Monday, February 11, 2008

Democratic Convention: Superdelegates and Excluded States

As Clinton and Obama vie for the Democratic Prize the likelihood that two factors the democrats will find uncomfortable may come into play in the decision. Superdelegates are one factor -they represent about 20% of the delegate total in a handful of influential party players. Here is a Superdelegate running total. With most still uncommitted, I think it's increasingly unlikely that we'll see these superdelegates make the difference. The issue is becoming controversial enough that most will stay uncommitted until a concensus position develops - perhaps as late as the convention but if Obama continues to rule the primary roost look for many superdelegates to shift to his camp. Clinton is far more vulnerable to claims of playing insider hardball than Obama, so ironically the superdelegate issue may wind up working to his advantage. He can claim a Clinton superdelegate lead is from party politicking where his superdelegate gains are legitimate.

I think a more important factor could be the inclusion of the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries. These both went to Clinton and would swing the delegate total even more strongly in her favor. In fact if Clinton takes New York and Pennsyvania the count should stay close right up to the convention.

Big Mo for Obama?

Does Obama have so much momentum now that Clinton cannot stop him from winning? Bill Kristol suggests today that Obama's recent victory sweeps will propel his campaign to have a clear delegate lead soon.

It is certainly clear that Obama, unlike Clinton, has captured the imaginations of many young voters as well as many mainstream Democrats. Where Clinton offers capability, experience, and the first serious female candidate to run for President, Obama offers the same affirmative action advantages to the democrats but also inspires confidence and enthusiasm. Historically the people that win are not the smartest and most capable - they are those with leadership qualities. Obama's superb speaking style, which combines power and humility, gives him leadership points that simply do not match Hilary Clinton's persona.

With many Obama wins in caucus states where a few can influence many, it's not clear Obama can translate his appeal to the big audiences of Ohio and Pennsylvania. California went to Clinton and this is a strong indication that in populous states Clinton still has the edge. Will this be enough to win? No. The decision is now very likely to be made at the convention, and increasingly it looks like the superdelegates issue could make all the difference.