Election 2008

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Political Insiders May Pick Democratic Nominee

February 06, 2008 08:29 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
With neither Democratic candidate pulling far ahead in Super Tuesday, superdelegates could have the last word on the Democratic nomination.

30-Second Summary

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On Tuesday, University of Texas law professor Sandy Levinson wrote that with the race so close, the Democratic nomination will probably be decided by unpledged delegates. These superdelegates can cast their votes for whomever they like, regardless of the popular vote.

That is important, because in the long run it is the delegates that determine the nominees at the party conferences in the summer.

Republican primaries are winner-takes-all contests. So, when Sen. John McCain won New York, he took all of its 101 Republican delegates.

In contrast, Democratic primaries distribute each state's delegates in proportion to the popular vote in that state. In New York, Sen. Hillary Clinton won 127 delegates to Barack Obama’s 87. Final victory requires a 2,025 majority.

On the Balkinization blog, Levinson wrote that at the end of Super Tuesday neither Democrat would have more than a 75-delegate majority. According to figures provided today by Real Clear Politics, that was precisely the lead Clinton had over Obama at last count.

Levinson explains, “Both candidates will need to win over 1000 more delegates for a majority—probably more than 1100—with only 1428 pledged delegates remaining to be chosen in primaries and caucuses.”

Such a majority is, writes Levinson, “virtually unfeasible.” So, if the figures he uses are correct, the Democratic convention in the summer will anoint the candidate chosen by unelected officials.

Popular wisdom holds it that the superdelegates vote for the establishment candidate. That is surely Clinton. The Washington Post writes that 300 superdelegates have come out for her already.

But if Obama won the popular vote, would unpledged delegates dare reject such a mandate?

Headline Links: ‘Dampen Your Expectations’

Analysis: Superdelegates and democracy

Reference: Delegate counts

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