Dean Phillips gains his first delegates. Here’s why they’ll likely vote for Biden at the convention

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former presidential candidate Dean Phillips will receive at least three of Ohio's delegates to the Democratic National Convention even though he has dropped out of the race and endorsed President Joe Biden. But they're likely to be Phillips delegates in name only.

The president locked up the Democratic nomination on March 12 and so far has won 99% of convention delegates, a sign that even some of the more organized efforts to oppose him haven't gained traction with the party's voters. Party rules also make it nearly impossible at this point in the presidential primary process for any candidate other than Biden to even be eligible to receive votes for the nomination at its summer convention.

In several states, activists have been encouraging voters to fill out their ballots for the option of “uncommitted" to protest Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war, earning the option 27 delegates. Such an effort is underway on Tuesday in Pennsylvania as it holds its presidential primary.

The minimum goal for Democrats competing for delegates is to win 15% of the statewide vote or 15% of the vote in an individual congressional district. In the March 19 Ohio primary, “uncommitted” wasn’t a ballot option, leaving Democrats wishing to express opposition to Biden with only one other choice: Phillips.

It has taken more than a month to determine the delegate count in Ohio because the state doesn't release presidential primary results by congressional districts, requiring news outlets such as The Associated Press and the parties to do it themselves. On election night, Phillips came close to the threshold in four congressional districts, per an AP count, but it remained unclear if he would receive any delegates in the end.

The Ohio Democratic Party said that Phillips' campaign had not sent in a delegate list, making it unclear if any delegate slots he qualified for could be filled. In addition, the margins were so thin in those districts that certified totals were required to confirm he had received delegates.

An AP analysis of the certified results, released Friday, at the precinct level shows he met the 15% threshold to receive a delegate in the state's 2nd, 6th and 14th congressional districts. He still could qualify for a fourth delegate in the 12th Congressional District, but the margin there is so razor-thin that additional details are needed from local elections officials to confirm.

Bill DeMora, the delegate and convention director for the Ohio Democratic Party, said that any delegates Phillips qualified for would be counted as pledged to support him — but also said the spots would be filled by Biden supporters.

“They are Phillips delegates who will vote for Biden,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Phillips’ campaign confirmed it will encourage delegates they won in Ohio to vote for Biden.

In fact, there are few options for delegates who attend the national convention to support candidates other than Biden, who will almost certainly be the only candidate who is eligible for the nomination. DNC rules require candidates to receive support from at least 300 delegates before the roll call vote to be considered for the nomination. Only Biden has exceeded that threshold and no other candidate has come near it, meaning the only options for delegates will likely be Biden or to register a nominal protest vote such as voting “present.”

At this point in the race, it’s virtually impossible for any other candidate to reach that 300-delegate threshold. More than two-thirds of the total Democratic delegates have been allocated already. Biden has won 3,078 of the 3,111 delegates already allocated and clinched enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination on March 12.

Phillips joins Jason Palmer, who won three delegates in American Samoa, and the “uncommitted” option as the only non-Biden choices to receive delegates.

Palmer told the AP that while he had not “technically suspended his campaign,” he is endorsing Biden and planning to work with the Democratic National Committee to figure out what role he and his pledged delegates could play at the convention in Chicago. For now, Palmer says, his priority is making sure his delegates in American Samoa can afford travel expenses to actually attend the convention. He won three delegates at the American Samoa Democratic caucuses after winning 51 votes; Biden only won 40 votes.

04/23/2024 22:20 -0400

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