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Scott Galindez: The Real Delegate Count

The Real Delegate Count

By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Barack Obama 9
Hillary Clinton 9
John Edwards 4

The Associated Press and other media outlets are trying to tell us they know how many delegates each candidate will get out of Iowa, just as I told you they would in a previous article. Florida and Michigan make the delegate count even more confusing.

David Redlawsk, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, who teaches a course on the Iowa caucuses, confirmed the numbers the media is projecting for Iowa delegate allocation is nothing more than a prediction. He said it bothers him the media is reporting these numbers as if they are factual since it is very unlikely the final count will be the same after the district level conventions, where delegates to the national convention will be chosen. He also pointed out the super delegate count could also change dramatically since none of them are committed to remain with the candidates they now say they are supporting.

The Associated Press is reporting: "In the overall race for the nomination, Clinton leads with 187 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as super delegates. She is followed by Obama with 89 delegates and Edwards with 50."

While there is some truth to this, the "super delegates," like the Iowa county convention delegates, (which was all that was decided in Iowa), can change their minds anytime they want.

For example, Senator Kerry endorsed Obama yesterday, but if Hillary Clinton starts running the table, he will likely vote for Clinton at the convention to show party unity.

If the race remains neck and neck the super delegates could decide it. That is a scenario that favors Hillary, since she has the establishment Democrats on her side.

What Happened in 2004?

Howard Dean had amassed the most super delegates before the Iowa caucuses. But many had buyers' remorse, and some abandoned him once he finished a weak third in Iowa.

Democratic powerbroker (and super delegate) Gerald McEntee, head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who had thrown his union behind Dean in November 2003, announced two weeks after Dean's loss in New Hampshire that he was abandoning him. We will see the same thing after February 5. Super delegates will be jumping on the ship of the candidate with the momentum, and abandoning ship of the candidates who are not looking like the eventual nominee.

How Many Super Delegates Are There?

There are 852 super delegates, roughly 40 percent of the amount of delegates needed to win the nomination. The category includes Democratic governors and members of Congress, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former vice president Al Gore, retired Congressional leaders such as Dick Gephardt and all Democratic National Committee members, some of who are appointed by party chairman Howard Dean.

There are 3,515 pledged delegates that are selected by the primary and caucus system.

Why Super Delegates?

Many see the system as undemocratic. It was set up as a safety net for party leaders to correct a "mistake" by the voters. It was a reaction to the McGovern nomination in 1972, and partly the Carter nomination in 1976. McGovern was seen as someone outside the mainstream. Party leaders wanted a way to influence the nominating process and rescue the party from a nominee they didn't think could win. They also felt Jimmy Carter didn't have the name recognition or experience; so if they had the system, then they probably would have attempted to block his nomination.

What About Florida and Michigan?

Damien Lavera, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, confirmed Florida and Michigan have been stripped of all of their delegates. And when asked if that could change, he said he would not speculate on hypothetical situations, and they were focusing on nominating a candidate within the existing rules.

The Florida Democratic Party sent the following press release out in December: "No matter what anybody says, Florida Democrats will make the primary count by going to the polls and casting their votes on January 29th. The nation will be paying attention, and Florida Democrats will have a major impact on the race.

"Accordingly, the Florida Democratic Party will respect the voters' choice on January 29th in determining the allocation of our delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. We are confident that the Democratic Presidential nominee will seat Florida's delegation at the Convention."

The key is the nominee, which might be the case if a candidate is so far out in front it won't matter if they are seated. If the race is close, however, the situation in Michigan could complicate things.

Michigan voters are going to the polls on Tuesday, and they will not see the names of Barack Obama or John Edwards on the ballot. Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel will be on the ballot.

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who led the effort for an early Michigan primary, defended the move on Friday as a way to break the lock Iowa and New Hampshire have as the first states where voters can make decisions. He and others say larger, more diverse states, such as Michigan, should have more influence with early primaries.

Levin urged Democrats to vote for either Clinton or uncommitted.

Levin said despite the national party's threats to the contrary, Michigan's 156 delegates will be seated at the Democratic National Convention in August. He said seating those delegates would open the door for states to challenge and change the national party rules that require Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold the earliest primaries.

Levin said it's unimaginable the convention would deny seats to delegates from such large, politically important states as Florida and Michigan.

"Why would any convention say we're not going to seat delegates from two critical states in order to protect the privileged position of New Hampshire and Iowa?" Levin said. "Why would a convention do anything to self-destruct?"

US Rep. John Conyers and his wife, Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, will begin airing radio ads this week urging voters to cast their ballots for uncommitted.

Detroiters for Uncommitted Voters, a group of mostly Obama supporters, wants to make sure people vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, even if their candidate isn't on the ballot.

"We really want to educate people on what they should do," said Edna Bell, a former Wayne County commissioner. "If Michigan voters want change, the uncommitted vote is their way to make their voices heard."

It's presumed most uncommitted delegates will favor Obama or Edwards, but, once at the convention, they can support any candidate in contention for the Democratic nomination.

But what if the uncommitted campaign is not successful? Could Clinton walk off with most of the delegates? While it is possible, Florida probably has it right. It will be the nominee who will have influence over the credentials committee at the convention. So if Michigan's 156 delegates won't affect the outcome, then the eventual nominee will likely tell his/her supporters to seat the delegates. If the race is extremely close, all bets are off.


Scott Galindez is Truthout's Washington, DC Bureau Chief.

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