Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Only Numbers That Count

Behind the rise and fall of the polls and the trickle of primary and caucus results is the reality of who will pick next President of the United States.

At the Democratic Convention in late August, there will be over 850 super-delegates--governors, members of Congress and the Democratic National Committee, present and former Senate and House leaders as well as former presidents and vice presidents (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale get a vote).

Even before Super Tuesday, more than one-third of the 2025 delegates needed to nominate have been chosen and are quietly lining up behind Hillary Clinton (at the latest estimate, 181), Barack Obama (80), John Edwards (29) and Denis Kucinich (2, including himself). More than half, 479, are uncommitted. You can see the list here.

Those behind Hillary Clinton include a considerable number of women and DNC members as well as New York and New Jersey Governors Eliot Spitzer and Jon Corzine. Obama has Sens. Pat Leahy, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, Claire McCaskill, Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson. John Edwards' list includes nine members of Congress and the DNC from North Carolina.

The new rules put in place after the 1972 convention were intended to take the choice out of the hands of party machines and kingmakers, but even so, picking the nominees is not a pure (large or small "d") Democratic process.

Then again, we have today's example of power to the people in Nevada. where as Gail Collins notes in her New York Times column, "the number of people in the state who have ever attended a caucus before is probably smaller than the number of people in the state who make their living as Elvis impersonators."

On to Super Tuesday...

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