Hillary spoke knowingly about a crucial factor in the presidential race at the DNC meeting yesterday. It is no secret but you rarely hear about it. This is the importance of superdelegates. These are inner-circle unpledged delegates, like party bigwigs and current or past officeholders. As in years past when parties selected their candidates in back room deals, this continues today but to a lesser degree. These superdelegates are basically bought and traded.
She revealed, perhaps a bit inadvertently, that she is concentrating a major effort to lock up this valuable nominating resource and claims to have 60% of them already. However they can be fickle, especially if she continues to show vulnerability. These party insiders care only about winning, not the issues or who is the standard-bearer. The bottom line, as Hillary wryly related, is that popular votes don’t mean a damn thing. It is all about the delegates. She did quite well in the total vote in 2008, but Obama cleaned her clock with the delegates and she is pledging that this won’t happen again.
These superdelegates comprise 747 of the 5083 who will be casting votes at the Democratic convention, or far more than all the early primaries combined. The Republicans don’t call them superdelegates, but they have the same kind of unpledged delegates too. They include 437 of the 2470 total and are thus proportionately even more important than for the Democrats. This is a trump card — pun intended — for the establishment that isn’t talked about much. Given the large field of Republican candidates and this unpledged but establishment-leaning cadre, it is quite possible that no one will lock up the nomination by convention time. I have written previously about an additional kicker for the Republicans, the Rule 40 Trap, that further increases the odds of this happening.
The primaries and caucuses are heavily skewed toward special interests and don’t represent the Republican electorate as a whole, so centrist candidates who might win in the general election are disadvantaged. The prospect of a brokered convention will be an incentive for these candidates to hold on in the hope that lightning might strike. Perhaps those who are hanging in there now while polling barely measurable numbers aren’t as hopeless as you might think.