Thursday, March 6, 2008

Superdelegates: The Deciders [March Edition]

Since it has been a few weeks, I'll bump this post back to the top. We've endured the Obama surge and the Clinton counter, and now the focus is shifting back to the superdelegates as the decisive faction of delegates in the Democratic race (not necessarily the way the DNC would have wanted things to play out). Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown was on NPR this morning talking a bit about the calculus that superdelegates go through in making their decisions.

In the post linked at the outset of this one, I go through some of the steps in this calculus. It had changed somewhat as Obama made his surge over the last few weeks, but as Clinton rebounded on Tuesday, the race was pushed back into doubt. That, in turn, brought the superdelegates and their decision making calculus back to the fore.

One thing that we can add to this calculus is that since the race has continued a month beyond Super Tuesday, the pressure to wrap this nomination up has intensified. That pressure though, is counterweighted by the desire among superdelegates (and perhaps the DNC) to avoid the perception that they are the ones making the decision.

The DNC may need to change how this superdelegate discussion is playing out in the media though. Instead of allowing the superdelegates to be portrayed as instruments of the party that have been given the power to potentially overturn the will of the people, they need to begin talking about the superdelegates as the arbiters of the various Democratic primary and caucus voters. If they begin talking about how the race is a tie and will continue to be through June, then it becomes necessary for some individual or group to break the tie. Well, they have a trusted panel of 796 individuals in place to make such a decision. Does that line of argument hold water? Maybe, maybe not. But the superdelegates as unfair institutional quirk, is not working for the DNC. The complication here is that the superdelegates too, may be unable to effectively break the tie. But that's a story for another day.

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