Unpledged delegates

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I haven't seen very much commenting on the unpledged delegates in the Democratic race. Given how crucial these people's votes could be, this is a little surprising. There are 4,321 delegates, and 801 of them are unpledged superdelegates who can change their vote at the last minute. These people are party faithful who get invited to the convention out of loyalty despite the will of the people, and some of them have already indicated which candidate they intend to vote for, though some have still not shown a preference.

CNN lists the current tallies for delegates, including these superdelegates. What surprises me most about the lack of attention to these delegates is that Dean was still in the lead after NH when figuring in their votes. After last Tuesday's primaries and caucuses, he's still in second place. We'll see how things turn out after this weekend.

There's also a quota system for determining delegates, something I can't believe no one has challenged on constitutional grounds. The delegates from any given state have to be determined in some way based on proportion of each minority. If a minority group is large enough that their numbers would reflect at least one delegate percentage-wise, then the number of delegates proportional to the number of minority voters in the state has to be selected by that minority group, or something like that. A political science professor who shares an office with me was explaining this to me, and I haven't located any information on this online, so I can doublecheck it or see if I've got the information quite right.

Anyway, here are the current standings as of this morning:

Kerry 271
Dean 121
Edwards 110
Clark 82
Sharpton 5
Kucinich 2

They also listed 4 for Dean and 2 for Kerry that were from Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Americans living abroad. I'm not sure why they didn't include them in the totals.

Contrast this with the number of delegates so far determined by caususes and primaries:

Kerry 161
Edwards 79
Clark 48
Dean 24
Sharpton 1

One way this could have a huge effect is if John Kerry starts to look bad in the next few weeks as people start to see what he's really like, and he starts plummeting as Dean has. That might prompt a number of Dean and Kerry's unpledged delegates to switch to Edwards, who has the most chance of getting enough delegates at conventions. This is pure speculation at this point, but it's something hardly anyone is talking about.

Update: After the Saturday caucuses, here are the two sets of delegates. First, the primary- and causus-assigned delegates:

Kerry 289
Edwards 85
Dean 77
Clark 48
Sharpton 8
Kucinich 0

Then with superdelegates factored in:

Kerry 409
Dean 174
Edwards 116
Clark 82
Sharpton 12
Kucinich 2


Brendan I. Koerner the Explainer over at Slate had a good article on this topic in Wait, Dean Has the Most Delegates?

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