back whoever is the party’s presumptive nominee -- which at this stage is Clinton.

We rate that a Full Flop.

Editor's note: On April 12, 2016, after we published this item, the Wisconsin Democratic Party provided us examples of where Laning, before Wisconsin's primary election, said she had changed her position. For example, in one interview posted March 13, 2016, Laning said: "I will be putting my support behind the nominee." We have edited this item to reflect that timing.



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