Starting Gate: Super Delegates Are People Too

The "will of the people" and the rules of their own party are tying the Democratic presidential campaigns up in knots. Whose "will" counts?

With neither candidate likely to win enough pledged delegates to wrap up the nomination, Barack Obama's campaign and supporters argue that the super delegates who seem certain to decide the nomination must follow the "will of the people" as expressed by the pledged delegate count and the popular vote. They also argue, sometimes in the same breath, that delegates in Florida and Michigan cannot be seated based upon the votes already taken because to do so would be "changing the rules" in the middle of the game.

What's not said is that the rules of the game in the Democratic Party do not require those nearly 800 super delegates to follow any guidelines in deciding who to support. Hillary Clinton's campaign would love to see Florida and Michigan's delegates seated based on January's voting of course because their candidate won both states by a wide margin. But they would also argue that those unpledged super delegates should not be swayed by delegate counts and vote totals.

The challenge of determining the "will of the people" is only likely to get more difficult. It's not inconceivable that Clinton could end up with more of the popular vote even if she can't catch up in the totals of pledged delegates. Then, there's the matter of how and where those delegates come from. Puerto Rico, which holds one of the last contests will have 55 pledged delegates at stake. Compare that to the 56 elected in Arizona or the 48 pledged delegates taken out of Connecticut and the U.S. territory has more influence on the process, if you go strictly by that measure.

The role of the super delegates has often been portrayed as shadowy one. Visions of power brokers huddling in smoke-filled rooms to thwart the "will of the people" have spread far and wide. Yet nobody suggests that super delegates must vote with their constituents or else Ted Kennedy and John Kerry would be forced to side with Clinton. And with Clinton having won most of the larger states, with more super delegates represented, that equation could give her overall edge. Instead, there remains this vague suggestion that, in total, the super delegates should respect the "will of the people" – however that is measured. They may be very important ones, but super delegates are people too and their will is likely to decide this nomination.

How Much Is A Nomination Worth? It may be a rough economy but donors are opening up their wallets in a way that is smashing all records. Maybe the eye-popping fundraising figures seen quarter after quarter have numbed the senses but consider the fact that Barack Obama, when his $55 million February is figured in, has raised nearly $200 million for his campaign. That's about $20 million more than Clinton has raised but figuring in the amounts raised by all Democratic candidates and donors have given well over $400 million this cycle. Now some officials and strategists say they may raise $30 million more to pay for re-voting in Michigan and Florida. All together, it's quite the economic stimulus package for political campaigning.

Playing Cash-Up: The giving hasn't been nearly as generous on the Republican side, at least not yet. The party which usually dominates in campaign cash is almost certain to be outspent when the 2008 ledgers are settled. John McCain has raised just $55 million and had just a little over $5 million in the bank at the end of January. He embarks on a major fund-raising push starting this week, with some 20 to 30 events planned a month for the near future, according to the New York Times.

Around The Track

  • The victory by Democrat Bill Foster in the special election to fill the seat of retiring Congressman Dennis Hastert spells trouble for Republican prospects in November.
  • "On the one hand, they're saying he's not prepared to be president. On the other hand they're saying maybe he ought to be vice president. You can't have the argument both ways." – John Kerry, responding to Clinton's suggestion that Obama could be her running mate on yesterday's Face the Nation.
  • A new Newsweek poll shows Obama and Clinton virtually tied, 45 percent to 44 percent.
  • "I mentioned that we should make a counter ad, me and Obama, against Hillary. They thought that was really funny. They actually might take me up on it." – Casey Knowles, the Obama supporter whose past acting experience ended up in Clinton's "3 am" ad, about her discussions with the Obama campaign.