Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Paul Gordon: Vote in this year’s primary election

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There have been two caucuses and two primary elections for delegates so far during an election year in which ‘‘super” could be the magic word. There are Super Tuesday and super delegates, turning the normal staid presidential primaries into super contests.

For those keeping scorecards, according to CNN, on the Democratic side Obama has won 63 delegates, Clinton 48 and Edwards 26. On the Republican side, Romney has won 73, McCain 38, Huckabee 29, Paul 6 and Giuliani 2.

But before you cheer or jeer, only delegates selected by the primaries really matter. Obama has 34, Clinton 21 and Edwards 12. McCain has 7, Romney 4, and Huckabee 1.

The caucus winners are not firm, since most states using that process will have county conventions to select delegates to state conventions selecting the pledged national delegates. In case you missed it, Clinton won the popular vote in Nevada, but lost the delegate vote, and Obama garnered 13 to Clinton’s 12 and Edwards’ 4. But the state convention could change that count.

To further confuse, when you add ‘‘super delegates” pledged as of Jan. 24, Clinton has 230 total delegates, Obama 152 and Edwards 61 of the 2,025 Democratic delegates needed. Romney has 73, McCain 38, Huckabee 29, Paul 6 and Giuliana 2 of the 1,191 needed to be the Republican party nominee.

‘‘Super delegates” now are part of the presidential process. ‘‘Super delegates” haven’t taken steroids to make themselves select people. Republicans allow the 123-member Republican National Committee to be delegates, 10 percent of the total. Democratic governors, members of Congress, presidents or members of the Democratic National Committee are delegates.

Clinton has received pledges of support from 182 of these anointed delegates, while Obama has support from 89. Edwards has received pledges from 35 of the Democratic party’s select delegate group. They represent a significant segment of the Democratic delegate total. The 842 ‘‘super-delegates” represent 41.6 percent of the Democratic delegates needed to win.

So, if a candidate has support from many ‘‘super delegates,” the way to the White House is eased.

Tuesday is Super Tuesday, with 24 states selecting delegates to the national conventions. On that day, 52 percent of the Democratic delegates will be selected and 41 percent of the Republican delegates. Many say the results could determine the final candidates.

Maryland will hold its primary Feb. 12, with Democrats voting for 70 pledged delegates and Republicans for 37. The last primary occurs on May 6, at which time we will know the total elected delegates pledged to each candidate.

If Democratic ‘‘super delegates” have not pledged support to a candidate by then and if most primary elections are close, as many forecast, we may have to wait until the August Democratic National Convention to learn who the Democrats choose as their presidential candidate.

From all accounts I’ve read, it is expected to be a horse race between Clinton and Obama. So the Democratic unpledged ‘‘super-delegates” could be the key.

Turnout at the two primaries held thus far set records. It is expected records will occur in many states. Some believe that ‘‘Super Tuesday” will decide the Democratic party presidential nominee. But, as has happened this year, those who forecast election results have been wrong, especially if enough ‘‘super delegates” withhold support until the convention.

The most this observer can say is that in the 2008 presidential race, there are no patterns that can be relied upon in a year with so many outstanding candidates on the ballot. It is a year where polls have gone awry, experts are stumped, and more of the same is forecast.

For Marylanders, your vote this year will count like never before.

Vote on Feb. 12.