Here's an interactive Electoral College map. You'll see the swing states are beige, and you can pick a year and see who won the various states in past elections. Now, here's a map showing which states Obama and Clinton have won so far. Obama has strong appeal — or Hillary is unappealing — in the nation's midsection. Is a picture of Obama's electability emerging?
We were just talking last night about what the superdelegates can fairly do with their power. One argument is that they must vote to produce the result that would obtain if there were no superdelegates.
But isn't it fair for them to look at who can take the party to victory in the end? Isaac Chotiner argues:
Think of it like this: you are a superdelegate or party boss. You have been undecided but now must choose between two candidates with roughly equal numbers of delegates. Most of all, you want to win in November, which is now only three months away. And while one of your two choices is consistently beating the Republican nominee in polls, the other is consistently losing.Chotiner hasn't gotten to the point where he sees that it's the Electoral College that matters, but his main idea is that superdelegates will be influenced by data about who's more likely to beat the Republican nominee.
Yesterday, I linked to Chris Bowers, who made this threat:
If the Democratic Party does not nominate the candidate for POTUS that the majority (or plurality) of its participants in primaries and caucuses want it to nominate, then I will quit the Democratic Party... [If the] "super" delegates nominate someone for POTUS other than the person who received the most support during Democratic primaries and caucuses, then I fail to see any reason to continue participating in the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party is not a democratic institution, then to hell with the Democratic Party.Well, he sounds angry, but what exactly is the standard?
A 1% lead or more in pledged delegates from all 50 states and every territory. If it falls in between the plus or minus 1% range, I'll cut some lack. Otherwise, none.So, fine, he's not looking at a national poll or going on the numbers of voters/caucus-goers. This shows some sensitivity toward the electoral map. But he's not taking into account any subtleties of who has support in the states that will be hard-fought in the general election. He throws in the territories, which have no electoral votes, and he doesn't have a good way — as far as I can figure out — to deal with the botched process in the big swing states of Michigan and Florida.
It seems to me that the superdelegates are in a position to account for some complex considerations of democracy as it plays out in our peculiar electoral process. The only reason to lock the superdelegates into a formula the way Bowers wants is that you don't trust them to think in a sophisticated way about legitimate factors. You're afraid of the politics that will go on behind the scenes. I understand that fear, but so will the superdelegates. The check on behind-the-scenes deals and corruption is that they will know the people will be hypervigilant and easily outraged.
ADDED: Here's the way Barack Obama puts it:
My strong belief is that if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters. I think it is also important for superdelegates to think about who will be in the strongest position to defeat John McCain in November and who will be in the strongest position to ensure that we are broadening the base, bringing people who historically have not gotten involved in politics into the fold.See? He's pushing a subtle, multi-factored approach that serves him well. I assume Mrs. Clinton will do the same. The linked article quotes her saying:
Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment. But, of course, if Senator Obama and his campaign continue to push this position, which is really contrary to what the definition of a superdelegate has historically been, I will look forward to receiving the support of Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry.Ha ha. It's an old quote. (Both Kennedy and Kerry have declared their support for Obama.) That was mean! Anyway, I look forward to seeing how she puts it to adapt to the changing circumstances.
ADDED: I misread the Clinton quote, which isn't old. It's a sound witticism.