The Super-Delegate Mess (and Other Messes)

By Jennifer Parker

Feb 8, 2008 9:48am

Greetings from Seattle. And yes, I’m sleepless.

78 delegates are up for grabs here in tomorrow’s Washington State Caucus as are 19 SUPER-DELEGATES.

Read more about that — as well as Clinton’s insinuation that Obama’s rhetoric is meaningless — HERE.

Could it be that this race comes down to the roughly 800 party insiders anointed as "super-delegates"?

They comprise roughly 20% of the delegate total, and if Obama and Clinton continue to split the vote count roughly 50-50, how they vote could be crucial — which is why Chelsea and Bill Clinton, and reps for Obama, are calling them and wooing them.

Super-delegates were created after the insurgent outsider campaigns of then Sen. George McGovern, D-SD, and former Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia, secured the Democratic party nominations in 1972 and 1976, respectively. The idea was to return some power to party officials. Political scientist Rhodes Cook has said super-delegates were created as a "firewall to blunt any party outsider that built up a head of steam in the primaries."

With her vast institutional advantages, Clinton took a lead in super-delegates long ago.

Here in Washington she has Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell — though ABC News has learned that Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire will endorse Obama.

Obama this week warned Super-delegates to vote the way their states have voted, "if this contest comes down to super-delegates, we are going to be able to say we have more pledged delegates, which means the Democratic voters have spoken. Those super-delegates, those party insiders would have to think long and hard how they would approach the nomination." Obama suggested "the argument we would be making to super-delegates is, if we come into the convention with more pledged delegates then I think we can make a very strong argument that our constituencies have spoken and I think that’s going to be pretty important when it comes to the general election."

Does that mean his super-delegates in Massachusetts — Sens. Kerry and Kennedy, Gov Patrick — should defect to Clinton?

Said Super-delegate Donna Brazile to CNN, "If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this."

**

In other messy news, Clinton campaign staffers have yet to pay the rent to a Portsmouth, NH, landlord.

Landlord Dr. Terry Bennett says the staffers "skipped town without paying the bill. Making matters worse, Bennett said, the 3,000-square-foot building at 236 Union St. was left trashed.

"I sent about 20 e-mails," said Realtor Michael Whitney. "I hear the Clinton campaign is out of money. Maybe the woman got laid off. I called, but they will not return any of my calls."

Read more on that HERE and recall the similar tale told by the realtor of a Clinton, Iowa, office building who told the Quad City Times that after the Clinton "campaign staff had cleared out, he discovered garbage, spoiled food, holes that had been drilled in the walls to run phone lines without his authorization, and stains on the carpet that will require some of the carpeting to be replaced."

The Clinton campaign eventually sent the Iowa landlord a check for $1,750 to cover the expenses for cleaning up. In New Hampshire, Dr. Bennett is awaiting his check.

– jpt

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