Super Tuesday & Beyond: A barebone sketch

Note: 1) This diary was begun on 2/1. I have not taken into account hardly any of the more recent polling, diaries, etc. to influence my decision-making here; 2) I also did not get into a lot of congressional district by congressional district (i.e., 4 delegate CD's, 5 delegate CD's, 6 delegate CD's, uneven vs. even delegate CD's, etc.) analysis while preparing this. Those are, admittedly, two significant grains of salt which must be taken into account while reading this diary.

I'm not going to show all my work here because, frankly, I'm sick of working on this diary and if I don't put it up now it becomes irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I have put a tremendous amount of effort into this piece and though this is a very rough sketch of what -- given the preconditions I set out below -- is likely to happen, it is a very studied one as well.

Hat tip to Daily Kos' Pablano and his extremely detailed Super Tuesday 1.31 diary where I obtained probably around 40% of my base data.

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It's The Superdelegates, Stupid

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As we saw in Nevada, the definition of the word "win" can be a bit fuzzy. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Barack Obama emerged from the caucuses with 1 more delegate (albeit uncommitted.) So who "won?" They both claim they did and they both have a case.

Now, considering more than 20 states are voting tomorrow, we could very well see a similar situation, if not in several states, at least in the largest and most delegate rich. As dday wrote in his detailed explanation of how California's delegates are likely to be apportioned tomorrow:

And so, despite the possibility of Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote in the Golden State, I'm not sure she's favored to win the majority of delegates, given the reality of the allocation.

So if Hillary Clinton does win the popular vote in California tomorrow and Barack Obama wins the delegate count, I have one question: Which candidate will Barbara Boxer pledge to support?

The superdelegates can also be influenced by the primaries. An aide to Senator Barbara Boxer of California said Ms. Boxer would cast her superdelegate vote for the winner of the California primary on Feb. 5.

My guess is that Boxer would go with the popular vote winner, since the case that that result reflects the will of California voters would be least controversial, but it's a question that becomes increasingly relevant as we approach the reality of Super Tuesday and beyond.

Chris Bowers breaks it down for us:

It can no longer be avoided: super delegates will determine the Democratic Presidential nominee this year. [...]

the largest possible pledged delegate margin Clinton can have after Super Tuesday is 937 to 862. (While it is possible Obama will lead in pledged delegates after Super Tuesday, it does not currently seem possible for Obama to have a larger lead than 75). That leaves Clinton 1,088 pledged delegates from clinching the nomination, with only 1,428 pledged delegates remaining. Thus, in order to win the nomination without the aid of super delegates, in her best-case scenario after Super Tuesday, Clinton would need to win 76.2% of all remaining pledged delegates. Given our proportional delegate system, there is simply no way that is going to happen unless Obama drops out.

Unless either Obama or Clinton drops out before the convention, there is simply no way that the nominee can be determined without the super delegates.

On paper this would seem to favor Clinton, as a mid-January poll of super delegates revealed a slight edge for Clinton among those who had made up their minds but as it was taken prior to Nevada's caucuses, it's anyone's guess what the breakdown is now. But the thing about superdelegates is that the count is fluid. Realistically, even is a superdelegate announces his or her support for a candidate, they're not actually bound to that.

But nothing in the rules binds any of the superdelegates, and they are free to shift positions, unlike pledged delegates who are committed to support a particular candidate at least through an initial convention vote. That creates a situation that political aficionados dream about: a deadlocked convention up for grabs until a bloc of superdelegates comes together and anoints a nominee.

Which seems to be just the scenario the Clinton campaign is preparing us for.

From Stoller:

I'm on a conference call with Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign, and they are emphasizing how this contest is going to go beyond Tuesday, and may go until the convention.  Wolfson is discussing party rules and proportional representation, and says that these rules have trumped the intended front-loading of the primaries to pick a nominee early on.

In other words, we may be on our way to a political junkie's dream but potential small d democratic nightmare.

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Superdelegates are people too

Jenny Greenleaf
Over the last two months we have looked at the dark and mysterious world of the superdelegates. Some people have called their power  tyrannical and others think their very existence is undemocratic. Last week I entered this dark world and spoke to one of these "undemocratic tyrants".

Jenny Greenleaf is one of us. She's not a demon bent on the end of our democracy. She has no intention of denying American citizens of their right to choose their preferred candidate.

And as one of Oregon's 13 superdelegates, Greenleaf will be able to choose who she wants to be nominated as the next President of the United States.

After seeing the following comment on MyDD, I had to talk to her:

I'm a DNC committeeperson from Oregon, which makes me a superdelegate.

I get a call from two or three media organizations every week. I politely explain that I am not endorsing any of our great candidates  yet. They then ask if I am leaning toward anyone, and I say no. (Because I'm an officer of the state party, and we don't want the state party to be seen as providing more or better services to one candidate or another, I plan to stay neutral until Oregon's late primary in May.

So, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBS/New York Times call the superdelegates constantly. I suspect that when the reporters count up the superdelegates, they are using slightly different ways of deciding if someone is a supporter or not. It depends on whether they count the leaners. And how many people they managed to reach for that particular poll.

Greenleaf isn't a life-long party member. Like many people she became politically active in 2002. After being laid off from a tech job she wanted to work on something that would make a difference. Her goal was to make the Democratic Party less mysterious and more efficient.

She started out doing fundraisers and moved on to help the Dean and Kerry campaigns in 2004.  Jenny was selected as a delegate and attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. At the time she was a regular blogger on American Street. She told me that the delegates were really just extras on the convention floor and that she spent a lot of time hanging out in the nose-bleed seats with the other bloggers. Greenleaf won her DNC seat in Dec. '04, and thus became a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The media calls her at least once a week asking for her preference. The Oregon Democratic Party has decided not to make endorsements yet, so she remains Uncommitted. The Clinton, Edwards and Obama campaigns call to ask for an endorsement about every other week. Greenleaf mentioned that the Clinton campaign has made the most calls.

We will continue to follow our Oregon superdelegate through the convention and bring you more proof that superdelegates are people too.

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What's needed for a Dem brokered convention

In order for there to be a brokered convention for the Democrats, there most likely needs to be a strong third party candidate, or group of delegates.

For there to be a brokered convention, the basic calculation to look at is the number of delegates that have chosen someone other (or not) than either Clinton or Obama, and that number would have to be greater than the difference between Clinton and Obama.

Edwards is at about 54-55 (including superdelegates), so that's the 'other' at this moment. Meaning that (outside the superdelegates), the difference between Obama and Clinton would need to be less than 54-55 for Edwards to play the kingmaker.

However, there are still 424 to 459 remaining super-delegates that are uncommitted currently. That number looks much more likely to play the role of the kingmaker, than Edwards at this moment.  

I would suspect that, as the state elections tick off, that number goes down quite a bit, but we may end up a close enough difference between Clinton and Obama in the delegate count, that the remaining superdelegates will be the ones in the kingmaker role. If that happens, which looks possible right now, they'd probably pressure for a shotgun marriage  of the two, with whomever has the highest number of delegates and has won the most states, at the top of the ticket.

But this is all speculation at this point, prior to the 23 states voting in nine days. Lets look at the results after Feb 5th, and we'll pretty much know where this is heading.

There's more...

Superdelegates and the fight for the nomination

Before I start writing about my new obsession of superdelegates I want to introduce my blog 2008 Democratic Convention Watch. DemConWatch was started in 2005 by Matt on the day Howard Dean announced that the 2008 convention would be held in late August.

From that point on he built the blog into the place to go for information on the convention. Living in Denver I was an avid reader before joining as a contributer last month.

Matt and I would like to thank Jerome for inviting us and look forward to following the race to the convention with everybody here.

If you had asked me about superdelegates a couple months ago I probably would have looked at you with a blank stare. After a solid month of living with my 796 best new friends I feel like I should have some kind of degree in superdelegatology.

A superdelegate has the ability to vote for any candidate whereas regular delegates are selected in support of a candidate. There are 796 superdelegates in this cycle (Michigan and Florida not included).

Superdelegates as of late haven't been much of a factor in deciding the nominee. With the primary season we're seeing this might change. If we're still looking at a close race after Super Tuesday the importance of superdelegate endorsements will increase dramatically.

As of today superdelegates are made up of the following people:
DNC members, all Democratic members of Congress, all Democratic Governors, all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee. The official list won't be finalized until March 1st. - Democratic Convention Website

Now for our bread and butter. Matt and I thought it would be good to know exactly who the superdelegates are and have a list of their endorsements. After searching for a couple hours I was only able to find a list of congressional endorsements on The Hill.

We created our Superdelegate Endorsement List and shortly followed up with our list of Superdelegates who haven't made an endorsement.

Unlike the "major media" we don't just throw out numbers without backing them up. We will only show an endorsement if we can find a press release or news article that backs it up.

Even with this rule in place we are still managing to stay close and even exceed some of the big media. We are tracking how our superdelegate endorsements compare as well as having two delegate trackers (which aren't nearly as nice looking as the ones here). The first shows delegate and superdelegate tallies without including Florida and Michigan. Our second tracker includes Florida and Michigan. This gives the reader the choice whether to count Michigan and Florida or not. You know, "We Report, You Decide"? Except in this case, we mean it.

We'll be posting updates and more information on how the delegates and superdelegates work in the coming weeks.


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