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The New York Times has a long piece on superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic Convention, and also an opinion on what they should be doing. Here are some highlights of the article:
“We have all been bombarded with e-mails from everybody and their mamas,” said Donna Brazile, a senior member of the Democratic National Committee. “Like, ‘Auntie Donna, you’re a superdelegate!’ My niece called me today to lobby me. I didn’t know what to say.”And now the opinion, from Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist, who was the chief political consultant to Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000:
The Clinton campaign has established a system, overseen by one of the party’s most seasoned behind-the-scenes operators, Harold Ickes, to have superdelegates contacted by carefully chosen friends and local supporters, as well as by big-name figures like Madeleine K. Albright, a former secretary of state. For particularly tough sells, the campaign has former President Bill Clinton or Chelsea Clinton make the call.
Mr. Obama has enlisted Tom Daschle, the popular former Senate majority leader, as well as Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s 2004 presidential nominee.
Should they ratify the decision by regular delegates and vote for the candidate who is ahead in June, no matter how small the lead? Are they obligated to follow the vote of their constituents in primaries or caucuses? Or should they simply follow their conscience and vote for whoever they think is the best nominee?
Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he did not intend to pledge his vote until after all the primaries were completed. “You want to make the convention interesting, don’t you?” Mr. Redfern asked.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who is neutral, said she would not stay on the sidelines for long once the voting was over. “I will not go through the summer, I can tell you that, without endorsing a candidate,” she said. “I am not a big believer in smoke-filled rooms.”
“The people who were initially inclined to either candidate got on board early,” said Mr. Ickes, a 40-year veteran of Democratic National Committee battles who is running the operation for Mrs. Clinton out of her headquarters in Virginia. “But at this point, it’s getting harder to get people — especially if they now think there is no front-runner.”
But the superdelegates were also created to provide unity at the nominating convention.
They are a critical mass of uncommitted convention voters who can move in large numbers toward the candidate who receives the most votes in the party’s primaries and caucuses. Their votes can provide a margin of comfort and even victory to a nominee who wins a narrow race.
The superdelegates were never intended to be part of the dash from Iowa to Super Tuesday and beyond. They should resist the impulse and pressure to decide the nomination before the voters have had their say.
The party’s leaders and elected officials need to stop pledging themselves to either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama, the two remarkable candidates who are locked in an intense battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
If the superdelegates determine the party’s nominee before primary and caucus voters have rendered a clear verdict, Democrats risk losing the trust that we are building with voters today. The perception that the votes of ordinary people don’t count as much as those of the political insiders, who get to pick the nominee in some mythical back room, could hurt our party for decades to come.
After listening to the voters, the superdelegates can do what the Democratic Party’s rules originally envisioned. They can ratify the results of the primaries and caucuses in all 50 states by moving as a bloc toward the candidate who has proved to be the strongest in the contest that matters — not the inside game of the delegate hunt, but the outside contest of ideas and inspiration, where hope can battle with experience and voters can make the right and best choice for our party and our future.
The article and opinion stand in stark contrast to each other. The two campaigns are doing everything possible to get the superdelegates to endorse. And he endorsement rate shows no sign of slowing down - in fact, it's picked up in the last week. We'll watch to see if that continues.