The paradox of a strong system of superdelegates in the 2016
primary season is that a significant section of the Democratic Party, which has
them, wishes it didn’t, while the leadership of the Republican Party, which
doesn’t have them, may well wish it did.
Left-wing Democrats have long argued that their party’s system of superdelegates
is unfair because it gives too much weight to ruling elites, disenfranchising
ordinary voters. Hillary Clinton’s lead in the delegate count — even as her
rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, racks up win after win in state primaries and
caucuses — has only sharpened the debate.
At the same time, with the failure of any establishment candidate to stop the
populist insurgency of Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party also seems saddled
with rules it doesn’t like. In its case, though, party leaders may wish they had
something more like the Democratic approach.
Where the two parties’ systems are similar is the basic delegate mechanism: For
both Republicans and Democrats, party members run in their home state to become
“pledged” delegates at the party’s national convention. Pledged delegates are
bound by the parties’ rules to vote for the winner in their state’s primary
contest (or caucus).
Superdelegates are pre-eminently a Democratic institution: a group of more than
700 elected officials and senior party officers who are automatically entered
into the delegation by virtue of their position. They account for about 15
percent of the convention’s total votes. Crucially, these superdelegates are
“unpledged” or “unbound,” meaning they can change their mind about which
candidate they will vote for at the Democratic National Convention in July. In
other words, primary voters have no direct bearing on whom superdelegates choose
to support. (Currently, of the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the Democratic
nomination, Mrs. Clinton has 1,756, of which 469 are superdelegates, to Mr.
Sanders’s total of 1,037, which includes 31 superdelegates.)
Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant and a politics professor at the
University of Southern California, said superdelegates are “cushy patronage for
party officials and past political officeholders.”
“They’re fundamentally undemocratic,” he said. “They shouldn’t exist, and it
would be wonderful if we got rid of them. Superdelegates are a poison pill that
the Democratic Party has never swallowed, in the sense that they have never
determined a nominee against the will of the voters.”
The story starts in 1968, when the Democratic Party made a concerted effort to
shift power over the nomination process from party bosses to primary voters.
Four years later, that strategy appeared to backfire when the party nominated
Senator George S. McGovern, an antiwar candidate, who proceeded to lose 49
states to President Richard M. Nixon. In 1976, Jimmy Carter won as another
outsider candidate, only to lose the White House after a single term to Ronald
Reagan in 1980’s 44-state landslide.
“The system as it was constructed at the time — with no superdelegates — allowed
for insurgent candidates to gather momentum early and win the nomination,” said
Joshua Putnam, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. “But those
insurgent types of candidates were not necessarily well suited for the general
That’s why, in 1981, the Democratic Party asked James B. Hunt, the governor of
North Carolina, to lead an inquiry to figure out how the party could regain some
control over the nominating process. In 1982, the Hunt Commission proposed the
superdelegates system as an institutional backstop against maverick candidates.
The Hunt system is still largely in place today, despite subsequent attempts to
dismantle it. In 2009, after a bruising primary between then Senators Barack
Obama and Hillary Clinton in which an extremely tight and drawn-out contest was
decided only when a surge of superdelegate endorsements tipped the balance in
Mr. Obama’s favor, the Democratic National Committee convened a new group to
look at the issue. But in talks with committee leaders, who are granted
automatic superdelegate status under the current system, the reformers’ efforts
ran into a brick wall.
The Democratic strategist Bill Carrick, who served on both the 1982 and 2009
commissions, has opposed the idea of superdelegates since its inception. He
lobbied to get rid of at least some superdelegates, starting with members of the
“Of course, that’s the Catch-22,” he said. “Whatever you do has to be approved
by the D.N.C., who obviously are not very enthusiastic about voting away their
automatic delegate status.”
On the surface, getting rid of superdelegates seems an easy fix to make the
Democratic primary more, well, democratic. But it’s not that simple. The party
can’t simply get rid of superdelegates by dispensing with the title: The elites
would simply run to become delegates from their states, and might end up making
the convention less representative of the party’s more diverse grass roots.
These officials “would have to run for a delegate slot by competing against
their own constituents,” Mr. Carrick said. There are those who argue that
including many elected officials actually ensures diversity and enhances the
democracy of the process.
The Republican Party already has some superdelegates, made up of three members
from each state’s national party committee. However, they comprise only 7
percent of the total delegation, and are required to cast their ballots for the
candidate who won their state’s primary or caucus. The rules get more
complicated, naturally, in the case of a brokered convention.
The law of unintended consequences also applies to any reform. Between 2012 and
2016, the Republican National Committee made several rule changes that were
meant to consolidate the Republican primary field more quickly and produce a
competitive nominee. The party moved its convention earlier, made more primaries
winner take all and mandated that superdelegates must vote for whichever
candidate won their home state’s contest. Yet the new rules have merely smoothed
Mr. Trump’s path to the nomination, while more moderate or establishment
candidates have been shut out.
“The Trump thing is like a hostile takeover of one of the national political
parties,” Mr. Carrick said. He predicts that party officials will have to take
“a hard look at how they can get more control over the process.”
Dan Schnur worked on Senator John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and is now
the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of
Southern California. The very concept of superdelegates goes against the party’s
federalist, bottom-up approach to politics, but after this cycle, traditional
Republicans could be “very excited about the concept of superdelegates,” he
But there’s a big obstacle. “The only way it could possibly happen is for a
Republican president elected with strong grass-roots conservative support to
find a way to pitch it,” he said. “But it’s difficult to see any current elected
Republican or party official who’d have the clout or the nerve to try it.”
Other Republican veterans remain uneasy at the prospect of a system of unpledged
“I believe the nominee should be chosen by delegates selected in each state —
not some superdelegate who is only a delegate because of his or her status,” the
former presidential candidate Bob Dole said in an email.
Democratic Party leaders will also be unlikely to revise their system. As Mr.
Putnam, the political scientist from the University of Georgia, said: “Their
goal is not democracy, per se. It’s a system that produces a candidate who can
win a general election. Sometimes those things don’t align perfectly.”
While Mr. Sanders has made the idea of a “political revolution” central to his
campaign, he has been notably reticent about the outsize role that
superdelegates play in the nominating process. It’s not hard to figure out why:
His campaign still holds out hope that he can peel superdelegates away from Mrs.
Clinton as long as he keeps winning states.
“Sanders really can’t be attacking the superdelegates as long as he still hopes
to win their support,” Mr. Schnur said. “At the precise moment that he
determines that they’re not switching is when he goes on the attack.”
Emma Roller, a former reporter for National Journal,
is a contributing opinion writer.
The nominating contests that will determine the Democratic and
Republican nominees for the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election are about to enter
a critical phase. On March 1, known as Super Tuesday, primaries or caucuses will
be held in about a dozen states, and they could be turning points in both
But the key to winning the nomination for each party is ultimately not about the
popular vote. It is about securing the number of delegates needed to win the
nomination at each party's convention - July 18-21 in Cleveland for the
Republicans and July 25-28 in Philadelphia for the Democrats.
Like so many things in politics, there are twists and turns in how the popular
vote is used to ultimately select each party's candidate.
The following is a guide to the nominating process:
Q: Is the delegate selection process the same for the Republican and Democratic
A: No. The parties set their own rules. One thing that is the same is that at
each party convention, a candidate only needs to reach a simple majority of the
delegate votes to win the nomination.
Q: How many delegates are there?
A: The Democratic convention will be attended by about 4,763 delegates, with
2,382 delegates needed to win the nomination. The Republican convention will be
attended by 2,472 delegates, with 1,237 delegates needed to win.
Q: I keep hearing about "superdelegates." Are they different from other
delegates? Do both the Republicans and Democrats have superdelegates?
A: Superdelegates, officially known as unpledged delegates, are a sort of wild
card in the nominating process, but only the Democrats have them.
The category was created for the 1984 Democratic convention, and according to
political scientists, they are a legacy of the 1980 convention when there was a
fight for the nomination between President Jimmy Carter, who was seeking a
second term in the White House, and Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Members of Congress were frustrated by their lack of influence, because
delegates elected to support one candidate could not switch to support another.
So Democratic members of the House of Representatives led an effort to win a
role for themselves. That resulted in the creation of superdelegates. Unlike
other delegates, superdelegates may change what candidate they are supporting
right up to the convention.
There is no fixed number of superdelegates because the group is defined by
various categories whose members change from one election cycle to another. Here
is who gets to be a superdelegate:
All Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; the
Democratic governors; the Democratic president and vice president of the United
States; former Democratic presidents and vice presidents; former Democratic
leaders of the U.S. Senate; former Democratic speakers of the House and former
Democratic minority leaders. Throw in the members of the Democratic National
Committee and the former chairs of the DNC and you finally have the whole pool
Q: What about the other delegates? Do they get to choose which candidate to
A: Both the Democratic and Republican parties send delegates to their
conventions based on the popular vote in the primary elections and caucuses held
in each of the 50 states. But the parties have different rules on how delegates
are allotted to a candidate.
The Democratic Party applies uniform rules to all states. In each state,
delegates are allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary or caucus
vote in each district. But a candidate must win at least 15 percent of the vote
to be allocated any delegates.
The Republican Party lets states determine their own rules, although it does
dictate some things. Some states award delegates proportionate to the popular
vote, although most such states have a minimum percentage that a candidate must
reach to win any delegates. Some other states use the winner-take-all method, in
which the candidate with the highest percentage of the popular vote is awarded
all the delegates. Other states use a combination of the two methods.
States that use the proportionate method may instead use the winner-take-all
method if one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
In addition, the Republican Party requires that all states with nominating
contests held between March 1 and March 14 use the proportional method, meaning
that all the states holding votes on Super Tuesday will have to award delegates
Q: What happens to delegates if a candidate drops out of the race?
A: Another good question, because we have certainly seen that happen this year.
For the Democratic Party, in every state, delegates are reallocated to the
For the Republican Party, it varies by state. In some states, delegates are
required to stick with their original candidate at least through the first
ballot at the Republican National Convention. In some other states, if a
candidate drops out, his or her delegates may immediately pledge to another
candidate. There is also a middle ground in which those delegates are
reallocated to the remaining candidates.
Everyone's talking about "Super Tuesday," what it means and that
it's such a big deal in this presidential campaign. But why? Here's a quick
explainer. Think of it as a frequently asked questions for Super Tuesday:
What is Super Tuesday?
It's when more states vote and more delegates are at stake than
on any other single day in the presidential primary campaign.
Isn't it also called the SEC Primary?
That's a colloquial term used by some. It refers to the
collegiate athletic conference, the Southeastern Conference, known for its
powerhouse football teams. Several states holding contests on Super Tuesday have
teams that play in the SEC (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas).
But many others do not.
When is it?
Tuesday, March 1
How many states are actually voting?
13, plus the territory of American Samoa and Democrats Abroad
(expatriates who consider themselves Democrats). We will see results in only 12
of those states (11 for Democrats, 11 for Republicans), because Republicans in
Wyoming and Colorado begin their caucuses that day but won't have a presidential
Where will we see results?
Alabama (R&D), Alaska (R only), American Samoa (D), Arkansas
(R&D), Colorado (D), Georgia (R&D), Massachusetts (R&D), Minnesota (R&D),
Oklahoma (R&D), Tennessee (R&D), Texas (R&D), Vermont (R&D) and Virginia (R&D),
plus Democrats Abroad.
Other contests occurring on March 1, but not producing results: Wyoming (R) and
Colorado (R). They are included on our calendar since Republican voters in those
states will be starting the voting process that day.
How many delegates are up for grabs?
1,460 (865 for Democrats, 595 for Republicans). For Democrats,
there are an additional 150 unpledged delegates, otherwise known as
"superdelegates," in Super Tuesday states. They are free to vote however they
want at the national convention this summer. With superdelegates added in, Super
Tuesday represents 22 percent of all delegates.
How big is Super Tuesday?
For perspective, so far, only about 2 percent of the pledged
Democratic delegates and 5 percent of the Republican delegates have been
allocated. After Super Tuesday, that will jump to almost a quarter (24 percent)
for the Democrats and about 30 percent for the GOP.
That's not a majority, though: True. But it's the snowball effect. If Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina were the kids' snowball that started down the
mountain, Super Tuesday is what happens when that snowball hits the steepest
part of the slope.
What's the day with the second most states and delegates?
March 15, when five big states vote — Florida, Illinois,
Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio. And the system changes. Those carry 1,058
delegates (691 for Democrats, 367 for Republicans). More states start to become
winner-take-all. By the end of March, about half of all Democratic delegates (48
percent) and almost two-thirds of Republican delegates (63 percent) will have
Long before Super Tuesday, the Republican Party had cemented itself on the
distant right of American politics, with a primary campaign that has been
relentlessly nasty, divisive and vapid. Barbara Bush, the former first lady, was
so repelled that on Tuesday she called it the worst she’d ever seen. We feel the
This country has serious economic problems and profound national security
challenges. But the Republican candidates are so deep in the trenches of
cultural and religious warfare that they aren’t offering any solutions.
The results Tuesday night did not settle the race. Republican voters will have
to go on for some time choosing between a candidate, Mitt Romney, who stands for
nothing except country-club capitalism, and a candidate, Rick Santorum, so
blinkered by his ideology that it’s hard to imagine him considering any
alternative ideas or listening to any dissenting voice.
There are differences. Mr. Santorum is usually more extreme in his statements
than Mr. Romney, especially in his intolerance of gay and lesbian Americans and
his belief that religion — his religion — should define policy and politics. Mr.
Santorum’s remark about wanting to vomit when he reread John F. Kennedy’s
remarkable speech in 1960 about the separation of church and state is one of the
lowest points of modern-day electoral politics.
Mr. Romney has been slightly more temperate. But, in his desperation to prove
himself to the ultraright, he has joined in the attacks on same-sex marriage,
abortion and even birth control. He has never called Mr. Santorum on his more
bigoted rants. Neither politician is offering hard-hit American workers anything
beyond long discredited trickle-down economics, more tax cuts for the rich, a
weakening of the social safety net and more of the deregulation that nearly
crashed the system in 2008.
There is also no space between Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum in the way they
distort reality to attack Mr. Obama for everything he says, no matter how
sensible, and oppose everything he wants, no matter how necessary. Rising gas
prices? Blame the president’s sound environmental policies. Never mind that oil
prices are set on world markets and driven up by soaring demand in China and
Middle East unrest.
They also have peddled the canard that the president is weak on foreign policy.
Mr. Romney on Tuesday called President Obama “America’s most feckless president
since Carter.” Never mind that Mr. Obama ordered the successful raid to kill
Osama bin Laden and has pummeled Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, all without the
Republicans’ noxious dead-or-alive swagger. Now, for the sake of scoring
political points, Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who is hanging on
only thanks to one backer’s millions, seem determined to push Israel toward a
reckless attack on Iran.
Republican politicians have pursued their assault on Mr. Obama, the left and any
American who disagrees with them for years now. There are finally signs that
they may pay a price for the casual cruelty with which they attack whole
segments of society. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska, said on
Tuesday that the Republicans have left people thinking they are at war with
women. Women are right to think that.
A new Pew Research poll shows that 3 in 10 voters say their opinion of the
Republicans has worsened during the primaries. Among Democrats, 49 percent said
watching the primaries have made them more likely to vote for Mr. Obama. That is
up from 36 percent in December, which shows that Mr. Obama has risen as the
Republicans have fallen.
But the president, who can be frustratingly inert at times, still has a long way
article was reported by Julie Bosman, Larry Rohter
and Katharine Q. Seelye and
was written by Ms. Seelye.
By mid-March, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign knew it had a problem
with what it had once assumed was a reliable firewall — its support among
The fight for pledged delegates for the Democratic nomination was essentially
over. Senator Barack Obama was ahead, after winning a series of caucuses in
states that Mrs. Clinton virtually ignored.
Still, it became apparent that neither he nor Mrs. Clinton could claim the
presidential nomination with pledged delegates alone, and the two would need
superdelegates — elected officials and party activists — to fill the gap.
For Mrs. Clinton in particular, that signaled danger. The commanding lead she
had held in superdelegates at the start of the contests — she was about 100
ahead of Mr. Obama — had dwindled by mid-March, to 12.
And superdelegates were showing an independence that the Clinton campaign had
not counted on, not quite buying her argument that she was more electable than
The break in Mrs. Clinton’s supposed firewall turned out to be one of the most
important factors in her campaign.
“Sure, Senator Clinton was the favorite early on, but that was simply because of
the institutional support that she already had,” said Jason Rae of Wisconsin, a
superdelegate who endorsed Mr. Obama in February. “In the beginning, people were
unsure of Senator Obama. But as they continued to see primary after primary, and
him excelling, and him attracting all these new voters, I think the
superdelegates really started feeling more comfortable with him.”
Of all the assumptions the Clinton campaign made going into the race, its
support among the party establishment seemed like a safe bet. Many of the
superdelegates, who help pick the nominee at the convention in August, came of
age during the Bill Clinton presidency. Many were personal Clinton loyalists,
cultivated to help deliver the vote.
But the Obama campaign convinced many superdelegates that they should follow the
voters’ will in making their endorsements. To the puzzlement and increasing
frustration of the Clinton camp, few flowed her way. Her campaign never
recovered from its string of losses through February. By the time she started
winning again, with Ohio on March 4, her support among superdelegates hardly
At the same time, Mr. Obama posted a small but steady increase, culminating in a
flood that surged on Tuesday and helped him claim the nomination.
In retrospect, relying on superdelegates as a firewall was flawed, said
superdelegates who endorsed Mr. Obama.
Representative David E. Price, a superdelegate from North Carolina, said the
idea that Mrs. Clinton could amass enough superdelegates to overturn the verdict
of pledged delegates “was never in the cards.”
Don Fowler, a former party chairman and a superdelegate who had supported Mrs.
Clinton, said as much in a memo to the campaign on March 11 predicting that at
the end of the primaries Mr. Obama would have about 100 more pledged delegates
than Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Fowler said that “everything humanly possible should be done” to keep that
number below 100, because it would be easier to persuade superdelegates that the
two were essentially tied.
The Clintons certainly tried, interviews with two dozen superdelegates found.
Many said that the Clintons had intensely pressured them and that their
endorsements became a test of personal loyalty, subject to a hard sell. At the
same time, many said they were drawn to the Obama campaign’s excitement.
So even during the Obama campaign’s darkest days — an eight-week stretch between
Ohio and the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, during which Mr. Obama had called
rural voters “bitter” and had to renounce his ties to his former pastor because
of racial comments — more superdelegates were lining up with him than with her.
The Obama campaign skillfully managed the flow. Richard Machacek, a farmer and
superdelegate from Iowa, for instance, said he told the Obama campaign on a
Monday, April 29, that he was endorsing Mr. Obama. The campaign waited until
Tuesday afternoon, the same day that Mr. Obama held a news conference to angrily
renounce Reverend Wright, to announce Mr. Machacek’s endorsement.
“I don’t know if that was on my mind,” Mr. Machacek said of the timing. “But he
needed it more then than he did before.”
David Wilhelm, Mr. Clinton’s first chairman of the Democratic Party, endorsed
Mr. Obama in mid-February because, he said, he recognized the race might come
down to them and he wanted to send a message to other superdelegates that it was
time to support Mr. Obama.
Representative Ben Chandler of Kentucky, who came out for Mr. Obama on April 29,
said he timed his endorsement to an “unusually critical” moment.
Mr. Chandler made a reference to the controversial Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
“Reverend Wright’s second incarnation,” Mr. Chandler said. “I did step forward
then, because I thought it would be particularly important to him at that time.
They seemed to be very happy about it.”
It was the sense among many superdelegates that they should follow the voters’
lead rather than loyalty to the Clintons that prompted many to come out on Mr.
Patsy Arceneaux, a National Committee member from Louisiana who had a friendship
with the Clintons, was persuaded early this year to support Mrs. Clinton. But
when Mr. Clinton made what she saw as racially inflammatory comments in South
Carolina, Ms. Arceneaux said she developed serious misgivings about supporting
After switching to Mr. Obama two weeks ago, the Clinton campaign bombarded her
with dozens of calls, she said. “You can’t imagine how stressful this has been,”
Ms. Arceneaux said. “It had gotten to where my life had just been taken over by
Debbie Marquez, a superdelegate from Colorado, said she had made up her mind to
shift to Mr. Obama, largely because he opposed the Iraq war from the start. The
ex-president called and talked for 45 minutes, she said.
“When people talk about the finger wagging and lecturing in his speeches, I kind
of felt that was going on over the phone,” Ms. Marquez said.
— A majority of Democratic voters say it would be unfair for Hillary Rodham
Clinton to win the presidential nomination through the support of "super
delegates" if she lags among the convention delegates elected in primaries and
caucuses, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
happens, one in five say they wouldn't vote for the New York senator in the
findings in the survey, taken Friday through Sunday, underscore some of the
perils ahead for Democrats as the closely fought nomination battle between
Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama continues.
By 55%-37%, Democrats and independents who "lean" Democratic say an outcome in
which Clinton lost among pledged delegates but prevailed with the help of super
delegates would be "flawed" and unfair" — including 77% of Obama supporters and
28% of Clinton supporters.
Super delegates are party leaders and elected officials who can vote at the
national convention and aren't bound by the results of their state's primary or
Most at risk is Democratic support from independents. Nearly two-thirds of those
voters call that result unfair, and one-third say they would then vote for the
Republican or stay home in November.
"It goes back to this notion: As this race winds down, it's not how we started
the campaign, it's how we end it," says Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al
Gore's 2000 campaign, expressing concern that divisions in the party will
present "obstacles" to a Democratic victory in November.
"I feel the emotions on both sides," says Brazile, herself an uncommitted super
delegate. "I feel the pain and I feel the bruising."
Obama leads Clinton by 1,617 delegates to 1,498, according to an Associated
Neither candidate is likely to reach the 2,024 needed for nomination without
including the support of super delegates.
The two campaigns have clashed over whether the super delegates should feel
obligated to support the candidate with the most pledged delegates.
In the nationwide poll, Obama leads Clinton 49%-42% among Democrats and
Democratic-leaning independents, a narrower margin than his record
12-percentage-point lead late last month.
In another shift from the February survey, Clinton does better than Obama
against the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, though the
numbers are within the poll's margin of error of +/—3 points.
Clinton beats McCain by 51%-46%. Obama leads McCain by 49%-47%.
The survey of 1,025 adults also asked Americans to assess the traits of the
major presidential contenders.
Among the findings:
•Obama rates highest on five of 10 characteristics. He is seen as a candidate
who "understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives" and "would
work well with both parties in Washington to get things done." His weakest
showing was in having "a clear plan for solving the country's problems."
•McCain ranks first on three characteristics: As "a strong and decisive leader,"
as honest and trustworthy, and as someone who could "manage the government
efficiently." His lowest rating also is on having a clear plan to solve the
•Clinton rates highest on two traits, on having a vision for the country's
future and a clear plan for solving the nation's problems. Her lowest rating is
as someone who is honest and trustworthy.
(Reuters) - Delegates at national party conventions in August and September
will be the key to selecting the Democratic and Republican candidates who will
face off in the presidential election on November 4.
Voters choose the delegates state by state.
The field of candidates has narrowed and Sen. John McCain of Arizona has taken a
commanding lead in the Republican race, while the Democratic contest remains
close between Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New
Here are the total numbers of delegates awarded so far in nominating contests to
the leading candidates, as estimated by MSNBC. Other news organizations may have
reached different estimates.
DEMOCRATS (number needed for nomination 2,025)
- Barack Obama 1,202
- Hillary Clinton 1,042
REPUBLICANS (number needed for nomination 1,191)
- John McCain 1,205
- Mike Huckabee 248
- Ron Paul 14
HOW DELEGATES ARE AWARDED
Democrats distribute delegates in proportion to candidates' vote statewide and
in individual congressional districts. That means candidates can come away with
big chunks of delegates even in states they lose.
In contrast, most Republican contests are winner-take-all when awarding
delegates. McCain became the likely Republican nominee when his chief rival
dropped out. But former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee remains in the race.
In addition to those elected state by state, a certain number of delegates at
the conventions are set aside for members of Congress, elected state officers
and other leading party officials.
These "superdelegates" are not committed to a particular candidate and can back
anyone they choose.
March 5, 2008
Filed at 2:20 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton split
delegates in four states Tuesday while Republican John McCain claimed his
party's nomination for president.
Clinton picked up at least 115 delegates in Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and
Texas, while Obama picked up at least 88. Nearly 170 delegates were still to be
awarded, including 154 in Texas.
Obama had a total of 1,477 delegates, including separately chosen party and
elected officials known as superdelegates, according to the Associated Press
count. He picked up three superdelegate endorsements Tuesday,
Clinton had 1,391 delegates. It will take 2,025 delegates to secure the
McCain surpassed the 1,191 delegates needed to secure the nomination by winning
delegates in the four states. He also picked up new endorsements from about 30
party officials who will automatically attend the convention and can support
whomever they choose.
McCain had 1,224 delegates, according to the AP count. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee, who had 261 delegates, dropped out of the race Tuesday night.
The AP tracks the delegate races by calculating the number of national
convention delegates won by candidates in each presidential primary or caucus,
based on state and national party rules, and by interviewing unpledged delegates
to obtain their preferences.
Most primaries and some caucuses are binding, meaning delegates won by the
candidates are pledged to support that candidate at the national conventions
Political parties in some states, however, use multistep procedures to award
national delegates. Typically, such states use local caucuses to elect delegates
to state or congressional district conventions, where national delegates are
selected. In these states, the AP uses the results from local caucuses to
calculate the number of national delegates each candidate will win, if the
candidate's level of support at the caucus doesn't change.
The New York Times
By MICHAEL LUO
Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton both spent at the furious clip of nearly
a million dollars a day in January as they battled to win the initial contests
for the Democratic nomination, according to filings on Wednesday with the
Federal Election Commission.
But by the end of the month, Mr. Obama was in a much better position financially
because he raised more than twice as much as Mrs. Clinton did in January, giving
him a commanding cash advantage heading into a pivotal series of contests in
Mr. Obama spent more than $30 million in January, compared with the $28.4
million spent by Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Obama brought in $36.1 million in
January, more than anyone has ever raised in a single month in the history of
American politics, with $28 million coming over the Internet, according to his
campaign. Mrs. Clinton raised just $13.8 million in January. She also lent her
campaign $5 million at the end of the month and still has $7.6 million in
As a result, aided by money he began the month with in the bank, Mr. Obama ended
January with $18.9 million heading into the coast-to-coast primaries and
caucuses on Feb. 5.
In contrast, Mrs. Clinton was left at the end of January with just $8.9 million
in cash available for the nominating contests, along with more than $20.3
million set aside for the general election that cannot be used to help her in
As of the end of January, the Clinton campaign had spent $106 million over all
on Mrs. Clinton’s primary campaign and raised $118 million, including money for
both the primary and the general election, although her total receipts were $138
million, including transfers from her Senate campaign fund as well as her loan
and other money. Mr. Obama had spent $115 million for operating expenditures and
raised $137 million. Most significant, all but $6 million of his money is
available for use in the primary.
On the Republican side, candidates saw their financial fortunes in January rise
and fall with their political prospects. Senator John McCain, who emerged at the
end of the month as the Republican front-runner, brought in $11.7 million in
contributions for the month, close to the most he had ever raised in a
three-month span, as Republican donors jumped on his bandwagon with his
victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
Even with his best fund-raising month yet, however, Mr. McCain had raised just
$48 million since his campaign began through January, a fraction of the nearly
$140 million that Mr. Obama brought in during the same period.
Mr. McCain’s financial report for January illustrates the depths he rose from.
With his hopes for the Republican nomination pinned almost entirely on winning
the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8, Mr. McCain turned to what was left of a $4
million loan that he took out in November to bolster his final push there.
Mr. McCain had already drawn down nearly $3 million from that loan in multiple
installments in November and December to keep his flagging campaign afloat. In
early January, he pulled out another $950,000 — almost all of what was left in
the loan — to help him in the homestretch for New Hampshire’s primary. The
infusion of cash enabled him to beat back Mitt Romney’s well-financed campaign
in New Hampshire, setting Mr. McCain on the path to the nomination.
Mr. Romney’s report showed that he pumped in another $7 million of his own money
into his campaign, bringing the total amount of money he gave his campaign to
$42.3 million. He also raised $9.7 million in January and was left with $8.8
million in the bank at the end of the month, although he would ultimately pull
out of the race after a disappointing performance in the states that voted on
Bolstered by his newfound fund-raising prowess and the loan to his campaign, Mr.
McCain ended up matching Mr. Romney’s spending for the month as they battled
each other from New Hampshire to Michigan and then on to South Carolina and
Florida, which proved to be pivotal. Mr. McCain spent $10.4 million in January,
compared with Mr. Romney’s $10.3 million.
Mr. McCain finished the month with $5.2 million in cash on hand, although his
campaign owes $5.5 million to various creditors. Also, $2.5 million of his money
is general election money. At this point, however, he is the presumptive nominee
of his party. His advisers said many former fund-raisers for rival Republican
campaigns are signing up to help Mr. McCain, and he is beginning to build a
fund-raising apparatus to be able to compete with the eventual Democratic
Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus in the beginning of January but went
winless throughout the rest of the month before rebounding in Southern states on
Feb. 5, reported raising nearly $4 million for the month. After spending nearly
$5 million, he finished the month with $929,401 in cash in hand.
Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign, which went into a free fall in January after
leading national polls and many early state surveys for months, raised $3.1
million in January and finished the month with nearly $9 million on hand,
although the campaign also listed $2.2 million in debt. Almost $6 million of his
money was also set aside for the general election.
Some senior staff members voluntarily went without salaries in January, but the
filings revealed that many continued to be paid, a sign that the campaign was
not necessarily on the verge of bankruptcy but had been trying to save money to
prepare for contests that would never materialize after Mr. Giuliani pulled out
at the end of the month.
The New York Times
By THOMAS E. MANN
and NORMAN J. ORNSTEIN
THE Democratic presidential nomination battle is virtually dead even between
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And while Senator Obama has moved ahead in
recent days, neither is likely to come close to the 2,025 delegates needed to
win the nomination from the pledged delegates they are awarded in primaries and
caucuses. So the key to victory is in the 796 votes given to so-called
superdelegates, the elected and party officials — members of the Democratic
National Committee, Democratic members of the House and Senate and others with
automatic status under the party rules. Superdelegates are free agents, able to
switch their endorsements or commitments at any time.
No one expected that this year’s Democratic race would evolve this way. But now
that it looks as if the nomination battle could go on for months, conceivably
all the way to the convention, a reaction against superdelegates has begun.
Donna Brazile, a commentator, long-time party strategist and superdelegate
herself, told CNN, “If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit
the Democratic Party.” Gary Hart, the former senator and presidential candidate,
recently declared that the influence of the superdelegates “should be
These reactions reflect in part a legitimate concern that heavy-handed lobbying
of the superdelegates might reverse the outcome of the contest for pledged
delegates in the primaries and caucuses. But a review of the history of
superdelegates suggests they are likely to play a constructive role in resolving
the nomination before the convention and in unifying the party for the general
Superdelegates were created by the Hunt Commission, set up in 1982 and led by
Gov. James Hunt of North Carolina. The commission was reacting in part to a
nominating process in which the weight of influence was with a relatively small
cadre of ideological activists whose involvement with the party was essentially
limited to the once-every-four-years push to nominate a like-minded presidential
candidate. Their influence coincided with election losses in 1972 and 1980, when
Jimmy Carter’s re-election effort was crimped by a draining primary challenge
from the left.
The Hunt Commission proposed superdelegates (initially set at 14 percent of all
delegates, subsequently increased to about 20 percent) to improve the party’s
mainstream appeal by moderating the new dominance of these activists and by
increasing the contributions of elected and party officials to the Democratic
platform and their impact on the selection of a nominee; to provide an element
of peer review, weighing the requirements of the office, the strengths and
weaknesses of the candidates and the chances that they’ll win; and to create
stronger ties between the party and its elected officials to promote a unified
campaign and teamwork in government.
In 1984, the superdelegates stepped in to provide a majority for Walter Mondale
— who had a huge edge in pledged delegates over Gary Hart but not enough to win
the nomination — avoiding a potentially bitter and divisive convention that
would have fractured the party.
Contrary to the assertion by Mr. Hart, who is understandably unhappy with the
system, the superdelegates do have to answer to the party’s electorate. They
have to go through the fire of elections themselves, or, as state or local party
officials, are responsible for the election of the party’s slate. No delegates
are more sensitive to the potential pitfalls of the presidential candidates or
their electability than the superdelegates.
They are not immune to the emotions that drive other delegates to be
enthusiastic about certain candidates. But superdelegates, sensitive to the
implications of internecine battles, are more likely to try to transcend
emotions to find a reasonable outcome that enhances the party’s chances of
winning an election. The superdelegates do not unite to block the candidate with
the strongest support from voters; they have always cast a majority of their
votes for the candidate who won a majority or plurality of votes in the
In 2008, where two strong and capable candidates are fighting it out on every
front, where the difficult issues of race and sex are on the table and where the
gap between the two in total votes and pledged delegates is likely to be small,
the potential for an explosive convention, where in the end half the delegates
(and half the party) feels they have been cheated, is real.
In this case, the nomination could come down to a difficult and complex
credentials battle over whether to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida. To
have a nomination settled in this way is a bit like having an election settled
by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court. Averting this kind of disaster is just what
superdelegates are supposed to do.
Thomas E. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
New Jersey is among 24 states taking part in "Super Tuesday," the February 5
contests in which voters will choose nominees from the Democratic and Republican
parties for the November U.S. presidential election.
Following are a few facts about New Jersey and its primary:
* Television advertising in New Jersey can be expensive, as the state is
dominated by the large media markets of New York and Philadelphia. New York,
home to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, holds its primary on the same day.
* Polls close at 8 p.m. EST. Democrats allocate delegates on a proportional
basis, while all of the Republican delegates go to the winner of that contest.
* With a population of 8.7 million, New Jersey is the most densely populated
state. The state's median household income of $66,752 was highest in the nation
* New Jersey is home to many pharmaceutical companies, which have come under
fire in the health care debate for high prices and heavy marketing practices.
* For much of the 20th century, New Jersey was a competitive state in national
elections but has leaned Democratic since the 1990s. Among registered voters, 24
percent are Democrats and 18 percent are Republicans.
* The state's rich working-class culture has been celebrated by rocker Bruce
Springsteen and "The Sopranos" TV show. In recent years, the state has drawn
large numbers of immigrants.
Sources: Almanac of American Politics, U.S. Census Bureau
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Stacey Joyce)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a hotly contested presidential race, votes are nice
-- but it's delegates to this summer's nominating conventions that count.
While the Democratic and Republican presidential contenders dash coast-to-coast
to hunt votes in 24 state contests on Tuesday, their campaign aides are focused
on the state-by-state battle to accumulate convention delegates who select the
More than half of all Democratic delegates will be up for grabs on Tuesday, and
about 40 percent of Republican delegates are at stake in the biggest single day
of presidential primary voting in campaign history.
"It's useful to win states, but states don't vote -- delegates do," said Harold
Ickes, who is heading up the delegate operation for New York Sen. Hillary
"This is very much a race for delegates at this point," said Ickes, a longtime
Clinton insider and aide to President Bill Clinton.
The delegate chase is particularly crucial for the Democratic contenders,
Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who are running neck-and-neck for the
right to represent the party in November's presidential election.
Unlike Republicans, Democrats distribute delegates among candidates in
proportion to their vote statewide and in individual congressional districts. As
a result, candidates can come away with big chunks of delegates even in states
In a tight race like the one between Clinton and Obama, the rules ensure no one
is likely to get too big a lead and the battle is almost certain to extend to
later contests in Virginia, Maryland, Wisconsin and beyond.
It could even extend to the August convention, when the delegates will cast
their votes to elect the party's nominee -- although few party activists expect
that to happen.
"In a two-candidate race, it's going to be very hard to deliver a knockout blow
with elected delegates," Ickes said. "On the other hand, once someone gets a
serious lead in delegates, it's going to be very hard to overtake them."
Democrats require 2,025 delegates to secure the party's presidential nomination.
Republicans need 1,191 delegates to clinch the nomination.
The effect of the Democratic rules was evident in earlier state contests. While
Clinton won the most votes in Nevada, Obama managed to win a projected 13
delegates to her 12 because of his strength in rural areas around the state.
Clinton also narrowly won New Hampshire, but the two candidates tied in
delegates. Obama's win in Iowa gave him only one more projected delegate than
"We're trying to do as well as we can in every state," said Obama campaign
manager David Plouffe, who added next week's winner "will be very clear on
February 6 in terms of the amount of delegates won."
Republican rules, in contrast, make many of their state contests
winner-take-all, in which the top vote-getter corrals all of the state's
That could give Arizona Sen. John McCain, the front-runner among Republicans
after his victory in Florida, an opportunity to take a prohibitive lead on
Tuesday over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
California, the biggest prize in either party, is an exception for Republicans.
It allocates delegates by congressional district, meaning Romney or former
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee can lose the state to McCain but still pick up
delegates if they do well in selected regions.
"If most people agree February 5 is a big delegate hunt, it puts us in a good
position," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. "We're competitive in California
and we have a lot of opportunities there."
The Democratic delegate picture also is complicated by the party's nearly 800
"super-delegates" -- members of Congress, governors and about 400 Democratic
National Committee members who are not bound by vote results and can switch
their allegiance at any time.
Both campaigns have made a heavy effort to woo those party insiders, and by most
estimates Clinton has an early lead on Obama among them.
Tracking and courting those super-delegates is a one-on-one process involving
phone calls, donors and whatever methods of persuasion work best, Ickes said.
"Delegate hunting is a unique operation where you talk to people, find out their
concerns and talk it through with them," Ickes said.
"It's a very individualized, very tailored, very customized operation and we try
to know as much about every super-delegate as possible before we go after them."