Super delegates could decide Democratic nominee

February 11, 2008 4:42:28 PM PST
The results from all of these primary elections may not even settle the race. The final decision could lie in the hands of the super-delegates at the Democratic convention in Denver this summer.Nearly 800 Democratic delegates, or 20 percent of the total, are super delegates - elected officials and other party people who are appointed, not elected by the voters. They're free to do whatever they want at the convention, regardless of what the voters in their states say about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Even though Obama has the momentum right now, Hillary Clinton, with her deep ties to the party establishment, has 100 more committed super delegates. Does that mean the fix is in?

Clinton's road to the Democratic nomination and the White House is likely to hit a speed bump in Washington D.C. Tuesday, where her African American support figures to pale in comparison to Obama, who has been winning 80 percent of the black vote so far.

"Let me tell you something. I may be skinny, but I'm tough too," Obama told a crowd.

But Clinton has a trump card in Washington D.C., a network of loyal super delegates that plan to vote for her at the Cemocratic convention this summer, even if Obama wins the popular vote and more regular delegates.

"I feel permanently bound. Yes, I do. Your word is your bond. You make a commitment, that's it," said Clinton super delegate Marilyn Tyler Brown.

On Monday afternoon after another giant rally on a college campus in Maryland, Obama said he was not worried about the likelihood of super delegates ignoring the will of regular voters and tipping the nomination to Clinton.

"If we come in with the most delegates, the most states, the most popular votes, I think the delegates would be hard pressed to deliver the nomination to Senator Clinton," he said.

Some of Washington D.C.'s uncommitted super delegates seemed to agree with Obama's take on how conditions will play out this summer.

"You're obligated to serve the interests of your constituency, at the end of the day, we have to pick the one that is best suited to lead the party and the country," said Paul Strauss, uncommitted super delegate.

Tyler Brown said if voters choose Obama, that won't likely influence her.

"I'll factor it, but I have every confidence that Hillary can represent the constituency and the District of Columbia as well as, if not better than, Barack Obama," she said.

Super delegates were created by the party in 1982 to make sure activists didn't hijack the nomination. It was the equivalent, some say, of having a grown-up in the room to make sure the kids don't run amok. If the grownups make a back room deal this year, a lot of kids that support Obama could be pitching big fits. The likelihood is that the super delegates will go with the will of the popular vote, which may take a while.