The Delegate Picture


Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina are races that help establish momentum tempered by regional realities. Iowa has given a big boost to Obama — and his advocates are swooning and those on the fence are impressed.
But the delegate race has a long way to go.
A candidate in the Democratic race needs 2,025 delegates — and because of the lead Hillary Clinton has in securing “superdelegates“, she’s still first in the overall delegate allotment so far — but this could quickly change if Obama keeps nailing victories.
As reported in the International Herald Tribune, an AP analysis of Iowa results showed that Obama got 16 delegates on January 3rd in Iowa; Hillary 15; and Edwards 14.
In overall delegates now, Hillary Clinton has 175; Obama has 75; and Edwards 46.
Just a snap shot of numbers.
— Steve Clemons


9 comments on “The Delegate Picture

  1. Kathleen says:

    The Iowa caucus is like the Electoral College… If a caucus voter’s first choice does not reach viability, they are free to change their choice.
    At the Electoral College, if there is no clear majorty winner afer the first ballot, Presidential Electors are free to change their vote in as many ballots as it take for one candidate to reach a majority.
    Superdelegates were introduced at the same time that the parties changed from conventions to primaries. In 1968, there were only 6 primaries.. all the other states had conventions with party operatves doing the nominating.
    At the 1968 Democratic convention, George McGovern was appointed to chair a new commission to study the delegate selection process. This effort came from the Gene McCarthy Delegates from CT. We established the Senator Harrold Hughes Commission and studied the delegate selection process during the summer of 1968 and then at the Chicago Convention, Steve’s friend and mine, Anne Wexler, introduced the Hughes Commission Report to the floor of the convention as a Minorty Report of the Rules Committee. It was adopted and called for the appointment of a National Commission to change the election laws to allow for greater public particpation.
    The Superdelegates were a holdover from convention days.. a way for the old guard to hang onto some of the reins. Between 1968 and 1972, there were public hearings around the country on the issue and at the 1272 convention the new party rules calling for primaries were adopted.


  2. James Pratt says:

    Will Bower has a rational plan, but I don’t think the primary/caucus calendar was designed to be rational or fair. It makes the presidential candidates run a personal appearance gauntlet of overwhelmingly white Northerners from two small conservative states. I would guess the Southern and Western small states were considered too minority or unpredictable. The Republicans let Wyoming caucus between Iowa and the New Hampshire primary, but Wyoming does fit the pattern.
    Notice that the revolts of Michigan and Florida this year met a lot of bipartisan resistance.


  3. Will Bower says:

    Based on a hypothetical schedule for 2008
    By Will Bower
    The system by which we choose our presidential candidates every four years has been seriously flawed. The importance given to a select number of early-voting states diminishes the voice of the rest, and a win in one of these early states all too often places less-viable candidates in the front of their respective packs.
    Had the calendar for the 2008 primaries been devised on the basis of the 2004 election results, a far more effective and equitable system would now be in place. Consider:
    – States should be given preference in the primary schedule according to the margin of victory between each state’s winner and its runner-up. For example, John Kerry won Wisconsin by .3% and G.W. Bush won Iowa by .9%; conversely, Kerry won Washington DC with almost 90%, and Bush won Utah with approximately 70%. Therefore, the primary calendar I propose would begin with states such as Wisconsin and Iowa and close with Utah and the District of Columbia.
    – The purpose of ordering the states in this way is to help the parties choose candidates who appeal to those states that have proven themselves to be in the center of the national debate. The narrow margin in the final tally demonstrates an evenly-divided electorate. A candidate who appeals to Wisconsin is more likely to be a candidate who can appeal to a greater number of Americans on the whole.
    – Iowa and New Hampshire might object to this new system, given their long-standing insistence on being the first to cast primary ballots. However, so long as Iowa and New Hampshire retain their record of being fairly bipartisan states, they’ll maintain their position towards the front of the primary schedule.
    – This new system allows other states to play a greater role in how the parties select their candidates. For example, Wisconsin would be the state to get the limelight in 2008, followed soon thereafter by New Mexico. In addition, based on the 2008 results, two different states could be of greater importance come 2012. A rotating system would be a healthier and fairer one.
    – Each state gets its own, separate date on which to hold its primary. This will allow the candidates — and the media — to focus their attention fully on that state for at least a short period of time.
    – The number of days between the primaries of any two states is based on the number of Electoral votes of the latter of those two states. Each state will get roughly 1 day for every 3 of its Electoral votes. States with fewer Electoral votes, such as Nevada and Delaware, will get one day, whereas California will get roughly 18 days. This will help candidates apportion their time to appropriately address the population of any given state.
    – This proposed primary scheduling extends over a six-month period — beginning after the New Year and ending before July. Some might object that this prolongs the primary process. On the contrary, it would do the opposite. With all the “Super Tuesdays” now in January and February, all the candidates must start campaigning almost a year in advance. With a longer, less-condensed calendar, candidates will have an opportunity to better tailor — and therefore shorten — the length of their primary campaigns.
    Under these proposed guidelines, the calendar for the 2008 primaries would have been:
    January 2008
    Thu, 1/3 = Wisconsin
    Sat, 1/5 = Iowa
    Mon, 1/7 = New Mexico
    Tue, 1/8 = New Hampshire
    Mon, 1/14 = Ohio
    Tue, 1/22 = Pennsylvania
    Wed, 1/23 = Nevada
    Mon, 1/28 = Michigan
    Thu, 1/31 = Minnesota
    February 2008
    Sat, 2/2 = Oregon
    Tue, 2/5 = Colorado
    Thu, 2/14 = Florida
    Tue, 2/19 = New Jersey
    Fri, 2/22 = Missouri
    Mon, 2/25 = Washington
    Tue, 2/26 = Delaware
    March 2008
    Sat, 3/1 = Virginia
    Mon, 3/3 = Hawaii
    Tue, 3/4 = Maine
    Tue, 3/25 = California
    Thu, 3/27 = Connecticut
    April 2008
    Thu, 4/3 = Illinois
    Mon, 4/7 = Arizona
    Tue, 4/8 = Arkansas
    Mon, 4/14 = North Carolina
    Tue, 4/15 = West Virginia
    Fri, 4/18 = Maryland
    Mon, 4/21 = Tennessee
    Thu, 4/24 = Louisiana
    Tue, 4/29 = Georgia
    May 2008
    Thu, 5/1 = South Carolina
    Mon, 5/12 = New York
    Wed, 5/14 = Mississippi
    Fri, 5/16 = Kentucky
    Sat, 5/17 = Vermont
    Mon, 5/19 = Montana
    Thu, 5/22 = Indiana
    Fri, 5/23 = Rhode Island
    Sat, 5/24 = South Dakota
    June 2008
    Wed, 6/4 = Texas
    Mon, 6/9 = Massachusetts
    Wed, 6/11 = Kansas
    Thu, 6/12 = Alaska
    Mon, 6/16 = Alabama
    Tue, 6/17 = North Dakota
    Thu, 6/19 = Oklahoma
    Fri, 6/20 = Nebraska
    Sat, 6/21 = Idaho
    Mon, 6/23 = Wyoming
    Tue, 6/24 = Utah
    Wed, 6/25 = District of Columbia


  4. bcamarda says:

    rich: Yes, I posted to make clear that the superdelegate votes weren’t anywhere near set in stone.
    The superdelegates were instituted after the McGovern convention in ’72 to restrain what was perceived to be an overenthusiastic grassroots. Whether they positively or negatively influence the process can be debated, but they were explicitly intended to limit the exercise of popular democracy — at least to the extent that open and active participation of those most interested in the process equals democracy.
    What I’ll find interesting is where the superdelegate members of the DNC who elected Howard Dean — and those from the Mountain states and the Southwest — end up.


  5. Linda says:

    Does anybody know or understand what happens to Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates at both the Democratic and Republican conventions because of actions taken by the Democratic and Republican parties? I have only the most vague understanding of how this is going to work. In FL none of the primary votes will count for the Democrats and for the Republicans, the penalty is that only half their votes will count.
    I love for somebody who knows to shed more light on this and how this will impact the conventions. Those two states have a lot more votes than IA or NH.
    I’d also like to know if DC holds a primary and how the will of their citizens is figured into national conventions.


  6. rich says:

    Granted, yet the original post used the default horse-race description of a set-in-stone, not fluid, commitment.
    My focus was on the attacks on Iowa, and on caucuses, in which voters only seek to influence others, and then subsequently alter their position as the campaign matures—just as any superdelegate or elected official reserves the right to do the same. Not persuaded superdelegates positively or democratically influence the process.


  7. bcamarda says:

    Of course, superdelegates can change their minds any time they wish prior to the convention. If after five months of primaries and caucuses Hillary hasn’t clinched the nomination, I seriously doubt that the superdelegates will give it to her. Especially those from states where the perception at that time is that she won’t help down-ballot.
    If the convention is not settled or essentially settled in advance, then each of the candidates will have been significantly damaged in some way by that point. The superdelegates could conceivably help broker the convention to an entirely different candidate. I doubt we get anywhere near that point, however.


  8. rich says:

    Ah. So the critiques leveled at Iowa’s caucuses lack validity, and apply just as equally to the Democrats’ nominating process as a whole?
    One primary/caucus under our belts, with the popular vote returns:
    Obama 38
    Edwards 30
    Clinton 29
    . . . and the winner isn’t winning.
    Instead, “[i]n overall delegates now, Hillary Clinton has 175; Obama has 75; and Edwards 46”—reversing the popular will in all three slots.
    I won’t go chapter-&-verse into the really flawed and poorly examined attacks on Iowa’s process. But the “horizontal” conversation between neighbors and fellow citizens forces a genuine public debate unmediated by pols or pundits or bagmen or pollsters or the media circus, thus running off any warped result that doesn’t reflect Iowa’s real preference among the top three candidates.
    That plays havoc with mechanisms that frame issues, unequally fund, mediate discussion, predetermine viability, mis-translate votes into delegates, or filter out discomfort.
    Those attacking Iowa’s caucuses and the Dem machine (though it buffers the nomination from the democratic vote) are not the same people or groups.
    So characterizing well-meaning Dems isn’t useful. Readers can think of media personalities and party officials alike. Whether that invokes the overall status quo or corporate interests, the party machine, the revolving punditocracy, false centrists or liberal elites—call it whatever you like–they’ve not led well. Either way, Iowa voters should have more than their say. Some minimal respect is called for.
    The reality of the delegate ‘race’ is no surprise to anyone who closely followed the mechanics of the Southern primaries contested by Gore & Jackson ’88. Or the process generally.
    But the anti-Iowa spin was untenable: to say that the voices of small town and rural midwesterners is unrepresentative is to imply their votes shouldn’t count.
    A buncha normal but hardly average and mostly white Americans just unaccountably voted for an articulate black man, an ambitious intelligent woman, and a Southern trial lawer who fights for what’s right. The descriptors are deployed to highlight how effectively down-to-earth voters see through the prevailing attack-mode stereotypes and ridicule. As long as the echo chamber isn’t meddling in the process, that is.
    The anti-caucus chatter not only turns the meaning of “unrepresentative” on its head, but applies a double standard that the rest of country (in part & in whole) doesn’t much care to meet.
    I don’t believe the linked wiki definition of Superdelegates accurately describes their function relative to party power.


  9. Carroll says:

    Exchange at a town meeting, reported by the NYT…from Cole
    ” At a town hall meeting in a middle school gym here, Ms. Dennett first hailed Mrs. Clinton’s health care reform effort in 1993-94 . . . My concern is your voting record on war,” Ms. Dennett said. “The friends I talk to, to get them on board, they don’t trust you because of your voting issue on war.” She added that she and her friends did not want Mrs. Clinton to be “a war president.” ‘
    Clinton overdid the toughness thing. Not apologizing for her Iraq vote plus the other hawk votes on Iran and etc…
    Obama-rama has also made a lot of hawkish statements while he wasn’t showing up for the actual vote.
    You think Hillary’s team is compiling a list of
    Obama’s war-ish statements right about now? Or not?


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