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Democratic commission recommends elimination of superdelegates

Eighteen months removed from a protracted presidential primary fight, a Democratic group convened to examine the nominating process has recommended that so-called superdelegates be eliminated.

The Democratic Change Commission, which was formed last August by President Barack Obama, plans to recommend that superdelegates -- also known as unpledged delegates -- will be required to vote in accordance with the electoral performance of the state from which they represent.

"We need to show deference to what the party members in our state have done," said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the co-chairs of the commission.

The elimination of free-agent superdelegates comes in response to the outcry from many within the party during the 2008 primary fight when then Sen. Hillary Clinton made the argument to unpledged delegates that it was their responsibility to not vote as their state had voted but rather cast their votes for the candidate they thought would be the best person to represent the party.

Obama allies insisted this was an attempt to suborn the will of the people. Clinton loyalists shot back that the creation of superdelegates was for just such a purpose -- a close race in which the will of the people is very closely divided.

The creation of superdelegates -- members of the Democratic National Committee, House Members and Senators and former party leaders -- in the early 1980s was designed to give the establishment of the Democratic party more say in the identity of the nominee. Since their creation, superdelegates had never been a serious factor in a presidential race until the 2008 contest.

The Commission included several Obama loyalists including Jeff Berman, who spearheaded the delegate operation for the campaign, and David Plouffe who managed the then Illinois Senator's candidacy.

North Carolina state Sen. Dan Blue, a member of the Commission, offered a dissenting voice on a call announcing the proposed changes. "There is no escape when something unforeseen occurs," said Blue of the potential consequences of eliminating unpledged delegates.

The Change Commission recommendations will now go before the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 30, 2009; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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The headline is like false advertising. The superdelegates would not be eliminated. They would simply be turned into robots. I favor eliminating them by requiring that all prospective convention delegates go through the same selection process. There would then be no special or self-important characters getting an unfair edge over anyone else. If governor X wants to be a convention delegate, let him or her go through the same process as everyone else. If they aren't successful by doing that, tough luck. No one should get a free ride. That they now do is the basic unfairness of the delegate selection system.

Posted by: ksteve | January 4, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse


I realize Hillary lost, she lost because Obama exploited the undemocratic aspects of the Democratic primary. My complaint is that democracy was undermined and the superdelegates chose the candidate that received the second most votes.

Posted by: Susannah1 | January 4, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

While they are at it, they should ge rid of the cuacuses as well. A primary election in each state will really separate the real contenders and the spoilers.

Posted by: afgail | January 4, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse


It's an interesting discussion, albeit 18 months too late. I participated in the Minnesota caucus as a college junior and the Iowa caucus as a grad student. The claim of intimidation is a red herring, though the Jesse Jackson supporters were annoying. I was in the Dukakis crew, though we didn't have enough folks to get a delegate to the next stage. There is some very interesting horse trading that goes on.

Ultimately, your complaint is against a process that didn't favor your candidate. And mine, as it happens. Caucuses were a valid part of the process and the Clinton campaign got out hustled. Simple as that.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 4, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Currently the Democratic Party is dominated by a group of people- call them "Nanny Staters,"


This sh|t gets old

Posted by: SeattleTop | January 3, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

First off, my apologies to 37th, I read some of your earlier posts and they are very good.


Obama won the nomination because of the superdelegates, you were just fooled by Clyburn and the rest of the Democratic establishment into thinking he actually won on June 3rd. Clyburn was covertly working for Obama behind the scenes despite promising to stay neutral, and he has admitted to calling superdelegates on June 3rd and urging them to endorse Obama...this went against his promise. The caucuses do NOT reflect the will of the people--Texas is a perfect example of this. Caucuses hold the distinction of being both undemocratic and unDemocratic. From the NY Times editorial I mentioned earlier,

"Caucuses. These are often promoted as pure small-town democracy. But participants generally have to commit themselves for hours, a sizable burden on the right to vote, especially for people who care for children or sick relatives. There is no absentee voting, so caucuses disenfranchise voters who have conflicting work schedules; who are out of town, including in the military; or who are too sick to travel to the caucus site.

The ballot is not secret, which intimidates some voters into staying away or not expressing their true choices. Vote totals are not reported. The parties should abandon caucuses and switch entirely to primaries."

Obama won caucuses because he appealed to young college students and "latte liberals" who have an easier time participating in caucuses. I believe the Democratic party should be the party that represents shift workers, single mothers, and the elderly. You seem to realize that turnout is lower for caucuses, but then you can't figure out that they are more difficult to attend. Btw, Hillary did win one caucus--the only caucus that made big concessions to shift workers, the Nevada caucus!!

The primary rules are not that hard to understand, but Obama supporters cannot seem to understand them. The delegate count does not reflect the will of the people and the superdelegates do not have to vote for the winner of the delegate count. Obama won, but he was not the choice of the people.

Posted by: Susannah1 | January 2, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

It would depend. If all Superdelegates are men, keep them. If women or gay, they should be eliminated.

Posted by: truth4u1 | January 2, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

The caucuses are a big question which sort of got brushed aside last year.

One really has to look at how these caucuses were run - with one campaign being able to overrun the system.

OK the rules are the rules - however if one campaign is taking over the door, and deciding who gets in and who does not get in, there is a potential problem.

A great deal of questions arose as to whether the caucuses were being manipulated improperly - whether people were being bused in to vote - and how the caucuses were being conducted.

In a primary election, the votes are added up and the clerks report the results.

There is a different process in the caucuses - with the participants running the process -

Well, were the participants running the process, or one of the campaigns ?

When the Texas caucuses finally rolled around, there were so many questions, no one knew what to make of it.

Yea, Hillary's campaign trusted the idea that the caucuses would not be manipulated by one side or the other.


Posted by: 37thand0street | January 2, 2010 3:56 AM | Report abuse


You make a strong argument against there being any caucuses. However, a number of states choose to elect their delegations in that matter. I have participated in the caucuses in Minnesota and Iowa, so I'm well aware of the process. Comparing popular votes is misleading, because it automatically downgrades caucus states. Turnout for a caucus is lower so there will be fewer votes.

Obama was very strong in caucus states. One might wonder why the Clinton political machine was caught flat-footed and out hustled. Given that I voted for then-Senator Clinton, I could hardly be biased against her. The rules were set and she got beat. Simple as that.

As we are largely re-arguing history, there's no need to go further. If you do hang around these parts, you'll find that 37th is the furthest thing from an Obama supporter.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 2, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse


You need to learn to think for yourself. The Obama campaign invented the metric that the elected delegate count was 1992 the superdelegates were hesitant to back Clinton even though he was going to be the clear winner...proof that the superdelegates have discretion. The elected delegate count clearly does not properly reflect the will of the people in a close primary like 2008...superdelegates are allowed to use discretion. In blow out years like 2000 and 2004 delegates do not even really come into play with most observers focused on momentum built by winning the popular vote in state contests. So recently the popular vote has been more important than the delegate count...those are the facts. The actions of the Obama administration are proof that I am are right and you are sadly mistaken.

The rules of the Democratic primary were very clear, the first candidate to get to the "magic number" would win the nomination. Superdelegates are not required to vote for the elected delegate leader, that was merely the argument Obama and Daschle were making to the superdelegates. The superdelegates can vote for any candidate regardless of the number of delegate count. The people of Florida and Michigan voted, the Democratic party can strip the states of delegates, but they cannot prevent the superdelegates from considering those votes when deciding to endorse a candidate.

Also, you clearly do not understand the impact of caucuses. Caucuses allowed Obama to win landslide victories in states he would otherwise have lost. Hillary won the primary in South Dakota, but lost the caucuses in surrounding states with similar demographics. Hillary won the Texas primary but lost the Texas caucus.

The MSM pushed Obama's argument because they were biased. Pelosi and Clyburn covertly supported Obama because they thought he was more likely to give them what they wanted than Hillary. What do you make of the strange timing of the NY Times editorial?!?

Hillary won the popular vote, Obama gamed the system better and Daschle worked behind the scenes to get him establishment support. Obama was the choice of establishment, and Hillary was the choice of the people.

Posted by: Susannah1 | January 1, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Susannah1 - Speaking as a former Hillary supporter for President and an enthusiastic supporter of her as SoS, you're making some dated points. There's no historical basis for a popular vote, either in the nominating process or the general election. Ask Al Gore.

It was a metric invented by the Clinton campaign to convince the superdelegates to support her and it failed. I assume that you are aware that turn out is larger in primaries than caucuses. Hence, counting the votes in that manner would discount states that have caucuses. It also requires the counting of two states that explicitly broke the rules--Florida and Michigan. Rulez iz rulez.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 1, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse


You appear to know a little more history than the average Obama supporter; unfortunately, you appear to have not followed the 2008 primary very closely.

Hillary won the popular vote; however, the delegate count did not reflect the will of the people due to caucuses and proportional allocation of delegates. Obama was able to blow Clinton out in undemocratic caucuses because his young voters did not have as many responsibilities as Clinton's older voters with families. Caucuses are time consuming and difficult to attend. Obama also benefited from proportional delegate allocation because he attracted the more liberal voters whose votes count more than the swing voters Clinton attracted.

One of the most unethical moments of the primary came the day after Clinton suspended her campaign...the NY Times published an editorial calling for primary reform, i.e., doing away with all the undemocratic aspects of the primary that Obama took advantage of to win the nomination. The reason they waited until after Clinton quit was because they did not want to give Clinton supporters ammunition to make her case to the superdelegates.

Cillizza seems like a nice guy and he is generally a good political analyst, but this blog entry is beneath him...Cillizza must speak truth to power and he knows that he and other members of the MSM completely dropped the ball on Daschle's behind the scenes wheeling and and dealing for Obama and unethical behavior he was engaged at during the same period. The superdelegates helped Obama--Hillary was prevented by the media and the Democratic establishment from making her legitimate case (based on her popular vote lead) to the superdelegates.

Posted by: Susannah1 | January 1, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Susannah1 and all:

One really has to go back and analyze the delegate totals at various points in the democratic primaries in 2008 in order to get a clear picture of how these proposed rules will have affected the race.

Specifically, I believe that at times, Hillary was credited with more superdelegates than Obama, giving her a total which appeared higher than it would have been if only elected delegates were counted at that point.

If Hillary did pull up close to Obama in popular vote, she should have pulled up close to Obama in elected delegates too.

The problems were encountered when attempting to count or not count Michigan and Florida - and whether the superdelegates should consider the popular votes in those states if they were going to judge overall popular vote in making their decisions.

The other part of this proposed rule is minority elected officials who are superdelegates - they will lose their right to support minority candidates if that is their desire.

This is significant because in the 1980s there was a compromise established after one of the campaigns of Jesse Jackson - providing for minority strengths in delegate selection.

IT APPEARS TO ME that this proposed rule will DILUTE that compromise - by throwing committed superdelegates in block to the winners of states, the proportion of delegates assigned to minorities will be lower.

I find it curious as well - the Kennedy rule technically released ALL the delegates to vote as they wanted - now that rule apparently will be partially repealed.

I believe the MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA to evaluate proposed rules is whether the rule contributes to, or reduces the chances of a deadlocked convention.

On that criteria, this proposed rule goes backwards - because it would be relatively easy for 3 or 4 regionally based candidates to divide up the wins in the states - and lock up blocks of delegates.

Without the flexibility of the superdelegates, the potential for a deadlocked convention on the first ballot is GREATER.

On an aside, I always wondered why John Edwards dropped out so early last year - if Edwards had stayed in through SuperTuesday, he certainly would have had a delegate total which would have prevented Hillary and Obama from reaching 50% needed for the first ballot.


Posted by: 37thand0street | January 1, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse


You should heed Bob Dylan's advice; however, your cluelessness is consistent with my previous I don't mind that you are discussing something you can't understand. John Kerry and Al Gore did not need superdelegates to get them to the "magic number", they won more than enough elected delegates to get to that number. The superdelegates were hesitant to back Clinton in 1992, but they had no other choice due to the fact that no other candidate came close to his elected delegate count.

The rules for the Democratic primary were 50%+1 of all delegates, and both Hillary and Obama could have won if they got the necessary number of superdelegates...the disgraced Daschle, Kennedy, Dodd, and the rest of Democratic establishment cynically and irresponsibly put Obama over the top because they thought he was less likely to stand up to them as president.

The problem with most Obama supporters is that they tend to be young liberals, but they are not Democrats. They are people that were manipulated to join a cynical movement with the sole purpose of electing a certain man president. They know very little history and they think the earth revolves around them because their parents put "my kid is an honor student" stickers on their car bumpers. Voters realized in the Democratic primary that Hillary would be the better president...that is why she won the popular vote.

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Posted by: iofferkicks297 | December 31, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Susannah, the "magic number" =50%+1 of all available delegates. Without the superdelegates, the magic number would have been significantly lower than it was. Now I love Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but we have the right person for the Presidency in Barack Obama. If I could pass you some unsolicited advice in the words of Bob Dylan:"Don't criticize what you can't understand."

Posted by: elijah24 | December 31, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Agreed with all of those who said that the superdelegates can go- but more importantly, the caucus system needs to go and there should be a unified way of having primaries. I think that only Dems should vote in Dem primaries, since those who registered otherwise or failed to register are not invested in the party. Why should some caucus going independent in Wyhoming(where ~7500 people voted) have so much more influence than me, who has worked for every Dem campaign in sight since age 13? As a non-church goer, it would be like me walking into a particular church for the first time and picking the pastor. A party is supposed to stand for something- not be a popularity contest.
It was clearly the caucus system that allowed Barack to win, so he will do nothing to get rid of it, but it the system is anti-democratic in that ecologically, only those who have the resources of time, money, etc. are available to take part. It is a small fraction of the voters. Additionally, states like Washington and Texas ridiculously have double voting, where those available to vote twice are allowed to do so by waiting for the caucus or primary- making a mockery of democratic ideals.

Posted by: NYClefty | December 31, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

"Jesus, are all Hillary supporters atrocious at math???"

Most Obama supporters are totally clueless, naive, and atrocious at math. Obama's important establishment supporters, such as Tom Daschle, are merely unethical and irresponsible.

The "magic number" was 2208 delegates--Obama won 1828 pledged or elected delegates to Clinton's 1726...the superdelegates put Obama over the top. You are aware that 1828 is less than 2208...aren't you? Hillary won the popular vote.

Posted by: Susannah1 | December 31, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"neither Hillary nor Obama had anywhere close to the number of elected delegates to win outright."

Jesus, are all Hillary supporters atrocious at math???

Posted by: DDAWD | December 31, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

This article is biased and it shows a complete lack of understanding of how the Democratic primary played out. The superdelegates are the reason Obama is neither Hillary nor Obama had anywhere close to the number of elected delegates to win outright. Hillary won the popular vote, but Obama won huge delegate margins in the undemocratic caucuses and thus won more delegates. Any "reform" that does not eliminate caucuses is not real reform, because the caucuses distort the delegate count.

Btw, Hillary would probably be the president if superdelegates had to vote the way their states voted, as she won the large Democratic states and Obama won small Republican states with caucuses. The "journalist" that wrote this article should do a little research to see which candidate would have benefited from this change and then report the findings.

Hillary was the choice of the people, Obama gamed the system better.

Posted by: Susannah1 | December 31, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Philster, not to nit-pick your statement, because I do get what you are trying to say, and at least at first glance, I dont disagree with you; however, "liberal-fascist" is the textbook example of an oxymoron. Fascism is the conservative extreme of politcs and therefore couldnt possibly be liberal. Maybe a better term would be "liberal zealot".

Posted by: elijah24 | December 31, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

This is the biggest political story of the decade but we don't realize it. Currently the Democratic Party is dominated by a group of people- call them "Nanny Staters," "Liberal Fascists," whatever- who get their political power from the unelected "super delegate" concept. Although the rank and file Democrats are more Liberal than rank and file Republicans, they are much closer to the GOP than they are to the "super delegates."

Removing the concept of the "super delegate" will move the Democratic Party as close to the center as the GOP currently is (albeit left of center instead of right of center.) This is good news if you are an American, a conservative, or simply a Democratic Party partisan hack who has no convictions but wants to win elections. If you are a Liberal Fascist, this is really, really bad news.

Posted by: philster7656 | December 31, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

This is totally off topic, but for those of you who pray, please do so, and for those who don't, can we send some positive energy toward Hawaii, for Rush Limbaugh? Liberal or conservative, we dont have to agree with him (and God knows I never do) to wish him good health. And libs, keep in mind, we wanted the same when it was Senator Kennedy. Get well Rush.

Posted by: elijah24 | December 31, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"State's rights" is nothing more than dogwhistle for teabagger types who hate environmental regulations and want to go back to using racial epithets on their nonwhite coworkers.

Posted by: SeattleTop | December 30, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse


Just wanted to say thanks for the on -topic-ness (is that a word?) and tone of the comments here.

Much appreciated


spoke too soon cilizza.

Posted by: snowbama | December 31, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"How does an equal protection argument cut? Does my vote in ME count more or less if ME is splitting by CD?"

Splits mean votes count more. ME isn't as good an example as CA, TX or NY, where winner-takes-all rules award zero EVs to candidates who've earned millions of votes.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 31, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

If anyone thinks the comments on The Fix can be rude or stupid or off-topic, check out the comments on CC's article. I'm ashamed to read the same newspaper as some of those people.

Posted by: Blarg | December 31, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I think it is a bit undemocratic to have a superdelegate system. At a minimum, I think there should be far fewer SD's. Maybe limit the list to senators, governors and state representatives. It is absurd that after losing huge in the delegate count and the popular vote, as did then-Senator Clinton, that candidate could still win based on the SD's.

Posted by: elijah24 | December 31, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

BB: Good point about how superdelegates changed allegiance with time. Hillary got over 100 superdelegates to endorse her before a single vote had been cast. She used this as evidence of her electability, and the media reported that she had a big delegate lead. But it was all a charade, because the delegates weren't really allocated to her. The whole process would have been less confusing if there were no SDs.

Margaret, the early primaries dominate with or without SDs. Super Tuesday almost always ends with a clear winner, though 2008 was an exception. A more reasonable primary calendar (preferably with rotating blocks of states so one state isn't always first) is the best way to ensure that other states than IA and NH have their say.

Posted by: Blarg | December 31, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

One other quick point: there has been an interest in reducing the cost to run in Presidential primaries - this proposed rule actually may INCREASE the cost to run in the primaries.

This is because there will be a rush to place tv ads in states with large pools of winner-take-all delegates.

I don't know if that is a "good"

How much will it cost to compete for the pool of superdelegates in California and New York?

These rule changes have a great deal of unintended consequences.

Ironically - increasing the cost of running will place a premium on the "free media" gained by winning in the early states - which will re-ignite that battle.

The way they have superTuesday set up now is definitely a "bad" - it is not a good idea to award a bunch of delegates up front - and then allow a "slow bleed" over time as candidates attmept to recover, but with not enough delegates at stake.

It is far better to award the bulk of delegates at the end of the process.


Posted by: 37thand0street | December 31, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The early primaries already have too much influence. You could just as easily argue that eliminating the SDs makes later primaries more important because candidates will have to win as many states as possible. California, Texas, Florida and New York regain an importance that they often do not have in the old system.

I also do not think how parties select a candidate is a constitutional question.

Posted by: trep1 | December 31, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

This proposed rule will add to the probability of a deadlocked convention.

Delegates are supposed to be supporters of one candidate or another. So a candidate's rep approves a slate of people who already support the candidate to be the delegates.

What this proposed rule will turn that process on its head - elected officials will be told by the rules which candidate they will support - (I guess on the first ballot.)

This will create a free-for-all to get the allegiance of the superdelegates on subsequent ballots if there is a deadlock.

Also, isn't there a Kennedy amendment which allows delegates to switch, even before the first ballot?


Posted by: 37thand0street | December 31, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

I feel that removing the superdelegates gives too much power to the earliest primaries.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 31, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Supremes would entertain the Compact argument, Jake and DwightCollins. ME voted EC by congressional district after it split from MA [1820] and does so today. So does NE. Even if there never was a previous challenge, the long history of states determining their EC votes in differing ways would be compelling to a court, I think. The free hand the states have in Art. II Sec 1 is not restricted in this way by the 12th A.

How does an equal protection argument cut? Does my vote in ME count more or less if ME is splitting by CD?
I am asking you to think it through while I do the same.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 31, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

If one reads the history of the changes to the democratic party's selection process - it is haphazard - one fix is focused on one problem and the overall situation is never really addressed.

The reason they created superdelegates was to give the process flexibility - so as to avoid a deadlocked convention - the idea was to allow the superdelegates to swing for a candidate when there was a need to do that.

In a sense, that is what happened last year, enough superdelegates went for Obama and swung the process to him.

With the new changes - all the delegates will be committed.

The potential problem is clear: a split between 3 or 4 candidates which PREVENTS one candidate from gaining a majority before the convention.

The superdelegates are supposed to swing over to the leader - thus producing a winner.


Posted by: 37thand0street | December 30, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

"State's rights" is nothing more than dogwhistle for teabagger types who hate environmental regulations and want to go back to using racial epithets on their nonwhite coworkers.

Posted by: SeattleTop | December 30, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Cosign on taking primaries out of the hands of party apparatus. Imagine the benefit to the GOP if it's candidates didn't have to pass muster of the backwards Iowa Republican Party, and a sane candidate had a shot. No more Huckabees or Palins.

My own state's GOP us so loopy it nominated a TV preacher instead of incumbent Bush the Greater.

Thundering cosign, ink mist darkening the sun, on eliminating the EC.

Posted by: SeattleTop | December 30, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

"Democratic commission recommends elimination of superdelegates"

It's a good idea. If you let the party bosses pick the candidates, you are more likely to get candidates that know how to play politics. Whereas if you let the voters - and in my view open primaries rather than closed - pick the candidates, you are more likely to get a pragmatic leader than an ideologue.

Here in MN, for example, the Dems in particular have been nominating party insiders for statewide offices. While there is a primary, the party holds an endorsement convention to anoint the favored candidate prior to the primary. Winning the endorsement is akin to winning superdelegates in the presidential primary; its a vote of approval from key players in the party. The results have not been positive for the Dems - they haven't held the governorship in 20 years.

Granted, Pawlenty is a party insider who won his party's endorsement too, but won election by the skin of his teeth each time (pluralities, never a majority). The last decent governor we had was Arne Carlson, R, who didn't get his party's endorsement, but did manage to win the primary & then the general election; if I'm not mistaken, the Rs refused to endorse him in the primary for his 2nd term. But he won the general. Strangely, the party bosses don't seem to figure out that winning elections is easier when your candidate appeals to the swing voters.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 30, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse


Who r u accusing of lodging a Germaneness protest?

Posted by: JakeD | December 30, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm not exactly sure that the positions of the two campaigns on superdelegates entirely hits the mark.

The two campaigns were contacting the delegates in private, over the telephone, and telling them whatever they could to get them to swing to their side.

While the campaigns may have said all sorts of things - Hillary's campaign settled in to focus in on national popular vote as her claim to the nomination.

The wildcard at the time was whether or not to count the popular votes in Michigan and Florida - popular votes which were cast but for delegates which did not count. Obama was not on the ballot in one of the states.

So it was Hillary who was argueing the "will of the people" in the form of the popular vote.


Posted by: 37thand0street | December 30, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Interesting points, 37th.* One problem is that the delegates started shifting during the nomination season. Clinton locked up a number of superdelegates. Then, as the Obama train rolled through 10 states, her delegates started peeling away. The final spreadsheet prior to Clinton's concession speech would have looked significantly different than it did in January.

I would also note that the Electoral College is more related to superdelegates than the Undiebomber is to reapportionment. Germaneness protest denied, counsellor.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 30, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

I would like to go through the spreadsheet and see how this would have affected the race in 2008 - if Hillary had all the superdelegates from the states she won, vs. Obama having the same.

The real problem is the front-loading of the primaries, which locks in a dynamic in the race - a dynamic that in previous Presidential contests was subject to change.

This new provision will also PREVENT a candidate like Hillary from gaining the endorsement of superdelegates ahead of time - thereby locking in a lead way ahead of time.


Posted by: 37thand0street | December 30, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse


I agree with you that this "end run" in place of a Constitutional Amendment should be declared un-Constitutional. If not under the Equal Protection Clause, then under the Compact Clause:

Posted by: JakeD | December 30, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse


Electoral College ("ec") votes that someone is debating the Constitutionality of is different than the thread topic re: primary votes.

Posted by: JakeD | December 30, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Arguing that any system the parties chose to elect their candidates is unconstitutional means first and foremost that you do not understand the constitution. So if someone wishes to argue this, they are exposing themselves to charges of being either uneducated and ignorant, or an idiot.

As several posters pointed out, political parties can select their candidates ANY way they want. If they decided that only white candidates of Irish descent that spoke French and German could be candidates, and then selected them based on how much money they paid to someone, that would be just fine. They would also have a very poor chance of being elected.

Posted by: reussere | December 30, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Ciliza makes it sound like CLINTON took advantage of this process when the only one who benefited was Obama. Clinton won MA handily, and both state senators went for Obama. Clinton won WVA handily, and again, both state senators went for Obama. A number of other superdelegates were literally THREATENED by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to toe the line and support Obama.

You'd never know ANY of this by reading this article though. Nicely skewed, Mr. Ciliza.

Posted by: RevAmyinSC | December 30, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I believe that having all the ec votes going to the candidate with the majority of votes is unconstitutional...
I believe that someone can win the Presidentcy with some major states and the partial votes of other states...
to take my vote away because the majority of the ignorant people vote for the other guy is wrong...

Posted by: DwightCollins | December 30, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

These Dems can read the footprints of a growing States Rights Movement.

Posted by: RayOne | December 30, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Whatever is easier for a serious primary challenge (a la Ted Kennedy '80) to Obama.

Posted by: JakeD | December 30, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

if the dems are so enthralled with letting the people speak, they also should get rid of the requirement that a certain number of delegates must be women, or minorities, or gay. if the electorate wants all gay male delegates so be it. if they want all white women, so be it. people should be able to vote for whom they want. i think the women and minority delegate apportionment requirement to which the democrtic party clings is extremely undemocratic...and i am a democrat.
brigid quinn

Posted by: brigidq | December 30, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

' Sen. Hillary Clinton made the argument to unpledged delegates that it was their responsibility to not vote as their state had voted but rather cast their votes for the candidate they thought would be the best person to represent the party.'

and I bet she's rethought that one a great deal. many folks are disillusioned with president obama but for me he has already done more than he has to by saving us from Mrs Clinton and her crew; thanks superdelegates and thanks president obama.

Posted by: jganymede | December 30, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

You ought to look up words like 'suborn' before you use them.

Posted by: jmcharry | December 30, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Cilizza. See what happens when drivl and Chris fox are away. Just like old times.

Posted by: snowbama | December 30, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Pretty soon all the people with their hands out (aka democrats) will vote themselves all the product of education and work gathered by the responsible(aka republicans).

Do we really want ny and ca steamrolling all the loony leftist spending on all us productive citizens. Just look at the mess they've created compared to say tx.
I vote more free stuff for me. Obama can afford it.

Get it?

Posted by: snowbama | December 30, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. Something got cut off in the previous comment. That or I accidentally deleted text. In any event, the point was that irregularities at the local level no longer have the same national impact.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 30, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Since it is the fundamental objective of political parties to find, fund, and put forward candidates that best represent their principles, or can most likely get elected, or both where the two fundamental principles aren't in conflict, parties should be free to pick their candidates who ever they decide to do it.

For instance they can set up a winner take all system that nominates candidates who don't get as many as a third of the votes in any primary the party holds, the way the republicans do.

Or they can use a mixture of primary chosen delegates, proportionally appointed, based on proportions of the votes cast, and add in the working members of the party, elected officials and party full time leaders, so that the voice of the people is leavened by the experience of the Party, which is what the democrats are abandoning.

Or they can go absolutely by the ballot box and take their chances.

I suspect that doing it the way it was done last time is the way to insure the most electable candidate, (Hillary's argument was that she was more electable than Barack, and in ordinary times she probably was, but 2008 was NOT ordinary times.)

It is hard to believe that the Superdelegates would deliberately work against the greater good of the party except in the most extreme of cases. The times we are in are not nearly so extreme as to doubt the judgment of superdelegates.

Let's work on the assumption that Obama DID get elected, so the current system isn't all that broke, and let it ride through 2016, since there seems to be little chance that there will be much action in the nominating process in 2012.

It doesn't look particularly broken, just maybe a little odd.

Let's just wait and watch the Republicans self destruct and nominate Palin/McCain in 2012.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 30, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Rather than ridding ourselves of the electoral college, a simpler fix will handle most of the problem. Simply classify votes by congressional district with the winner of the popular vote in any state being awarded two extra votes. I believe that's how Nebraska apportions its electoral votes.

There are many competitive districts within states that are otherwise uncompetitive. There's little point right now in a Republican fighting hard in California or a Democrat in Texas. Yet, Orange County in CA or Austin in TX are ripe for

Additionally, cries of Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004

It's no longer a case where tens of delegates being swayed by issues with a small number of electoral votes. Not sure who would have won in 2000 under this type of system. It does have the advantage of not needing a constitutional amendment. The problem is that if such a system isn't uniformly implemented, parties controlling states are giving away votes.

As for the superdelegates--Up, Up and Away!


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 30, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Bring back ZOUK. You should have at least two of us conservative Republicans in this vast Fix-wasteland of all-far left la-la-land Socialist/Communist blog opinion. I'm getting lonely here by myself.

Posted by: armpeg | December 30, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

The reason our founding fathers put in a electorial college, is because they didn't quite trust the American people. They gave us a Representative Republican form of government and not a Democracy because you'd soon have chaos with one.
A lynch mob is a true Democracy.

Posted by: armpeg | December 30, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse


Just wanted to say thanks for the on -topic-ness (is that a word?) and tone of the comments here.

Much appreciated


Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | December 30, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I think an important role of the unpledged delegates is to keep the primaries open. Without unpledged delegates the response of states with later primaries would be negated. The states with later primaries should be able to fully exercise their voting will without feeling that the decision has already been made.

This was what HC was doing when she continued to campaign hard right up until the end. Remember her much aired statement about RFK continuing to campaign until the end? That was her point -- it isn't about just winning the first primares .

As a Democrat, I don't have any trouble with a reasonable % of the total delegates being in the hands of party stalwarts. Presidential primaries are already tilted to who votes first.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 30, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Let's say John Edwards did very well and was in contention going into the convention. And then..........

Real improvement would come with eliminating the caucus system where the "unwashed masses" really don't have a say. The very few "party faithful" determine the outcome for an entire State.

Posted by: lunasea | December 30, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

We're stuck with the EC, but some states have passed laws that say that it's EV will automatically go to whichever candidate gets the majority of the popular vote. (I think Maryland is one of them). The law is in the books, but will only go into effect if 270 EV worth of states pass similar laws. This will essentially bypass the EC and make it a popular vote contest.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 30, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Getting rid of the Electoral College requires a Constitutional amendment. It's not likely to happen.

However, the National Popular Vote plan avoids that issue, because it only needs approval at the state level. An individual state can decide to allocate all of its electors to the candidate with the most popular votes. Once sufficient states sign on to this plan, a majority of electoral votes will be allocated according to the popular vote, so the Electoral College is meaningless. So far, states representing 61 electoral votes have signed on to the plan.

Posted by: Blarg | December 30, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree, get rid of the electoral college!

Posted by: The-Historian | December 30, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The mere existence of Democratic "super" delegates as some sort of hedge against the desires of the unwashed masses revealed yet another hypocrisy inherent to the Democratic Party. It's amazing that a party that allegedly supports the needs of the lower classes would be so paranoid of them at the same time. Of course, given that most Democrats hale from well-to-do areas (including most of the coasts) their claims to faux populism and defending the little guy are even more threadbare. Still, eliminating these secret handshake superdelegates at least makes for a cute PR move even if the greedy corporate soul of the party remains unaffected.

Posted by: zippyspeed | December 30, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

let's get rid of the electoral college

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 30, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

What's the matter? Cost to much to buy their vote!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | December 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Good! The 2008 election exposed a lot of problems with the primary systems for both parties. Eliminating superdelegates will help fix the Democratic primaries; the caucus system could also use some improvement. On the Republican side, the winner-take-all delegate allocation was highly unfair; if the RNC were smart, they'd change it.

It would be nice if both parties would work together on a more sensible primary calendar, which doesn't always prioritize the same few states. Ideally they'd use a more complex voting system that fixes the problem of strategic voting, such as IRV or Condorcet counting. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Blarg | December 30, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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