Will Super Delegates Determine the Democratic Nominee?

It can no longer be avoided: super delegates will determine the Democratic Presidential nominee this year. Here is the current situation:


* With Michigan and Florida removed from the equation, 2,025 delegates are required to win the nomination, and there are 3,253 pledged delegates.
* To date, four states with a combined 137 pledged delegates have held nominating contests.
* Currently, Barack Obama is projected with 63 pledged delegates, and Hillary Clinton is projected with 48 (source).
* On Super Tuesday, 22 states and a couple territories with a combined 1,688 pledged delegates will hold nominating contests.
From this point, quick math shows that after Super Tuesday, only 1,428 pledged delegates will still be available. Now, here is where the problem shows up. According to current polling averages, the largest possible victory for either candidate on Super Tuesday will be Clinton 889 pledged delegates, to 799 pledged delegates for Obama. (In all likelihood, the winning margin will be lower than this, but using these numbers helps emphasize the seriousness of the situation.) As such, the largest possible pledged delegate margin Clinton can have after Super Tuesday is 937 to 862. (While it is possible Obama will lead in pledged delegates after Super Tuesday, it does not currently seem possible for Obama to have a larger lead than 75). That leaves Clinton 1,088 pledged delegates from clinching the nomination, with only 1,428 pledged delegates remaining. Thus, in order to win the nomination without the aid of super delegates, in her best-case scenario after Super Tuesday, Clinton would need to win 76.2% of all remaining pledged delegates. Given our proportional delegate system, there is simply no way that is going to happen unless Obama drops out.

So, there you have it. Unless either Obama or Clinton drops out before the convention, there is simply no way that the nominee can be determined without the super delegates. In the broadest definition of the term, "a brokered convention" is a convention that is determined by super delegates instead of nominating contests. Through a deadly combination of a primary calendar race to the bottom and an anachronistic method of delegate selection, we Democrats seem to have already arrived at that point. Short of one candidate dropping out, there is simply no easy way that this situation can be resolved. Given that Michigan and Florida combine for 313 pledged delegates, it is likely that this situation won't be resolved without severe bureaucratic fighting on the DNC rules and by-laws committee, or even a credential fight at the convention itself.

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