Barack Obama’s stirring victory in Iowa was also a good night for our democracy. The turnout broke records and young people - who were mobilized and organized - participated in unprecedented numbers. And now that Iowans have spoken - the first citizens in the nation to do so - here’s the Democratic delegate count for the top three candidates (2,025 delegates are needed to secure the nomination):
Clinton - 169
Obama - 66
Edwards - 47
“Huh?” you say. “vanden Heuvel, you made a MAJOR typo.”
In fact, those numbers are correct: the third-place finishing Sen. Hillary Clinton now has over twice as many delegates as Sen. Obama, and more than three times as many delegates as the second-place candidate, Sen. John Edwards. Why? Because the Democratic Party uses an antiquated and anti-democratic nominating system that includes 842 “super-delegates” - un-pledged party leaders not chosen by the voters, free to support the candidate of their choice, and who comprise more than forty percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination. Many have already announced the candidate they will support.
Oui over at BooMan Tribune offers this up in comments to help explain:
Superdelegates for Clinton (Undecided's No. 1)In the same comment threads idredit offers some food for thought on this issue brought up by Katrina vanden Heuvel:
(NYT/CBS News) Nov. 8, 2007 - In an early indication of where Democratic Party leaders are leaning, a survey of the party's superdelegates -- elected officials and other leaders who vote at the party's convention but are not selected in primaries -- found they are favoring Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Created by the Democratic Party in 1984, superdelegates include members of Congress, governors, former presidents, Democratic National Committee members and other party leaders. There are 850 of them, which comprises nearly one-fifth of the overall delegate count. They can back any candidate they want and change their mind as often as they want.
... more than a third of the party's 850 superdelegates said they were undecided.
New York Times/CBS News Poll
The superdelegates are in no way bound by their stated preferences and dynamics in the race are likely to change.
I had never realized that the grassroots primary voter was relegated to only a 60% share of the vote in the Democratic primaries. It is so anti-Democratic in so many ways.
The Super-delegates Issue:
"In a clear attempt to protect the party establishment, this undemocratic infrastructure was created following George McGovern's landslide defeat in 1972. It was designed to prevent a nominee who was "out of sync with the rest of the party," Northeastern University political scientist William Mayer told MSNBC. Democratic National Committee member Elaine Kamarck called it a "sort of safety valve."
Evidence of momentum
Building the appearance of momentum and inevitability is why Clinton and her rivals will gradually be unveiling their endorsements by super-delegates.
Howard Dean's momentum appeared unstoppable in the first weeks of 2004. Super-delegate Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said emotionally a few days before his state's caucuses, "In my entire adult lifetime, I have never seen anyone broaden our party and bring people in and excite young people... like Governor Howard Dean." It was powerful testimony from a hard-nosed politician.
Dean had amassed the most super-delegates before the Iowa caucuses. But many had buyer's remorse and some abandoned him once he finished a weak third in Iowa.[.]
In the two weeks following the Iowa caucuses, 36 of 132 Dean's super-delegates peeled away from him; while John Kerry's tally jumped from 74 to 102."
So, Clinton beware!
It is pretty clear that things can change, as far as the previous declarations of of intent by these "Super Delegates," but this is a system that needs to be tossed along with the conservative DLC types that would likely covet it as populism is on the rise.
[update] Welcome to Crooks and Liars, skippy the bush kangaroo, NYC Educator, American Street, NewstThief, House of the Rising Sons and Jabberwonk readers and please feel free to enjoy some fresh brews on me!
danvera notes in comments here that a movement of "Super Delegates" may already be happening:
"Clinton Machine Shaken by Setback"
The scope of Barack Obama's victory in Iowa has shaken the Clinton machine down to its bolts. Donors are panicking. The campaign has been making a round of calls to reassure notoriously fickle "superdelegates" — elected officials and party regulars who are awarded convention spots by virtue of their titles and positions — who might be reconsidering their decisions to back the candidate who formerly looked like a sure winner. And internally, a round of recriminations is being aimed at her chief strategist, Mark Penn, as the representative of everything about her pseudo-incumbent campaign that has been too cautious, too arrogant, too conventional and too clueless as to how much the political landscape has shifted since the last Clinton reign. One adviser summed up the biggest challenge that faces the campaign in two words: "Fresh thinking."
It should also be noted that with a third of the super delegates undecided when the NY Times took its poll (image ^^up there^^), there is a lot of wiggle room for movement on their support.
As well, Mike's Blog Roundup suggests reading one of my favorite Blogs' - The Strange Death of Liberal America - post titled "Can Barack Obama Pull Off a Woodrow Wilson?" as a companion piece to this one:
"In the aftermath of the Iowa Caucuses, Barack Obama’s stunning win has the pundits seeking parallels. The problem is they are all looking in the wrong places. They need to go back 100 years. In keeping with this blog’s reputation for original analysis, I offer a historical analogy that you will read here and nowhere else."Sorry Liberal American... But you can read a snippet of it here too!
[update deux] The eggman runneth over at the Drudge Report with a screeching headline full of what must be right-wingnutty wishful thinking:
As I said... Screeching, BUT not a siren or flashing light in sight so I don't think that anyone could mistake that GOP wet-dream as anything more than non-news. (h/t Memeorandum) Even the right wing Captain's Quarters points out the obvious:
It didn't work with Fred Thompson, and it won't work with Hillary Clinton. Matt Drudge says that Hillary's considering withdrawing from the race if she loses big to Barack Obama in tomorrow's New Hampshire primaries -- a notion that makes even less sense for Hillary than Fred (...snip...) A flashing siren on Drudge won't be enough.Maybe that is why Drudge didn't even bother with the siren... He has got to know that nobody will buy that story.
[update trois] Ken Layne at Wonkette seems to have captured the image of what was a fading siren by the time I read the story:
Have you ever seen a sadder Drudge Report Siren? Hillary can’t leave Matt, not after he’s been telling the world how she’s so smart and tough and the whole President Clinton Jr. thing is inevitable! Hang in there, Matt! Hillary might still be your Queen.Too funny!
[update quatre] ABC gave a different breakdown of the decided Super Delegates:
Because super delegates are unpledged, they are under no obligation to state their preferences publicly before the convention. Counting super delegates is an inexact science, but this is the best estimate of the current state of play according to the super delegate responses we've received.[update cinque] An explanation of how the Delegates are allocated, because it confused the heck out of Aristocrats, posted in 2003:
Delegate counts, super delegates
"The allocation of each state's delegates to each candidate is a bit murky, but in general it's apportioned by a complex series of formulas that kick in once a candidate crosses the 15% threshhold.
For example, this is how North Dakota allocates its delegates:
Here's how we compute the delegate count:
1. A candidate must receive 15% or more of the total popular vote to qualify for delegates. Discard those votes cast for candidates who do not qualify.
2. Allocate Congressional District delegates from the qualified vote in each district. Allocate Pledged PLEO and At-Large delegates using the statewide qualified vote.
3. In each jurisdiction:
1. Total qualified vote = total votes cast for the qualifying candidates in the jurisdiction.
2. Allocation = (delegates for the jurisdiction) x (candidate's popular vote) ÷ (total qualified vote).
3. Assign each candidate the WHOLE NUMBER of delegates.
4. If delegates remain, allocate each of the remaining delegates to those candidates with the LARGEST REMAINDERS.
If you can figure out what that formula means then you're a smarter person than me.
Super Delegates can vote for whomever they want, but they generally vote with the winner of the popular vote. It would be highly undemocratic and a breach of faith to subvert the will of the voters and push an alternate candidate itself. Now if we were to face a brokered convention, then all bets would obviously be off. But the chances of that happening, as exciting as it would be for political junkies like us, is practically nill."
When this was posted in 2003 Iowa had 45 delegates and 9 super delegates. Those numbers have likely changed since then.
[update six] AP had a different breakdown for before the Iowa Caucus:
Most superdelegates contacted by the AP before the Iowa caucuses were undecided. However, among those who have endorsed a candidate, Clinton leads with 160, compared to 59 for Obama and 32 for former Sen. John Edwards.