Superdelegate Says He's Up for Grabs
ALISON STEWART, host:
Each presidential election season, there's a word or a phrase that becomes associated with that race. In 2000, hanging chads, 2004, exit polls. In 2008, the word may be superdelegate. Those are the well-placed party members and party advocates who don't have to declare for whom they're going to vote until the conventions. Now most years, frankly, it doesn't really matter. But this year, with a close, close race - especially for the Democratic nomination - the at least 796 Democratic superdelegates will have a lot of power.
Our next guest is a 21-year-old junior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and he's one of the Democratic national committee's youngest superdelegates. Jason Rae haven't pledged his support to either candidate yet, and that has made for some pretty interesting conversations for him over the past six weeks.
Mr. JASON RAE (Democratic Superdelegate): Hi, Alison. How are you?
STEWART: Doing great. Hey, let's start with the basics. How old were you when you joined the DNC?
Mr. RAE: I was elected to the DNC from the state of Wisconsin at the age of 17. I was not even a senior in high school. I actually missed voting in the presidential election that year by about three weeks.
STEWART: So what do you have to go through?
Mr. RAE: For my campaign, in order to get elected to the DNC, I have to run a very grass roots campaign in our state party convention. I had my friends get together, and we hand painted signs on tape board. I printed stickers off of my printer. I stood at the convention door and shook every hand that walked through the hall, just so that I could really reach out to the voters and let them know that I wanted to, you know, represent America to the next generation.
STEWART: So once you were elected to the DNC, then you're automatically a superdelegate? Is that right?
Mr. RAE: That is correct, Alison.
STEWART: So, list for me the people who have called you up just to shoot the breeze lately.
Mr. RAE: Recently, for Senator Clinton, I've heard from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Chelsea Clinton, former President Bill Clinton called. For Senator Kerry - or, excuse me, for Senator Obama, I've had Senator Kerry call me recently.
STEWART: So, when you picked up the phone, how does Bill Clinton address you? Does he just say, hey, Jason.
Mr. RAE: Basically, actually. I picked up the phone - it was about a Friday night, and I was getting ready to go out to dinner with some friends and the phone rings and it says withheld. And I'm thinking I wonder who's calling, but I'll answer it anyway. And I picked it up, and the other end goes, you know, Jason, please hold for the former president. And then, all of a sudden, it's Bill on the other end going, Jason, Bill here. How are you?
STEWART: And you said, I'm fine. How are you Mr. Former President?
Mr. RAE: Exactly.
STEWART: Now, did he get right into promoting his wife's candidacy, or did he take time to talk to you and ask you about yourself?
Mr. RAE: Oh, he took time to talk - you know, asked me about myself. Asked how school was going. You know, that's one of the nice things in these conversations. They haven't been, you know, hard sell or try to, you know, convince me one way or another. They've just been really nice, pleasant conversations.
STEWART: Yeah. But you that these people want something.
Mr. RAE: Absolutely. Of course they'd love my support for the candidate of their choice. But, you know, they realize that, you know, asking flat out, you know, making a hard sell may not be the best option for some people. And for me, it's not going to decide it for me. I mean, as much as I enjoyed getting a call from the former president, just because he asked me for his wife's support doesn't mean I'd give it to him.
STEWART: What about Chelsea Clinton? Did you have actual face time with her?
Mr. RAE: I did. I met up with Chelsea on Monday morning for a quick little breakfast meeting at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and had a nice little conversation with her about how the election was going and how things on the ground were looking where she's been.
STEWART: Have you had an opportunity to meet either candidate?
Mr. RAE: I have met with Senator Obama before. I met with him in a small group of DNC members back in December at one of our national committee meetings and having a great chance to sit and talk to him about, you know, the issues that concerned me at the time.
STEWART: You know, many people are concern that such a small number of people could help determine their next president. Are you at all concern about the process?
Mr. RAE: Well, the thing to remember is that superdelegates have only been around since 1984, and they only account for about 20 percent of the overall delegate count. I really don't think that in the end, superdelegates are going to make the decision for this election. I think we're going to have a party nominee by probably April 22nd or so.
STEWART: So you think either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama's going to pull that far ahead that the superdelegates aren't going to matter?
Mr. RAE: I think they're going to start - one or the other will start pulling ahead with pledge delegates, and I think the momentum will just going to build for that candidate. And as we go into, you know, March 4th with Texas and Ohio and then you go to Pennsylvania, I think that momentum is just going to the point where, you know, all other states just start realizing that that one candidate is the nominee.
STEWART: As a representative of Wisconsin Democrats, are you obligated to go along with the popular vote, however it turns out?
Mr. RAE: No, I'm not. I think that my vote - the nice thing is, you know, every person has the right to decide for themselves how they want to vote. And I think, you know, as a superdelegate, I want to take my vote and, you know, really seriously think and consider for myself who I personally think, you know, the best candidate is for the party and for the country.
STEWART: Where do you get your information about the candidates?
Mr. RAE: A lot of it I get from the campaign staff. A lot of it I get from media sources, or just people I'm talking to around the city. I like to venture around Wisconsin as often as I can just to talk to people who have, you know, been following the candidates for a while and to get their opinion on things.
STEWART: You wrote a column for the paper the Wausau Daily Herald, and you wrote your decision could come down to careful though and consideration. That's what you wrote.
Mr. RAE: Yes.
STEWART: What's on your considerations list?
Mr. RAE: The top thing for me is electability in the general election. It's great to elect someone who I may think is just perfect for the position and ideas may - you know, their opinions on the issues may line up just perfectly. But if they don't stand a chance in winning in November, then I don't want to throw away my vote for that person. You know, I really need to focus on that electability factor.
STEWART: We do have to say, though. We want to point on something. We're going to call you out a little bit here.
Mr. RAE: All right.
STEWART: We didn't find you by accident. And you've been all over the media. You've been on MSNBC. You've been on "The Early Show." You sent out an e-mail telling people like, hey, my name's Jason. I'm going to be a superdelegate. We got it here. It's really - I mean, we brought it up in our staff meeting, and then we're catching your name everywhere and everywhere. So why'd you that? What's in it for you?
Mr. RAE: Nothing's in it for me. I just want to be sure that, you know, as we go out with the campaign is that the candidate are addressing, you know, young people. And I want people to realize that, you know, superdelegates are not these party insiders. Everywhere that I've been seeing, you know, on every, you know, network, they're talking about superdelegates as being party bosses who sit in the back, you know, smoke-filled room making decisions. And superdelegates really aren't that.
Superdelegates are party activists like myself who have been involved with the county parties since they rode their bikes to a country party meeting, you know, when they were 16. Or people who have, you know, going through 15 pairs of shoes knocking in doors for candidates during literature drops. Superdelegates are people, you know, just like you and I who are out there on the ground on a daily basis.
STEWART: Superdelegates are real people, too, right?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. RAE: They really are.
STEWART: Jason Rae, thanks so much for joining us, and good luck next week when you vote.
Mr. RAE: Thanks so much, Alison.
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