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Bernie’s real problem was turnout, not fraud

Wait, wasn’t it Donald Trump’s campaign that was supposed to have the riots?

Instead, it was the Nevada Democratic Party’s convention that descended into chaos Saturday, as supporters of Bernie Sanders repeatedly rushed the stage, booed, yelled, cursed and, according to witnesses, tossed chairs. The convention came to a swift end after the Paris Hotel said it could no longer guarantee public safety.

And it got worse: Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange received a barrage of harassing calls, including death threats. Mischief-makers chalked graffiti at the Democratic Party’s headquarters, prompting the office’s closure. The state party then wrote a letter to the Democratic National Committee, complaining about the Sanders campaign and warning of further violence at the national convention in Philadelphia.

I thought it was #BernieOrBust, not #BernieOrBust(Heads)!

But seriously: I’ve long admired Sanders, and have interviewed him multiple times. I know he’s absolutely dedicated to a radical revolution of politics and economics in America, but just as committed to achieving that by bringing people together to make change unavoidable.

That’s why I was surprised there was only one line condemning violence and threats in his statement about the convention. The rest of the nine-paragraph statement repeated the allegations of fraud that his supporters made on Saturday.

About that.

After Sanders lost the Feb. 20 caucuses, his forces showed up in overwhelming numbers at the Clark County Democratic convention April 2, earning themselves additional delegate slots going into the state convention. But on Saturday, a re-energized Hillary Clinton campaign came back with a surge of its own. According to the party’s official tally, Clinton forces totaled 1,695 delegates, filling nearly every slot she’d earned. Sanders’s team, by contrast, turned out 1,662 delegates, leaving more than 460 slots empty. Had Sanders delegates filled those slots, he’d have won more national convention delegates.

Outsider campaigns especially can fall victim to the idea that the ossified party apparatus will resort to fraud in order to preserve the status quo. And — let’s be honest here — Nevada’s Democratic Party has always been dedicated to re-electing Sen. Harry Reid and those upon whom his favor rests (including, this year, Clinton) rather than making radical political change. But those truths don’t prove wrongdoing took place Saturday.

Sanders’s people insisted Clinton’s final 33-vote advantage was tainted by the improper rejection of 64 would-be Sanders delegates. Again, according to the party, six of those were actually seated. The remaining 58 were rejected, ostensibly because they weren’t registered by the May 1 deadline or proffered information that could not be verified.

Sanders said the 58 should have had the chance to make their case, and attempts to change the rules were thwarted. But the party replies that representatives from both campaigns were on the committees that wrote the rules and examined delegate credentials.

But let’s just assume that each one of those 58 people had been accepted as a delegate. Let’s assume that each one stood for Sanders. That would turn Clinton’s 33-delegate win into a 25-delegate loss. And let’s assume that flipped the convention’s final tally, giving Sanders 20 delegates and Clinton 15. That would mean that the national delegate count would become 2,235 delegates for Clinton and 1,478 for Sanders. (It takes 2,383 to claim the nomination.)

The Sanders campaign has certainly not proven fraud, and it would obviously be wrong to deny him delegates just because he’s trailing nationally. But even under the rosiest and most generous of scenarios, a Sanders victory in Nevada on Saturday still wouldn’t have made a difference.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and co-host of the show “PoliticsNOW,” airing at 5:30 p.m. Sundays on 8NewsNow. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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