Thursday, February 7, 2008

Those Superdelegates

It seems that there are now three potential eventualities as the Democratic race goes on. First, Obama can build big momentum over this month and score a net gain in delegates between Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania. In theory, he can build a substantial lead in pledged delegates and even overtake Clinton's superdelegates. At that point, the remaining unpledged superdelegates would begin to flock to Obama and the race would be over around April. At the other extreme, Clinton wants to sustain a series of close losses this month before scoring big wins in Ohio and Texas. If Obama wants to hang around until Pennsylvania, she'd aim to knock him out there and ... the story about superdelegates but for Clinton.

A third scenario, perhaps the most likely, entails a long and super-close second half of the primary campaign. Whether in pledged or total delegates - whichever the media and the remaining superdelegates choose to care about - the race would leave Pennsylvania still too close to call. At that point, the superdelegates will have to come up with some rationale for choosing between the two. Some superdelegates, like Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9), argue that they should simply vote for the leader in pledged delegates. The obvious problem with that plan, is that, under this super-close scenario, we may have to wait until at least May 20th before the final pledged delegate leader is determined (the ultimate super-close race scenario would go all the way until Montana and South Dakota on June 3rd). I find it unlikely that most superdelegates would be willing to wait that long to choose a nominee. For the superdelegates to choose based on the pledged delegates counts, either of the first two scenarios (above) would have to work out.

A more workable system involves the currently un-"pledged" superdelegates to pledge their support to the winner of their state or, perhaps in the case of congressmen, their district. This plan has been proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Maine Democratic Party Chairman John Knutson. That plan seems easy enough, but there are still some difficulties. Should Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Janet Napolitano be obligated to vote for Clinton, even though they declared their preferences at some point before their states voted? What about a more complex problem, like that facing Harry Mitchell: should he go with his state (which voted for Clinton) or his district (which voted for Obama)? In this case I'm biased, of course, but it seems like congressmen ought to vote the way their constituents did, especially since the delegate selection rules are oriented around congressional districts, anyway. Still, the case isn't exactly clear cut (i.e., some could argue that state superdelegations should be unanimous). At the very least, the question is ambiguous enough that a congressman could justify voting either way.

The most likely informal deal would probably be as follows: superdelegates that endorse before their states vote would be allowed to keep their allegiances (but would be pressured to switch if their state or district goes the other way); other statewide superdelegates would agree to vote for the winner in their respective states; representatives whose districts split from their states and others with ambiguous constituencies would feel free to vote whichever way they want.

Let's see how the currently unpledged superdelegates would break down under that scenario (conflicted representatives counted with their state winners b/c of the difficulty in identifying them):

Obama (98)
Alaska - 4
Alabama - 6
Colorado - 8
Connecticut - 6
Delaware - 5
Georgia - 10
Idaho - 3
Illinois - 13
Iowa - 8
Kansas - 6
Minnesota - 7
Missouri - 9
North Dakota - 4
South Carolina - 6
Utah - 3

Clinton (105)
Arizona - 5
Arkansas - 3
California - 37
Massachusetts - 15
Nevada - 5
New Hampshire - 3
New Jersey - 7
New York - 11
Oklahoma - 7
Tennessee - 12

New Mexico - 8 ???????

So, pretty even at this point, but state victories could take on new levels of importance from now on.

1 comment:

Espo said...

Hahaha man, we (as a party) are so fucked!