Balkinization  

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's a Tie -- Enter the Superdelegates

Marty Lederman

According to the Obama campaign, he won 845 of the 1671 pledged delegates last night, to Senator Clinton's 836. This appears to be roughly consistent, give or take a few delegates, with others' estimates, as well -- see here and here. When added to his previous 63-48 lead, that would give Obama a 908 to 884 lead in pledged delegates. (The Obama campaign's estimate of his own pick-ups might even be a bit short -- he might have won four more delegates than he assumed in California, according to this calculation. There are also seven more delegates to be chosen from Democrats abroad who voted yesterday.)

Only 1428 pledged delegates are still to be chosen in the remaining primaries and caucuses. Thus, in order to enter the convention with a majority (2025 delegates), Senator Obama would need to win 1117 of those remaining delegates, or over 78 percent. Senator Clinton would need to win 1141 delegates, or 80 percent. Obviously, neither of the candidates is going to secure anywhere close to a majority before the August convention. It is more likely that each will end up with between 1500 and 1700 pledged delegates, i.e., at least 300 delegates short of what they need to win.

Therefore, the Democratic nomination will be decided by the 796 "superdelegates." They include all Democratic members of the Congress, Democratic governors, various other elected officials, and the members of the Democratic National Committee.

Just over 300 of the superdelegates have already announced who they intend to support, and Senator Clinton is ahead by about 90 such delegates in most counts. (Here is one list of those who have already announced their endorsement.) Most of those delegates presumably will stick by their announcements, but they are not bound to do so.

All of which is to say that over the next seven months the two candidates will likely be spending at least as much energy trying to secure commitments from superdelegates as they do trying to "win" primaries. That does not mean that the primaries themselves will be unimportant -- to the contrary, the results of the primaries (particularly the March 4th Ohio primary?) might well convince a majority of superdelegates that one candidate or the other is more likely to prevail against John McCain in November. But it is almost certain that those superdelegates will choose the nominee.

What about Florida and Michigan? One blogger's view: If and when the nominee is otherwise selected, the Florida and Michigan delegates will probably be allowed to vote. I can't imagine, however, that the party will permit the Florida and Michigan delegates to determine the winner of the election (that is, to break a virtual tie or to leapfrog Clinton over Obama), unless perhaps if Senator Clinton already has a substantial delegate lead over Senator Obama and would have been likely to win anyway.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers writes that the credentials committee that will rule on Florida and Michigan will itself roughly approximate the delegate allocation of the two candidates. Thus, if Clinton has more delegates, the committee will likely choose to count Florida and Michigan, which could give her a majority. If Obama is "clearly" ahead, the committee will likely vote not to count Florida and Michigan.

Similarly as to the superdelegates, Bowers surmises that "as long as there is a candidate with a clear edge in both pledged delegates and voter support during the nomination contests, in all likelihood the super delegates will back that candidate. While, as both pledged delegate totals and dueling popularity metrics show, we have not arrived at that point, odds are that we will arrive at that point by June 4th, the day after the nominating contests come to an end. It does not have to be a large advantage, just as long as it is a clear advantage."

The problem scenario, according to Bowers, is if Obama is ahead, but not "clearly," that is, by fewer than 100 delegates: "The only way we will faced with a brokered convention that produces a nominee with questionable legitimacy is if no clear popular vote or pledged delegate leader emerges at the end of the primary and caucus season. Basically, I think this means that if Obama wins pledged delegates, but does so outside of Michigan and Florida by less than 100, we are in for a real mess. Otherwise, the process should work pretty well, and I have probably been panicking unnecessarily. Hopefully, either Clinton or Obama will emerge a clear winner even without Michigan and Florida combined, and we will have nothing to worry about."

Comments:

Marty spake: "...the results of the primaries (particularly the March 4th Ohio primary?) might well convince a majority of superdelegates that one candidate or the other is more likely to prevail against John McCain in November."

And that's what we've come to, a prayer that a much despised wife of the man oft described as the best Republican president we've had in ages or a black admitted former drug user with a funny name can beat a GOP White Male War Hero(tm) who is such a good bridge that our best and brightest write popular bills with him. We need to step out of the echo chamber for a bit and remember most of our electorate are semi-literates consuming the same swill peddled here by our dedicated troll.

Color me not holding my breath for a Democrat in the White House anytime soon.
 

Presumably, congressional superdelegates whose districts or states yesterday favored a candidate other than the one they have been supporting might want to reconsider their positions.

So, e.g., although Clinton took New York state quite handily, it appears that voters in three NY congressional districts -- the 6th, 10th, and 11th -- favored Obama. Each of those districts is represented by a Democrat: Gregory Meeks (6th), Edolphus Towns (10th), and Yvette Clarke (11th). Like the rest of the NY congressional delegation, they have all pledged their support for Clinton. But now that the people who voted them into office have expressed their preference for Obama, shouldn't Meeks, Towns, and Clarke reconsider?
 

I could also imagine a scenario where super delegates hold back long enough so that they can use their voting strength to force one candidate out prior to the convention -- for unity's sake and to be able to put forward the typical rah rah convention speeches in prime time. Maybe just enough to give HRC the votes to sit Florida and Michigan?
 

"We need to step out of the echo chamber for a bit and remember most of our electorate are semi-literates consuming the same swill peddled here by our dedicated troll."

If you hate the people this much, how can you expect them to vote with you? You are still in a chamber, and this kind of comment is just your ego and your totalitarian side bouncing off the walls. Even if you were correct about the character of voters, literacy requirements went out with the KKK and Rhenquist.

Obama is trying to be Progressive Man o' the People(tm). If you stop taking cheap shots and look at who is voting for him, then you might discover the solution to the problem you see.
 

it would be a real crowd pleaser for the DNC to put them on the same ballot.

together they have huge built in constituencies and would crush mccain?lieberman.

a power sharing agreement would have to be worked out between the three of them... unlikely, i guess.

my biggest source of hope, and one key difference between hillary's run and bill's run, is the clear Democratic Mandate this time around.

Bill ran as a triangulator and never had the will? or muscle? to effect radical change.

Both Hillary and Obama sense the opportunity to take the country in radical new directions.

At this point, I will happily vote for either one of them.
 

My suspicion is the superdelegates will be forced to go along with the popular vote in the primaries. Too many Democrats remember Florida 2000 and the talking point that the elites were disregarding the will of the voters would be overwhelming.
 

Corey: 1) I voted Obama. 2) To lament the critical thinking skills of the hoi polloi is not to advocate literacy tests; stick to what I actually said, there's little need to read between my lines. 3) When/if you get some evidence that the voters aren't the same consumers keeping "Flavor of Love" and "Celebrity Rehab" on the air then I'll consider being less cynical about my fellow Americans. ;)

Peace.
 

I think "Flavor of Love" is awesome!
 

@Dave: Nothin' personal. My wife's hooked, it's a sore spot at home right now. We wouldn't have TV at all if I had my druthers, but that's the elitist totalitarian in me making noise again. ;)

Peace.
 

Regarding Michigan, there is starting to be a little talk here of a do-over. If the Democratic Party held caucuses for Michigan, the delegate chosen in that way would be seated. That way, there would be no argument about whether Michigan should be allowed its delegates or not.
 

hopefully, this posts once.
The writer of the blog might enjoy the first and second Huntley Brinkley skybox convention narratives;maybe these are available on some of the videographic history websites. After the second convention in which they anchored, their act became over-produced and cliche; and convention floor managers morphed into stage managers. Admittedly this historical anecdote extends only a few years prior to the early youth years of blog author ML, but an important antediluvian few years those were. The 'worry' for me is in the artificiality of overproduced conventions, not the former actual bartering sessions which were in the early dawn of television and prior. There are too many prepackaged news reports shared by news outlets in our times; and even exit polls are banned by consensus as a deference to encourage as much dishonest tabulation as honest voting, in these more modern times. Yet, despite these recollections, the prospect of a conundrum between president on the ticket and vicepresidential runningmate selection for either frontrunner is a delight. Hopefully, ML remains refreshed by the current overwhelming doubt about how the machine politics might sway popular opinion, though leadership in the sense of bold personal vision has a way of applying Ockham's process to otherwise vague polemics by candidates.
 

Charles Fried's op-ed in the New York Times today argues that the decisions of the Burger and Rehnquist courts used to make sense because ...hermes handbags wholesale | hermes birkin | hermes kelly bag | hermes handbags outlet | kelly bag hermes price | hermes h belt | hermes handbags for sale | hermes birkin for sale | buy hermes bags | hermes kelly wallet | shop hermes birkin | hermes handbags discount | hermes birkin cheap
 

There are also seven more delegates to be chosen from Democrats abroad who voted yesterday.)


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