Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Obama leads delegate count in New Hampshire?

Okay, I'll pull no punches and I'll come right out and make it clear that I am not nor ever have been a Hillary Clinton supporter, fancier or even much of a tolerater of her. However, the TV told me that tonight she won the New Hampshire primary by 3%, more or less, and I believe it, in spite of what all the polls—even Clinton's internals—said. Well done, and I'll see you and your supporters at the next contest.

But apparently Barack Obama has scored 12 delegates from New Hampshire, while Hillary Clinton has 11 (and John Edwards has 4,) according to CNN's Delegate Scorecard. Now sure, a victory's a victory, and I'd rather see Obama have more delegates, but what's the deal here?

It looks like it's a matter of superdelegates, that unknown quantity who float around and attach to whomever they want. That's why although Obama and Clinton each won 9 delegates in today's New Hampshire primary, Obama leads Clinton by one delegate in the state. That does figure, but how many other superdelegates are out there? And can they stay uncommitted until the convention, free to play kingmaker (or queenmaker, as the case may be)? CNN's Delegate Scorecard shows that Clinton is leading in delegates, currently, with 183 to Barack Obama's 78, who's the nearest runner-up. Surely there are more superdelegates out there in the remaining 46 states, so another question is: how many are there, and under what conditions—if any—do they get to make up their minds? Due to the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Obama has 25 pledged delegates and Clinton has 24, so what are the rules concerning their holding onto those delegates? I mean, when a candidate drops out of the race, what happens to his or her delegates? Do they have to vote for their candidate at the convention? Or do they then become superdelegates themselves?

These things really aren't that simple, as my research is showing me. Nevada's caucuses are coming up and they've got 33 delegates at stake, but winning isn't everything. Eight of those delegates are appointed by party leaders, while the remaining delegates will be uncommitted, and will get to vote at the state party caucus in April, where they have to pledge for somebody.

South Carolina is a little simpler—but not by much. Its 54 delegates are chosen in the primary later this month, except for eight of them, which are determined at the party's May convention. So again winning isn't everything—but it's most of it.

If this proves to be a crazy year where the accumulation of delegates does turn out to matter, then there's going to be a lot of state election rules and regulations we're going to have to keep on top of. Plus we're going to have to keep an eye on those superdelegates, and see where they're leaning. Hillary Clinton's lead in superdelegates is certainly surmountable, much like Howard Dean's lead in superdelegates prior to the 2004 primary season, so it's nothing to sweat over yet. But I'd like to find a superdelegate tracker of some kind. Here's a pretty good list of superdelegates, but it doesn't say if there are any who haven't committed yet.

Winning delegates is very different from winning states, apparently. Winning a state's primary can give you mojo, sure, but some years the number of delegates must actually matter. This could well be one of those years.

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