From Super Tuesday to the Potomac Primaries, and Why Is the Delegate Count So Confusing?

It’s now a week since Super Tuesday and it appears that the nomination picture is slowly coming into focus. On the Republican side Mitt Romney dropped out of the race; that made some sense as he and Mike Huckabee appeared to be splitting the social conservative vote. Interestingly enough his exit speech talked primarily about Iraq and the War on Terror which was never a major part of his campaign.

This has essentially paved the way for John McCain who is now the presumptive nominee of his party. You would think this would be good news for the GOP but it isn’t. Long simmering hatred of John McCain has boiled over, especially with Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. I have to confess I don’t know much about what they are saying as I don’t have the stomach to listen or read very much.

I’m still trying to keep track of the delegates. It’s become dramatically more difficult and complicated than I thought. I’m writing this before we have the results of the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. primaries, and as I write (for example), NPR gives Barack Obama 994 pledged delegates and 160 super delegates (for a total of 1,154). CNN gives him 1,181; MSNBC gives him 958. Finally Fox News gives him 1,154. Perhaps the best irony is that Fox News and NPR are the only organizations who agree.

I’m using NPR numbers simply because NPR is the news organization where I get most of my news. Right now I’m attempting to keep track of delegates using an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a good way of keeping track but this type of spreadsheet doesn’t translate well into html or xml. In future days I’m hoping to translate these numbers into a table that I can post.

Speaking of the delegate count, I’ve been doing some reading about why this is so confusing. Earlier I talked about how some places are using projections. I’m also learning a great deal about super delegates and uncommitted delegates. The best explanation I’ve heard is from the NPR show Fresh Air on January 31st. Terry Gross interviewed David Rohde from Duke University. Here is a synopsis of some of his points:

  • Several of the candidates who have since dropped out of the campaign had delegates. At the conventions those delegates can still vote for their candidate but don’t have to. They are essentially now free agents and can change their votes at will
  • The states of Florida and Michigan moved their primaries to January against the wishes of their parties. The Democrats say they will refuse to seat any delegates from those states and the Republicans will only seat half of them. That is what they are saying now but there is nothing to stop them from changing their minds and seating those delegates. That could prove to be a nightmare as several candidates didn’t campaign in those states
  • Of the delegates at the convention, the Democratic Party has designated 796 (20% of the total) as “super delegates.” They are senior members of the Democratic National Committee, current, and former office holders. Bill Clinton, by the way, is a super delegate. We can assume he will vote for Hillary and several of these politician have endorsed a candidate but nobody is bound to anyone until the convention.
  • In the Republican Party there are also super delegates, but each state can also allocate delegates who are uncommitted, regardless of who wins the primary or caucus.

Had enough? OK, this puts me at odds with many of my friends, but I love all this chaos and complication. It makes for a more interesting race. Hang on, we’ve got months of this stuff.

2 thoughts on “From Super Tuesday to the Potomac Primaries, and Why Is the Delegate Count So Confusing?

  1. So one thing I haven’t heard you mention but surely must be part of your delegate counts, is that in some places, such as California, I heard that even the committed delegates are in part based on district by district results. I guess the question is – do they in fact account for these?

  2. The process of allocating delegates is way more confusing than even I thought. I didn’t find anything on how the California Republican party selects delegates but there’s an excellent article written by Frank D. Russo that explains how the Democrats choose. Five hundred three delegates will attend the Democratic National Convention this summer. Of those,

    • 62 are alternates, leaving 441 voting members
    • 71 are super delegates. They are members of Congress, high ranking DNC members, or others who have been designated by the California Democratic Party. They may endorse a candidate but are under no obligation, and can decide the day of the nomination who to vote for. That leaves 370.
    • Of those 370, 241 are attached to the 53 congressional districts in the state. When you voted in the primary you actually voted within your congressional district and those delegates are chosen based on who wins in each district.
    • The other 129 (of the 370) are selected at a state caucus in the spring and are based on each candidate’s percentage. In other words, a candidate who wins 51% of the statewide vote will receive 66 delegates: 51% of the 129.
      Pretty wild, isn’t it?

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