A Democratic Front-runner: Do the Math

A Democratic Front-runner: Do the Math

The 2008 election campaign has been saturated with talk of delegates and superdelegates. With prospects of a deadlock looming, political pundits are busy predicting that superdelegates will decide on a Democratic front-runner. There are 796 superdelegates who have a vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, comprising nearly one fifth of the total number of delegates.

Selected through primaries or caucuses, delegates from the major political parties assemble at the national conventions to select the presidential candidates. Superdelegates are voters who have full delegate power despite not being elected through primaries or caucuses. They are members of Congress, governors, former U.S. presidents, and vice presidents, members of the Democratic National Committee, at-large delegates, and everyday people.

This campaign has been a lesson in political science and math that many Americans have had to revisit. At this time in the race, neither Sen. Hillary Clinton nor Sen. Barack Obama will have the requisite 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination outright.

Obama leads in the number of pledged delegates with 1,622 to Clinton’s 1,493. He also leads the number of states won, 27 to 14, and is ahead in the popular vote by about 700,000 going into the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania.

Clinton has won huge swing states such as Ohio, California, and Texas, which gives her an edge in electoral votes going into the general election. She has 219 Electoral College votes at this juncture in the race compared with Obama’s tally of 202.

States whose post-Feb. 5 primaries traditionally receive little attention, such as Pennsylvania, are now more vital than ever.

Clinton is counting on a boost in the delegate-rich state, where she has the support of the state’s governor and Philadelphia’s mayor. Pennsylvania has a total of 188 Democratic delegates, including superdelegates. About 697 more delegates and superdelegates are up for grabs in about 10 other primaries, including Puerto Rico, North Dakota, and Oregon.

Bottom line: Neither candidate is likely to make it easy for the other and back down. Not since Gary Hart and Walter Mondale squared off in 1984 has the Democratic Party had no clear presidential nominee this far into the election cycle. Superdelegates played a decisive role when they backed Mondale over Hart.

“This is unchartered territory,” says Rashad Taylor, political director for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “No one thought we’d be going through April.” Now, almost $400 million into it, Taylor says, each candidate has to continue a massive fundraising campaign, with each raising more than $1 million a day.

“Part of what we’ve wanted for years and years and years is for people to exercise their right to vote and take part in the democratic process,” says Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a superdelegate who endorsed Obama and acts as his western regional co-chairperson. “We have not seen this [level of] energy, excitement,” Lee says. “People are going to fight for their candidate.”

“We have to keep our minds clear going into the primaries and caucuses, and we can’t do that as a divided party,” says Michael Thurmond, Georgia’s