I haven't been following the campaigning real closely this year. My mother takes care of that for me, and every time I see her I get an earful of how wonderful Barack Obama is.
I don't want to follow every detail. The Democratic nominee will get my vote. I have, in the past, followed things pretty closely. If Al Gore were running, I'd probably have my nose glued to the TV screen.
I keep hearing the term "superdelegate", and had some kind of idea that their votes don't depend on any kind of popular vote, only on pure politics. For the real dope, I went to Wikipedia, as usual.
Here's my short version. It applies to the Democratic party. The Republicans have a similar system, but they don't use the term "superdelegate". There are pledged and unpledged delegates. Pledged delegates come out of the party caucuses and primaries. They are pledged to vote (at least in the first round) in an approximate ratio of the popular primary vote in their state. Thus if there are six delegates from a state, and the primary vote was split 2:1, four delegates will vote for the more popular candidate, two for the lesser.
T he unpledged delegates can vote as they wish, unbound by any popular sentiment. This tends to be based on decisions at the very top of the party structure. This year, the superdelegates are all Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors and various elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, all former Democratic presidents and vice presidents, former Democratic Leaders of the Senate, Speakers of the House, and former Democratic Minority Leaders and former Chairs of the D.N.C. In other words, the power in the Democratic party, past and present.
Pledged delegates this year number about 3253. These superdelegate wildcards number about 796. The total is 4049. A candidate needs a majority of delegate votes, thus 2025, to secure the nomination. A candidate who is way ahead, and has 2025 of the pledged votes would win, and the superdelegates would be, well, superfluous. Conversely, a candidate could have the majority of the pledged votes, and the superdelelgates could hand the nomination to his/her opponent.
It's interesting stuff. Even reasonable.
I think when it comes to the national election, though, the popular vote should carry the election. I find each state going for one candidate or another, weighted though they be, very frustrating, and hate the idea of someone getting the majority of the popular vote and still losing the electoral college, and thus the election. Here's a map of how many electoral college votes each state has, and how the breakdown looks now, from 270toWin.com.
[Map from VoteFromAbroad.org. The dark pink represents states Obama has won in the primaries, the lighter pink are Clinton's. The others are color coded depending on what month their primaries will be held.]