Saturday, February 09, 2008

Super-delegates -- A Nightmare in the Making

It looks like this concern is starting to get public notice, but just to spread it a little wider:

ABC has a write-up of the arcane policy of super-delegates.

The upshot, in my understanding, is that in the Democratic primaries, the ordinary voting folk choose 3253 of the 4049 total delegates (a little over 80%). 796 (19%) of those delegates go whatever direction they please. Any reasonably close race and even some unreasonable scenarios would certainly end up being thrown into the hands of those super-delegates.

My feeling is that if the ultimate winner of the primary is also the winner of either the popular vote or the regular delegate vote, there won't be a problem.

But if the voters go one way and the super-delegates make the primary go the other way, it'd be a catastrophe for the Democratic party.


Bruce said...


I've heard analysis that, if Obama ends up with a lead in pledged delegates, especially one that shows momentum, many superdelegates may well bow to it, despite all the favors the Clintons are calling in. That could be wrong, but it could be right. I'm hopeful :-)

M. Scott Eiland said...

The Democrats added all of those superdelegates in the first place because they wanted a firewall against another McGovern (or, probably, a Carter) being chosen by the Democratic primary voters. It never occurred to them that it might lead to a candidate more likely to win the general election being denied by those superdelegate votes. Don't be shocked if the superdelegates are either gone after this election or heavily diluted in some way (say, by multiplying the number of delegates by ten--that might make the convention hall a tad crowded, though).

The Clintons play political hardball--if Howard Dean is inclined to prevent a disaster here, he may have to reassure nervous Democratic pols that the party has their back against any dirty tricks that might be coming their way from a defeated Bill 'n Hill.

Steve Peterson said...

Yah -- even if it doesn't cause a ruckus this time out, I'd be shocked if the super-delegates survived past next year.

What really surprised me is that they weren't a relic of the old machine days, but instead something added in the 70s. Perhaps their addition was the last gasp of the old machine, though.