Sunday, February 10, 2008

NY Times on superdelegates

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

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.”
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.”
And now the opinion, from Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist, who was the chief political consultant to Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000:

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.


Anonymous said...

How should the Supers go?

Should they go with who has more pledged delegates? Or who has more popular vote? Or who has won in the Super Delegates home state? Or in the Super Delegate's home district?

How people answer will depend entirely on how that answer will benefit his or her chosen candidate.

Personally, I am highly amused by the strong likelihood that Hillary will have more popular votes, while Obama will have more pledge delegates, come convention time. Look forward to seeing the spin given what went down in 2000...

Anonymous said...

I read that popular vote argument in Ted Olsen's WSJ op-ed. I don't believe that Obama is actually losing to Hillary in the popular vote because his huge leads were in caucus states that do not count in the popular vote tallies, but certainly count for delegates.

Anonymous said...

We will never know the actual popular vote in those caucus states since only the most highly motivated actually vote in those... 30+k voted in Washington out of over 3 Million available. Not exactly true representation of the state that an actual primary would do. Kind of reminds me of polls that might be correct and at the same time could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, that turnout figure of 30,000 is simply not true. Washington doubled its 2004 turnout of 100,000, so there were approximately 200,000 voters this year.

Even little Maine had 46,000 voters yesterday. No way that Maine had 50%+ more voters than Washington according to your made up figures.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where I can find a list of people who've pledged their superdelegate to Clinton even though those they represent went Obama?

if so, please forward link to dietmoriarty (at) ya hoo (dot ) com


Anonymous said...

You can find a list of pledged delegates right here on this site:

There are a lot of Hillary superdelegates whose states went for Obama. For example:
- Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Reps. Inslee and Dicks, and Tom Foley from Washington are all supporting Clinton.
- A superdelegate from Virgin Islands is supporting Clinton even though her territory went for Obama 90%-10%.
- Iowa has Rep. Leonard Boswell and 3 DNC members for Clinton.
- Perhaps most egregious of all, 11 DNC members from Washington DC are supporting Clinton (compared with 3 for Obama), even though their constituents will vote overwhelmingly for Obama tomorrow.

Obama also has some superdelegates in states that went for Clinton, such as Sens. Kerry and Kennedy from Mass. However, these are far less common for Obama than Clinton.

Clinton bagged most of her superdelegates in 2007, well before the first vote was cast in this election. Her strategy was to end the election before it ever started. Obama has won almost 100 more elected delegates than Clinton, yet Obama is still trailing Clinton because of those superdelegates.

Anonymous said...

If the superdelegates do not vote to support the results of the popular vote, I will be infuriated enough to vote for McCain.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the superdelegates would pick a candidate contrary to the will of the voters is absurd. Or at least it better be.

That candidate would not win the general election, even against these GOP numbskulls.

I would not vote Democrat in this or any other election if the party elite is arrogant enough to deny the choice of the voters.

Unknown said...

While there is a very, very high chance that the popular vote winner will have the most pledged delegates, it is not the popular vote that matters. As others have said, in all caucus states, these numbers we see as the votes for each candidate are actually the state level delegates assigned to that candidate based on the results of the caucus, a fact that not even our good buddy Karl Rove was aware of on his 'Face the Nation' spot yesterday morning. Each of those state delegates can represent any number of voters, from a pathetic single voter to dozens. Thus, we will not have a popular vote to look at, only a summation of the actual primary voters and the caucus state delegates.

I am in total agreement with the NYtimes op-ed. The superdelegates' real purpose is to avoid a brokered convention (very bad) by jumping onto the pledged delegate winner's bandwagon, pushing him/her over the magic majority number to offically take the nomination.

I would imagine that if Sen. Clinton does not either A)win huge landslides in Ohio and Texas or B) score a couple of upsets in the many other Feb and March contests that favor Obama, we will see many superdelegates backing Obama from March 5th to April 22, all but handing him the nomination, capping it off with a Pennsylvania win for Obama. I guess it turns out that the 50 state strategy beats out the big state strategy in the end.

Anonymous said...

Then there's Florida and Michigan - states that Hillary would clearly win, even in contested primaries.

I wonder if there will be a re-vote or if the Dems will be content to tell millions of people who want their voices heard to go f' themselves.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who think that the idea of superdelegates potentially handing the nomination to a candidate who actually lost in the pledged delegate count is, shall we say, undemocratic, please take a second to sign this petiton:

We need to make the DNC and the superdelegates aware that, especially after 2000, having a small minority of people become the ultimate arbiters of a national election seems not only distasteful, but also hypocritical coming from the party that was on the losing end of Gore v Bush.

Anonymous said...

I think that the petition is a great idea! I've already signed it and e-mailed it to my friends.

Let's take back our democracy!

Anonymous said...

see you in Denver in August!

Chin Shih Tang said...

Here's my response to Tad Devine's editorial, posted on my blog: (

I disagree that waiting for this kind of call to decide after the last primary is what superdelegates should do. These people were given convention seats because of their presumed political expertise, specifically so that they could use their judgment to select the best candidate for the nation and party. That's what they should do.

I also disagree with the notion that superdelegates should be compelled or coerced to pledge their vote in agreement with the judgment of the primary electorate. Leaving aside the question of how that would be decided (national or local popular vote, national or local pledged delegates), they should determine for themselves the constituency they represent and do what they think best.

What I do want is the opposite of what Mr. Devine suggests. That is, they should announce their decision when they come to it, rather than holding back for one, two, or X more primary results. Once they have announced their pledges (or, if they truly cannot decide, announced their intention to remain uncommitted until a) something specific happens or b) some policy position is resolved), then the voters in the remaining primaries can decide what they think of the decisions of the superdelegates and whether they want to follow the Supers' leadership.

Finally, I question the premise Devine suggests, that Mondale had outpolled Hart in '84, and more generally, that it was a good thing that Mondale got the nomination. With all respect to Walter Mondale, a fine American and a fine Democratic senator and Vice President, does anyone think Hart would've done worse than Fritz in the '84 smackdown with Reagan? Mondale won 13 electoral votes.