Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Self-Involved SuperDelegates

Wise words from my man Josh Green over at The Atlantic, on the vanity that is the current crop of undecided superdelegates:

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton woo superdelegates and vie for the Democratic nomination -- but at what cost to the party?

As if further proof were needed, this front-page piece on superdelegates in Sunday's New York Times confirms what everyone already knows: the Democratic primary fight is damaging the party. What's irksome about the piece (and the accompanying video) is not the point it makes, but the superdelegates themselves -- to be specific, the uncommitted superdelegates, who are forever alternating between pious concern about the damage inflicted on their party and boundless self-regard as they patiently explain their decision to "keep their powder dry" and withhold until the Democratic convention in August their Solomonic decision on which candidate to support.

This is nonsense. Superdelegates can worry about the party, or they can preen and carry on about the importance of their role. They can't do both. The only thing the Clinton and Obama campaigns agree on is that neither can secure the nomination with pledged delegates alone. So the uncommitted superdelegates wringing their hands in the Times are the same ones who will ultimately decide the nominee. Why wait until August? If they truly cared about ending the primary, they could do so in a matter of days or weeks. All they need to do is declare their allegiance now.

If all the 352 uncommitted superdelegates (CNN's number) chose Obama, he'd have 1970 delegates and need 55 more to secure the nomination. Slate's Delegate Counter says he could draw a paltry 35 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania and still secure that many. Once superdelegates declared, the race would be over, and the remaining primaries a mere formality. The party could focus on John McCain. The same holds true for Clinton. If the uncommitteds swung her way, she'd have 1,831 delegates to Obama's 1,618. She'd need only reasonable showings through May 6th to cross the delegate finish-line.

The split won't be that lopsided, of course. But by declaring now, rather than in late August, the superdelegates can arrive much sooner at the point where the winner is clear -- the only means of halting the damage to their party. In Washington, there's no happier situation for a politician than to be doing absolutely nothing and getting great press for it. But let's be clear about one thing: keeping their powder dry profits the superdelegates, but comes at the expense of their party. It shouldn't take Solomon to see that.
— Joshua Green

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