The Superdelegate Shuffle

By Jeremy Barr

In every election cycle, it seems that one or two previously unimportant procedural terms enter the popular lexicon. In 2000, it was “hanging chad” and “butterfly ballot.” In 2008, “superdelegates” have become one of the most talked about factors in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Because neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can mathematically win the Democratic nomination with purely pledged delegates, the 795 unpledged party officials and representatives known as superdelegates will make the difference.

In the past weeks and months we have heard stories about the attention thrust upon these superdelegates by the respective candidates. Much has also been written about the less “super” of the superdelegates, such as 21 year old Marquette University student Jason Rae, a Wisconsin superdelegate who recently announced his support for Barack Obama. Rae was wooed by representatives from both campaigns, and even had breakfast with Chelsea Clinton before making his decision. I guess the breakfast didn’t go too well.

Courting superdelegates (330 remain uncommitted) has become such a priority for the campaigns of the Democratic nominees that specific staff have been assembled solely for that task. For the Clinton campaign, that means a staff of 10 working directly under strategist Harold Ickes to try to stop or stall future declarations of support for Obama .

While no one can fault the Obama and Clinton campaigns for playing within the system and doing what it takes to win the nomination, it is a shame that such time, effort, and money has to be spent on trying to woo the superdelegates. In a campaign that should be about who has the best plan for the country, it is unfortunate that one of the most talked-about “issues” has been who has assembled the best staff to call officials and tell them that they are special. As with much of the drama and politicking that has accompanied the Democratic nomination contest, the end of this practice cannot come soon enough.

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