Friday, February 08, 2008

Stop fretting about super delegates

There has been some significant teeth gnashing of late over the prospect that who will be the Dem nominee may come down to the super delegates. Since it is becoming increasingly difficult for either Obama or Clinton to win the necessary number of delegates simply through the Caucuses/Primaries (At this point one or the other would have to win something like 70-80% of the remaining un-pledged delegates. Given the fact that most of the contests up to now have been effectively draws, this seems highly unlikely.) The concern generally runs along the lines of the Dem nominee being apparently chosen not by the voters but by the party poobahs (governors, legislators and DNC party officials). In other words, it would look like the Democrats don't care about what the people want.

This doesn't make sense.

Think about it this way: the super delegates are professional politicians. They want the Dems to be united going into the Fall as much as anyone. They know that if, going into the convention, candidate A has 200 more pledged delegates than candidate B, they COULD change the difference by simply voting en masse for candidate B. But the resulting uproar would be huge.

So what will really happen in this scenario? It's simple really: most of the super delegates, even many of those who have previously pledged for candidate B, will swing strongly in favor of the candidate with more delegates.

In other words, if candidate A has the edge in pledged delegates going into June then they will get the edge in super delegates as well. So the fact that those super delegates were needed to put candidate A over the hump will NOT negate the fact that the candidate was chosen by the popular will of the voters.

The only way this could be a problem is if the margin between the candidates is minuscule. But that's a scenario that is not a given. I think the calendar and the momentum is such that, if any candidate pulls slightly ahead it will be almost impossible for the other to catch up (currently, I think Clinton will have the harder slog to the nomination, but not as hard as some think.)

Simplified conclusion: super delegates are a problem for the Democrats ONLY if they reverse the pledge delegates. But the super delegates are professional politicians, few of whom have an ideological ax to grind, who simply won't be a party to that.

So let's stop worrying about the super delegates. The bigger worry, in my mind, is that a delayed decision means a delayed launch to the Fall campaign. Which is why I would hope that, if the margins are enough to swing the super delegates to one or the other candidate, that the one with the fewer delegates going into June will suspend their campaign rather than draw out the inevitable. At least I hope that the two contenders are mature enough to realize what a bad idea it would be to keep up a fight they are almost sure to lose (or win pyrrhicly.)


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