February 11th, 2008
08:52 PM ET

Tom Foreman: Superdelegates to the rescue! (Or not...)

If you want to figure out why this superdelegate issue is so upsetting to some Democrats, you just have to take it down to the numbers.

About 3,377,000 people have voted in the states that hold Democratic primaries so far. These are voters who, unlike those in the caucus states, we can clearly count. And their votes have produced the results from which 339 delegates will effectively take their marching orders…most going to the convention to vote for Clinton or Obama.

That means, nationwide, each delegate represents the collective will of almost 10,000 voters.

And this is the part that gets people riled. Since a superdelegate gets a vote with just as much punch as a regular delegate, that means a superdelegate has the voting power of 10,000 people.

But the superdelegate does not necessarily even have to consider what any other voter wants.

Some party leaders say that’s fine: The super delegates are deeply invested in and committed to the success of their party. They can broker a deal if the race is too tight, and avoid a nasty convention battle that could leave the party in shambles.

The supers were, after all, put into place to keep the party in line with its principles; to avoid populists movements that lead to candidates in the general election who did not represent Democratic ideals.

But some voters fear the supers can also swing the race unfairly.

Look at the delegate count already, they say. More super delegates came out early to support Clinton than Obama. With their help, she is winning in the delegate count. Without them, she is behind and Obama is winning.

The harshest critics say that’s the worst kind of politics: a party machine like the old days of Tammany Hall, where the deals are made in secret and the voters’ will does not even matter. One person, one vote is not the way the nominee is chosen, even though thousands…maybe millions of Democrats went into this election thinking it was.

Some say the supers can solve it by simply mirroring the vote in their home states. Maybe. But the super delegates are inching ever closer to being the “deciders” in the Democratic race.

It’s in the numbers. So what will you do, if the nominee is ultimately decided by the party VIP’s and not directly by the voters?

–Tom Foreman, 360 Correspondent

Filed under: Democrats • Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
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