Primaries, Superdelegates and Political Junkies

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Whether you call it the "Potomac Primary," the "Chesapeake Primary," or the "Crab Cake Primary" (see above), last night belonged to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Both candidates won their respective primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It's eight in a row for Obama over Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and most political analysts say it's mathematically impossible for Gov. Mike Huckabee to catch McCain at this point. Still, Huckabee promises to make a full sprint to the finish line. And, Clinton is looking to Ohio and Texas to re-energize her campaign after losing two top campaign staffers. The Democratic race for the nomination is still so close that many in the party worry that the whole thing will come down to the superdelegates, rather than the voters. That kind of ending would likely infuriate many Democrats, and there's concern among party big-wigs that it could alienate voters just before a presidential election. We'll talk with Ken Rudin, our Political Junkie, and with a superdelegate about his role in this election, and how he views superdelegates in general.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.


Sent by Chris | 2:11 PM | 2-13-2008

Senator Clinton has made a lot of missteps in her campaign lately and its showing. She complains that the media is against her but she's wasted her time and money producing the Bush-inspired Town Hall Meeting on the Hallmark channel. She has only her staff and herself to blame for these mistakes.

Sent by Elizabeth | 2:12 PM | 2-13-2008

Gary Hart lost the convention nod to Walter Mondale who then lost to the man who someone once said invented Vodue economics

Sent by Fred | 2:14 PM | 2-13-2008

Was it Hubert Humphrey who won a nomination with the popular vote?

Sent by doug Lambert | 2:14 PM | 2-13-2008

I am so disgusted and disheartened and I will not vote in November if Hillary doesn't win. I feel the lack of coverage for Hillary and when she is covered, its negativity, tells me that the pundits and news outlets have decided that Barack is the nomination. It is not the will of the people. Again I mention the lack of inspirational narrative of the importance to women that the first viable woman candidate is running. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR BARACK--Especially after his smug comment about Hillary's supporters "will" support him but his supporters won't necessarily support him. He is as much a politician, i.e. the favor of half a lot from Rezkoe (Sp?), he is NOT Martin Luther King and I don't want my president picked by the press!!

Sent by Mad in Indiana | 2:17 PM | 2-13-2008

Congressman Cooper is my congressman.

I want to know how someone who votes more often for Bush than the people in his district got to be a super delegate.

Sent by Sue | 2:25 PM | 2-13-2008

Here's a list of declared superdelegates. No, Chelsea is not on the list.

Sent by Steve Jones | 2:29 PM | 2-13-2008

Gary Hart won the popular vote but not the delegate vote because of the "super delegates."

I do not approve of the electoral system or the super delegate system.

I will become an independent if what happened to Hart happens again.

Sent by Susan Brinton | 2:34 PM | 2-13-2008

Source: Democratic Talk Radio Blog

The List of who are the Democratic Super-Delegates and how they are committing to are here:

Here is a list of those uncommitted Democratic Super-Delegates

Sent by Midtown | 2:35 PM | 2-13-2008

With little American Samoa and the rest of the US territories seating delegates at the DNC, is it right that the hundreds of thousands of voters in Florida and Michigan have no representation? How would a lack of representation affect the general election?

Sent by Jared | 2:36 PM | 2-13-2008

The press LOVES the big vocal crowds that Obama brings out, just like the press loves the vocal, poster waving anti-choice people. However, the majority of Democrats have voted for Hillary Clinton. Why that gets ignored, I understand (it's a state-by-state contest), but even so, she is the "popular" candidate.

Sent by GWB in NC | 2:37 PM | 2-13-2008

I want to know the chance of Macain picking Condy for a running mate- a black woman? I've heard rumors and am curious. . .

Sent by Jenny | 2:37 PM | 2-13-2008

I would prefer Sen. Edwards to be the Democratic Party nominee. Since that seems remote, I would prefer Sen. Clinton.

If it comes to it, despite being a registered Democrat, I will vote for Sen. McCain rather than for Sen. Obama. On substantive issues, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain have out-thought Sen. Obama. It's quite clear merely by inspecting their respective websites. Sen. Obama's "Issues" page outlines vague agendas. Sen. Clinton's and Sen. McCains "Issues" pages make detailed and specific statements in re policies and legislative agendas that they'd like to see Congress pursue.

Sent by Mike in Tucson | 2:45 PM | 2-13-2008

I'm confused by the notion of disenfranchising Obama's masses. I'm a life long Minnesotan who saw the equally excited Ventura masses line up to vote for Jesse and then watched those voters disappear after the election never to return to a polling place. Should we really worry about these one time voters? It seems they are simply voting for a person rather than the Democratic Party. Do Democrats really believe these young voters will stick around to vote in future elections? Personally, I highly doubt the vast majority of them will vote in the 2010 and beyond city council, house, senate, etc. elections. Worrying about one time voters is like changing a church to fit Christmas Eve only attendees. But may be I'm too cynical!

Sent by Jessica | 2:46 PM | 2-13-2008

Why is the "Superdelegate" on your show a FERVENT Obama supporter and why are you allowing him to campaign OPENLY for Obama on your show?! Im sure there are hundreds of undecided Superdelegates to talk to and i love the "Mistake" about the Barak soundclip... yes this is an unbiast show... HA!

Sent by Ryan in Phoenix | 2:47 PM | 2-13-2008

Am I the only one that sees the similarity of Obama and Jimmy Carter. Carter ran as "A Leader for a Change." Carter was the new look candidate that people sought to change things after eight terrible years of Nixon (W.Bush).
However, he proved to be too inexperienced to handle the problems that the nation faced at the time. His efforts to do things differently only bogged him down. Carters four year term allowed the Republicans to regroup and take over the White House for the next 12 years.

Sent by Steve Tarnowski | 2:49 PM | 2-13-2008

Up until recently I felt like most of the media was blatantly pulling for Senator Clinton. They treated Senator Obama like a distraction, no real threat. Do you think that the reluctance of the media to support Obama is a sign of their fear of him as a reformer?

Sent by John | 3:00 PM | 2-13-2008

If the Democrats want to win the general election, they must not allow the superdelegates votes to overrule those of the general public. If the candidate with the most elected delegates loses to the superdelegatesat the convention, the Democratic Party deserves a most certain loss in the general election.

Sent by Kim | 3:01 PM | 2-13-2008

The above link offered by "Midtown" is the one I recommend as well -- a good list of all superdelegates.

To Susan Brinton: Gary Hart did not win the popular vote when he sought the Dem nomination in 1984 against Walter Mondale but he sure came close: he got 36.1% of the primary vote compared to 37.8% for Mondale.

And to Ryan in Phoenix: As for superdelegate Jim Cooper being a spokesperson for Obama, that's not why he was picked for the show. We wanted to illustrate the dilemma of a superdelegate backing one candidate when his or her state went to another candidate. I agree, he spoke more about Obama's strengths than I would have expected. And trust me, playing the Obama tape instead of the McCain tape was not part of any pro-Obama conspiracy. You should have seen the faces both Neal and I made.

Sent by Ken Rudin | 3:02 PM | 2-13-2008

Obama has no substance or specific proposals for alot of issues. Clinton on the other hand will give amnesty to alot of illegals to the detriment of legal residents and citizens. Mccain on the other hand is very wishy washy and also wants to help alot of illegals get amnesty. It seems to us we had the same choice in CO in 2006; the lesser of the evils as we cant see any of these 3 helping the average legal resident or citizen over the lobbyists and the rich.

Could someone please tell us why the number of delegates needed is not reduced by all of the MI and FL delegates that no one won? It doesnt seem to be fair to split them in 2 since Edwards was also running then so who knows what would have happened.

Sent by jm fay | 3:05 PM | 2-13-2008

The media has never "pulled" for Clinton; as noted by reporters for NPR, she has received more "negative" reporting than any other candidate because she is a female (note press coverage of Geraldine Ferraro as well). An interesting hold out of prejudice towards female leaders. This "press coverage" has counted as "for Clinton" - a misnomer. Now Obama is receiving outright the praise & coverage. His followers, based on press coverage, believe he has the biggest following. This is not true. The Democrats are divided.

Sent by GWB in NC | 3:10 PM | 2-13-2008

What is considered "the most" -- the most delegates won in primaries? the most number of people who voted for a candidate? It sounds as if Obama supporters want to shout they'll be "cheated" if superdelegates do not vote for their candidate, but do not forget there are a LOT of people voting for Clinton. To ignore those voters is to risk splitting the party in two.

Sent by GWB in NC | 3:15 PM | 2-13-2008

Obama bring bus load of voters in to caucus and gets itself a victory. Shame! on him. He goes to crowd and give speech like Joel Osteen. Shame! Bush did that in 2000. Look where we are.

Compare to McCain and Obama, McCain is more about bringing two parties to the table and also has national security experience which will certainly be the case in Nov. If Obama get nominated, he will have hell of a time convincing people that he has substance, he has experience on national security.
People say, if there are good advisors to the president, then everything will be OK, but you have seen that with the Bush. You gotta have curiosity to ask questions and be asked.

Sent by No to Obama | 3:46 PM | 2-13-2008

What needs to be kept in mind is that most "super delegates" are the choice of voters too. Just as the Vice President, a non Senator but an elected official, is the person who can break a tie in the Senate, a "super delegate" serves the same purpose in the nomination process.

Sent by Beverly Braun | 3:50 PM | 2-13-2008

Amen, Ms. Braun!

Sent by GWB in NC | 4:02 PM | 2-13-2008

We werent around in 1963 for Kennedy but the Kennedys are comparing the 2 men. Are they alike? (besides being good speakers and drawing large crowds)

Sent by jm fay | 4:32 PM | 2-13-2008

Thank You, to my fellow dems that say,
"it's not over 'til it's over"......
The media has been harse regarding Hillary. Prehaps there is a bit more
sexism amongst them, than they are willing to admit.

Sent by hdb in Seattle | 11:15 PM | 2-13-2008

I'm really tired of people saying Barack has no substance. His website details his positions on all the issues. I think that Barack giving speeches that will inspire Gen X and Y to participate in the political process is more important than repeating his positions that can be found online.

I have no memory of a white house without a Clinton or Bush. I don't want another political dynasty. I want to be inspired. I want change.

Sent by julius | 10:42 AM | 2-14-2008

The DNC is going to kill the progress and excitement that has been built over their candidates in what could be the saddest year ever for Democrats. Here we have 2 possible historic candidates with a lot on the line for the party to take over the White House. Yet we have a system that is in shambles thanks to the DNC!

First, they alienate Michigan and Florida voters and have yet a clear solution to fix the mess.

And now, superdelegates have the potential to really alienate the enitire party by over-riding the primary voters! This is madness and it has to stop. Tad Devine, DNC strategist thinks that its all about "preceived fairness" in a CNN article. I want to know what's so "preceived" about it? Either the people's will is respected or it is not.

Then this comment added mroe fuel to the fire: "[Superdelegates] are the keepers of the faith," said former San Francisco, California, Mayor Willie Brown. "You have superdelegates because this is the Democratic Party. You don't want the bleed-over from the Green Party, the independents and others in deciding who your nominee will be."

This is an outrage. There are 2 electable parties in this country, and if people of this nation want to influence those parties with new opinions, then that is their right! Party INSIDERS should NOT get a trump card! There is a new generation of Dems taking part in this process... so either EMBRACE CHANGE or LOSE POTENTIAL DEMOCRATS... the choice is yours DNC "strategists."

Sent by Ryan Wozniak | 12:48 AM | 2-15-2008

1. Those who say Obama is purely a crowd-puller obviously haven't done research on issues. Even if laid out,and Clinton were to have more fine points to her plans, they are just that, plans, and when one leg falls out from under them the entire policy will crumble.
Obama has principles and critical consideration that demonstrate he truly knows what our nation needs, the kind of thing that won't crumble if one leg of policy doesn't go through. In general, he has what business people would refer to as strategy, goodwill, and direction. Clinton has plans, but I honestly don't think she has direction and her experience won't make the difference she's banking on; mentality will make the difference for the most people. AND that will bring the American people back into the political my next point...

2. To those of you doubting the 'young' vote, YES, you are too cynical because years ago someone disappointed you; whether it be a candidate, party, or 'superdelegates', you have been bittered by the system (rightfully so!). If those of us, who are young, educated, enthusiastic, and willing to work hard to get Obama into office see that happen, do you really think we're going to walk away from that?
I can't promise you everyone will stay active if Obama wins, but I can promise that more will become apathetic if he loses due to politics as usual.

3. Jimmy Carter might have had similar aspirations for our government but they are not the same people and don't even have similar backgrounds. I more equate him with John Edwards; a good, honest man to have in Washington, but not built for the White House.
4. In my city we have have a handful of people in my city's Obama group that were around to vote for Kennedy, and although I can't attest, they seem convinced...for better or worse.

I can't in good conscience NOT vote for Obama, and not to get involved. For all you I see on this blog regularly, I hope you're volunteering, educating, and participating too!


Sent by Hodges | 2:07 PM | 2-15-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from