(CNN)CNN on Monday declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee based on its count of delegates and superdelegates.
How CNN's count put Clinton over the top
Her rival, Bernie Sanders, and his top surrogates and supporters have attacked the nominating rules and the way news organizations are counting superdelegates in tallying the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
"My problem is that the process today has allowed Secretary Clinton to get the support of over 400 superdelegates before any other Democratic candidate was in the race," Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday on "State of the Union." "It's like an anointment."
CNN's delegate count found that Clinton secured 1,812 pledged delegates and 572 superdelegates for a total of 2,384 delegates -- one more than needed for the nomination. She will officially become the Democratic nominee at next month's convention in Philadelphia.
Here's a look at how the superdelegates process works and how CNN's count put Clinton over the top:
Superdelegates are unpledged delegates who get to act as free agents in the Democratic nomination process by choosing which candidate to support irrespective of any primary or caucus results. They make up 15% of the total delegate universe, which makes it nearly impossible for any Democratic candidate for president to secure the nomination without the support of both pledged delegates and superdelegates.
In fact, based on CNN's current delegate estimate, neither Clinton nor Sanders would have been able to secure the 2,383 delegates to clinch the nomination without the help of superdelegates.
In June 2008, when then-Sen. Barack Obama clinched the nomination, he did so with 1,753 pledged delegates and 366 superdelegates to cross the 2,118 threshold needed in that cycle to secure a majority of the delegates.
CNN's Delegate Estimate includes allocations of pledged delegates based on the results of the primaries and caucuses held in all 50 states and the territories. (On the Democratic side, there was also a special primary for Americans living abroad). It also includes the preferences of 714 superdelegates. These are party leaders from across the country who serve as convention delegates by virtue of the positions they hold or have held. Superdelegates include all Democratic governors, senators, and members of Congress, state party chairs, members of the Democratic National Committee, and other party leaders such as former Democratic presidents and vice presidents.
Last fall, CNN began conducting an ongoing canvass of these superdelegates to determine their preferences for president. This has involved direct communication with superdelegates via phone, email, text, social media messaging, and in-person reporting. CNN has recorded and reported their support throughout the nomination season.
CNN adds a superdelegate to its overall delegate estimate if any of the following occurs: 1) the superdelegate tells CNN directly whom he or she is supporting (either through our canvassing or our overall reporting); 2) the superdelegate publicly announces his or her support either in a public event, public statement, press release, or in a posting on a verified social media platform; 3) an authorized spokesman for the superdelegate confirms the endorsement to CNN or issues a public statement; 4) the presidential campaign receiving the endorsement makes a public announcement.
The core of the Sanders argument is that superdelegates should not be counted in delegate estimates until they cast their ballots on the convention floor. But that would require CNN to ignore its own independent reporting of where superdelgate allegiances currently lay.
To be sure, if our reporting going forward suggests a massive superdelegate defection away from Secretary Clinton to either uncommitted or to Senator Sanders and she were to fall below the 2,383 threshold, we would certainly be reporting that story in depth across all of our platforms.
But that doesn't negate our current reporting that Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination by securing a majority of the delegates at this time.