More On Delegate Counts: Some Myths

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

Some caveats worth remembering:

The Caucus Myth

For starters, forget about hard counting delegates from just about any caucus state. In many cases, including Iowa, delegates are not directly elected to the national convention. Instead, only delegates to in-state conventions are picked. And final choices on national delegates are not made until late spring, usually at statewide conventions.

Pledged But Not Bound

There is also a dirty secret about pledged delegates, those who are directly elected in primaries. They are “pledged,” but not all are “bound.” Under Democratic Party rules they do not have to vote for the candidate chosen by primary voters (although some states bind them by statute for at least the first convention ballot). Sure, they are bound by conscience — but don’t forget, many delegates are politicians whose conscience might not be their guiding light if circumstances fundamentally change by convention time.

Super Wild Cards

And then there are the near-800 super delegates — unelected, unbound and unlikely to present profiles in courage when the going gets tough. Around 75 of them have not even been picked yet, perhaps the ultimate wild card in this unpredictable campaign.

Of course, these caveats (and many others) are too numerous to mention when the news media reports “hard counts” of Democratic delegates. But at a minimum we should be calling these counts “estimates” only.

At least when we report economic numbers we usually call them “indicators.” It is time for such modesty in Democratic delegate counting — just a slight nod at least to the fact that in uncharted waters like this we really don’t know anything for sure.