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Super Delegates and Fluidity

It was amazing to watch the California race yesterday; things were far more fluid there than we had imagined. Clinton won the rural areas, while Obama took the cities. McCain just ended up having a strong day all around. It looks like McCain is the de-facto nominee for the GOP while the race between the two Dems has now branched into a full-on contest. Hillary took California convicingly.
But nationwide, Obama won several states that she should have taken – yesterdays results by all measures are a tie. McCain’s party does a “winner take all ” thing so he’s coming out ahead, but Obama vs. Clinton will continue to be a battle. How does the superdelegate count , change this race?

Here at reliable politics we report delegates based on formal award by the party. “It ain’t over till its over!”. Obama’s results here will receive those delegates awarded when he won the hotly contested Iowa primary. And Clinton’s formal delegate count from California will update accordingly. New Mexico is still out – a very tight race there. The goal here is veracity. My post about California yesterday was an exploration of how the different areas in California are dividing up the vote – democrats allocate their delegates based on population. People from the valley tended to vote for Hillary, people on the Coast voted for Obama. So Obama may end up with a strong count out of it all.

Most media outlets are reporting the race as a split race, with a very narrow margin for either candidate being reported. Here, one would think that Hillary has a significant lead by over 100 delegates. This is due to inclusion of the pledged superdelegates. Are these superdelegates actually worth counting? Yes. Will they decide the contest? Good question.

Superdelegates are not a deciding factor in most contests. Of the 4,049 delegates in the democratic convention, only 796 are superdelegate. 81.4% of the vote will come from the pledged delegates, who are awared by the percentage of the win. For the GOP, there is a larger bloc of unpledged delegates that generally move in the direction of the popular vote. However, the pledged GOP delegates have to take 15% of the vote to get them. GOP calculus is a bit more straightforward and as the process unfolds, it may be a harbinger of things to come with the democratic process.

Unlike pledged delegates, Superdelegates are not required to indicate a preference for a candidate. They are heads of state, former trusted members of the party, etc. Here is a list of the superdelegates and their linked statements of support. Please note that any superdelegate from a sanctioned state is automatically knocked off the list. Florida and Michigan screwed the pooch. Their vote would have counted just as much in the later part of the contest, as it would have in the early stage. They tried to co-opt a front loaded primary schedule and failed. They won’t do that again.

CNN reports Obama winning by a count of the the pledged delegates of 785 to 777 over Clinton. If one includes pledged superdelegates, then Hillary takes a win over Obama.

What I am writing about here is the question – how fluid is the superdelegate vote? Once a superdelegate commits to a candidate, do they ever switch? Will the supdelegate counts, in this race, act as a deciding factor?

I have found that the majority of superdelegates do not endorse a candidate until after the primary is over. There are only 311 superdelegates pledging their support for one candidate or another, at time of writing. That leaves 485 of the 796 superdelegates not formally committed. Many of the superdelegates simply refuse to endorse a candidate until after the primary.

Obama has increased his share of the superdelegates pledging from 29 to 34% and won 51% of the last round of superdelegate pledges although he is not at parity with this figure. There is a surprising number of establishment officials in the party that are willing to back Obama. The wine-and-dining has begun in earnest for these delegates and given yesterday’s results, it will get even more interesting.
But do they decide contests?

Matt Bai offers an interesting perspective. His idea is that the democratic party itself is changing, moving to a stronger base, casting the Obama campaign in terms of generational incursion. Historically – we see in both parties a clear trend, with only one historical exception (that actually never panned out in the mondale/hart battle some twenty years ago or so) – of the superdelegates essentially following the popular vote. Matt Bai also offers that the superdelegate vote itself, represents the establishment vs. the new base. In either case, the superdelegate vote is suspect, as a factor in this race.

There is a dirty secret in the Democratic party, that will not become widescale public knowledge – in that superdelegates represent 0.0007% of the membership controlling 19.6% of the voting power. This is the reason why superdelegates keep their votes fluid.

A classic example of this, is in fact the huge superdelegate count lead that Howard Dean maintained in 2004. When it was clear that he had lost momentum, the delegates quickly switched their loyalties and abandoned him entirely. Dean would have been reported as having a clear lead, after Iowa. Think of this: a person whose campaign utterly imploded, would have to be reported as winning the overall race – if the superdelegate count is included.

Certainly, the Dems will not want to appear that they are an aristocracy. Would you feel comfortable with an appointed, as opposed to elected – president? Years of the Bush Administration would suggest otherwise.

Superdelegates will likely follow the general primary results; the large number of uncommitted superdelegates likely represents 60% vs. 40% in favor of Hillary Clinton. But since this is only 19 percent of the vote, that 20 percent advantage amounts to .19 x .20 = 3.8% advantage. That is the measure of the fluidity of the superdelegate factor, in real terms – about 100 delegates that can be made up out of basically, three states.

So something to keep in mind: if the candidates begin to develop momentum in approximately three states more to one, than another – then the race will tip and we will have a winner despite the superdelegate count.

However, it is a factor – since at time of writing this whole thing is headed off to a brokered convention. The battle that I thought would happen in the GOP seems to be located in the Dems, it would appear that the GOP now has their winner. Watch the gloves come off with the Dems. They will not be moving to try to appear to be an aristocracy and the two candidates battling for the nomination both want it very badly. “May you live in interesting times”. Is that an old chinese saying – or a curse?

A Note on Delegate Counts

I will update delegate counts on this site later today. The delegate allocation is still being tabulated and at this point it is clear Clinton and Obama share about the same delegate allocation while McCain made significant inroads to the nomination.

PLEASE NOTE: Many caucus states have not chosen National Delegates and will do so at a much later date. Until those delegates are allocated by each state’s State Convention, I will include them in the count. This is not meant to be bias, but it is in the interest of accuracy and intergrity.

California Primary Results


Precincts reporting: 96%

Hillary Clinton: 52% (WINNER)
Barack Obama: 42%
John Edwards: 4%


Precincts reporting: 96%

John McCain: 42% (WINNER)
Mitt Romney: 34%
Mike Huckabee: 12%
Rudy Giuliani: 5%
Ron Paul: 4%

Mitt Romney Suspends Campaign

Mitt Romney announced today that he will suspend his presidential campaign. After a not so stellar showing on Super Tuesday, the Romney campaign did the math and realized the odds are tremendously against them.

“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

His comments was a bow to John McCain who has constantly argued his strong national security credentials and position on Iraq.

Of course, the bigger news is John McCain is now all but confirmed as the Republican nominee.

Because Romney has not officially dropped out, he will keep all his delegates. They are not bound to vote for the candidate he endorses.

Superdelegates to Decide Democratic Nomination

Everyone says superdelegates does not matter. Well, welcome to reality. They matter.

At this point, it is mathematically impossible for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win the nomination with only pledged delegates.

Here is the math using CNN delegate counts.

Hillary Clinton currently has 1033 delegates according to CNN. 840 of those are pledged and 193 are superdelegates. Barack Obama has 937 delegates according to CNN. 831 are pledged and 106 are superdelegates. John Edwards has 26 pledged delegates. There are a total of 3,253 pledged delegates. Doing the math, there are 1,556 pledged delegates left to be allocated. 2,025 delegates are needed to win the nomination. This means, Clinton will need to win 992 pledged delegates to win the nomination. That is 64% of the remaining pledged delegates. Obama will need to win 1088 pledged delegates to win the nomination. That is 70% of the remaining pledged delegates. So far, no candidate has won such large shares of the delegates, even in the states where Obama beats Clinton 3-1. Get the picture?

Now, this does not mean we will have a brokered convention. There are still 500 superdelegates up for grabs and they can support anyone from now through the convention. Including pledged and superdelegates, there are just over 2000 delegates up for grabs. This means Clinton will need to win 48% of them, and Obama will need to win 53% of them to secure the nomination. So, if every superdelegates expresses their support before the convention, we will not have a brokered convention.

The only way superdelegates do not decide the nominee is if one of the candidates drop out, or God forbid one of the candidates become incapacitated, or if a major scandal rocks the one of the candidates, or if a deal is struck between the two candidates.

Poll Results

Question: Which Party do you support?

Democratic Party: 55% (140 votes)
Republican Party: 38% (96 votes)
Other: 6% (16 votes)

So, I have mostly Democratic readers. What can I do to attract more Republican readers?

I’ll post another poll later in the day.

Obama and Clinton Raise Big Cash

Prompting Clinton’s financial woes after she gave her campaign $5 million, the campaign launched a $3 million in three days effort. That goal was matched in hours, and the campaign uped the ante to $6 million in three days. Now comes word it is $7 million in three days. Today the campaign announced it raised $6.4 million since Super Tuesday and over $7.5 million since February 1.

Still, Barack Obama was able to out-raise Hillary Clinton and his campaign announced a $7.6 million haul since Super Tuesday. A testament to his the dedicated support from his supporters.

It goes to show, all you have to do is ask.

The fundraising was particularly important for Clinton and she immediately went up with ads in Washington, Maine and Nebraska.

[UPDATE]: The Howard Wolfson announces they raised $8.4 million since Super Tuesday and a total of $10 million for the month of February.

Who Will be McCain’s VP?

Marc Ambinder has a list of possible names.

1. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)
2. Gov. John Huntsman (R-UT)
3. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
4. Ex-Sen. Fred Thompson
5. Ex-Sen. George Allen
6. Gov. Bobby Jindall (R-LA)
7. Mike Huckabee
8. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL)
9. Mitt Romney

By my estimations, McCain will get the 1,191 delegates required to be nominated by March 4. So, I suppose we can expect a VP announcement sometime after that date, unless Huckabee drops out before that.

Seat the Florida and Michigan Delegations

I am a strong supporter of voter rights. So, when the DNC decided to strip Florida and Michigan of all their delegates, I was horrified.

Help seat these delegations by signing the petition sending a message to the DNC.

Mike Huckabee Wins Kansas

CNN is now projecting that Mike Huckabee will win the Kansas caucus, defeating John McCain. Kansas has 39 delegates.