Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Facts about the Democratic Delegates

As more voters make their choice for the Democratic nomination, there is growing interest in the facts and myths about the race to reach 2208 delegate votes - the number required for a candidate to secure the nomination with Florida and Michigan included. The Obama campaign is claiming, without precedent or justification, that automatic delegates (commonly referred to as "super delegates") should switch to Sen. Obama en masse based on arbitrary metrics, with the aim of tilting the delegate balance in his favor. The fact is: no automatic delegate is required to cast a vote on the basis of anything other than his or her best judgment about who is the most qualified to be president.

FACT: Pledged delegates and automatic delegates are the same - they each count for ONE vote.

The Democratic Party chooses its delegates in three ways: 1) through primaries where millions vote; 2) through caucuses where thousands vote; and 3) it gives a role to elected leaders and other party activists in the process. [more]

Automatic delegates (commonly referred to as "super delegates") comprise the third category. Automatic delegates come from all 56 states and territories and consist of Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors, distinguished party leaders (including former Democratic presidents, vice presidents, former House and Senate Democratic leaders and former DNC Chairs) and members of the Democratic National Committee. These DNC members are activists and grassroots supporters who are focused on helping Democrats win at all levels of elective office. There is no difference between pledged delegates and automatic delegates - they each count as one delegate in the final tally and no distinction is made between them at the convention.

FACT: Neither candidate can secure the nomination without automatic delegates.

The Obama campaign is trying to shut down the Democratic race before the rest of the country votes. There are still many states and territories that have not voted with over 1000 delegates at stake. [more]

These delegates represent nearly half of the 2,208 delegate votes needed for the nomination. It is mathematically impossible for Sen. Obama to secure the delegate votes needed for the nomination without automatic delegates. This is why, despite publicly attempting to discount the role of automatic delegates, the Obama campaign is aggressively courting - and pressuring - them behind the scenes.

FACT: Automatic delegates are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party.

The Obama campaign is claiming that automatic delegates must follow the lead of pledged delegates and switch their vote to Sen. Obama. [more]

This is false and unfounded - and it is contradicted by Sen. Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, who said, "These are elected officials from across the country and they're supposed to exercise their judgment as to what would be best for the party. And as they look at this, they need to decide who would be the strongest candidate for the party." This view is echoed by other prominent Democratic leaders, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn and DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who has said of automatic delegates, "Their role is to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and of the Democratic Party."

FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats' 50-state strategy.

An important part of the debate over delegates is the role of Florida and Michigan. Hillary Clinton believes that the voices of 600,000 Michigan primary voters and 1.75 million Florida primary voters should be heard at the Democratic convention. [less]

In the 2004 presidential race, the turnout in Michigan was only a quarter of what it was this year - and the 2004 turnout in Florida was less than half of what it was this year. With such dramatically increased turnout, Hillary won those two states and she did it with all candidates on an equal footing. In Florida, all presidential candidates were on the primary ballot and all followed the rules (except for Sen. Obama who broke the rules by running television ads in violation of his pledge to the early states and to the other presidential candidates). In Michigan, Sen. Obama voluntarily withdrew his name from the primary ballot to curry favor with Iowa. He was under no obligation to do so. However, his supporters organized a substantial vote for 'uncommitted' on the ballot, thus he is represented in the delegation. Hillary Clinton obeyed all the rules in Florida and Michigan and came out ahead. She had no intrinsic advantage over her opponents other than the will of the voters. The voters of Florida and Michigan should be heard and the delegates from Florida and Michigan should count.

FACT: There is a clear path to an overall delegate majority (pledged + automatic) for Hillary Clinton after all states have voted -- with or without Florida and Michigan.

Contrary to the Obama campaign's claims that the race is over, all voters should have their say before a candidate declares victory and tries to circumvent the democratic process. The race is currently a virtual tie, with the campaigns now separated by a small handful of delegates, barely 1% of all the delegates to the Democratic Convention. [more]

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