A Democratic year

It's almost certain that superdelegates will decide the nomination at the convention.

us special 224 (photo credit:)
us special 224
(photo credit: )
The Super Tuesday primaries practically decided that John McCain would be the Republican nomination, but did not produce a clear leader on the Democratic side. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did well, with Obama having taken more states, but Clinton having won in the more populous states of New York, New Jersey and California. The race between these two candidates is, however, even more murky after Super Tuesday. In recent years, nearly every nomination has been locked up by a leading candidate before the nominating convention takes place. The Democratic National Convention will have 4,049 delegates, of which 3,253 delegates are pledged delegates who are selected in the primaries, while 796 delegates are "superdelegates": party leaders, governors, mayors, congressman and the like. Superdelegates do not have to declare for a candidate before the convention, but play a pivotal role when the pledged delegates have not predetermined the nomination before the convention. This year it seems almost certain that the superdelegates will decide the nomination at the convention. The current delegate count favors Clinton slightly, but neither appears able to obtain the necessary 2025 delegates before the convention. With only 1162 delegates up for grabs in the upcoming primaries, Clinton would need to win 82%, and Obama 87% of the remaining delegates in order to sew up the convention without the input of the superdelegates. As they have been running neck and neck until now, it is highly unlikely that either will be able to outdistance the other so greatly in the remaining contests. As a result, it is quite likely that the Democratic nomination won't be decided until the convention. It is not clear how the superdelegates at the convention will make their decision. A brokered convention is politics played large on a grand stage. Perhaps they will be guided by the fact that Clinton won in the larger states where Democrats have a greater chance of winning, while Obama won in states that tend to vote Republican in November. In any case, the machinations that ensue will sustain interest in the Democratic Party nomination process for months to come - even after the primary season ends. By contrast, media interest in the Republican race should taper off, as John McCain is virtually certain to be their candidate. This continued media interest in the Democratic race should translate into more votes for the Democrats in November. The Super Tuesday elections also continued the trend shown in the earlier races in Nevada and South Carolina, that voter interest in the Democratic race is far higher this year, than in 2004. In the California and Missouri primaries, nearly double the number of voters turned out in 2008 than in 2004, while in the New York primary nearly three times the number of voters turned out in 2008 than in 2004. More astonishing were the results in Michigan and Florida. Although both of these states were stripped of their delegates because they did not comply with the Democratic Party's regulations concerning the dates of the primaries, more voters turned out to vote in 2008 than in 2004. In Florida, more than twice the number of voters turned out, and in Michigan, more than triple the number of voters turned out in 2008. All of this is evidence of greater voter excitement in the Democratic race. The 2004 election was one of the closest elections in history. Republicans came out in large numbers to reelect their President. The Democratic voters were uninspired by their candidate and stayed home, thus creating one of the lowest turnouts ever in a general election. This year is different. There is an excitement in the air, as voters sense the need for change and new possibilities. Perhaps 2008 will be a watershed year like 1960 when, after 8 years of relative peace and economic prosperity, the voters wanted a change, and opted for John Kennedy who led the nation through the turbulent early years of the 60's. Barack Obama has received the support of the Kennedy family and has promised change that could inspire America out of its current lethargy. Or 2008 might be compared to 1992 when, after years of Republican leadership, the US economy had deteriorated badly ("It's the economy, stupid!") and a Clinton was called upon to rectify the errors of a Bush. This might happen again, particularly as the US is on the brink of a possible recession. What does this mean for Israel? The good news is that both in Hillary Clinton and in Barack Obama, the Democrats are proposing candidates who are good for Israel. Both candidates understand the importance of Israel as a strong and reliable ally in this volatile region, Israel's need for security and the need for a Palestinian partner who earnestly desires peace and is capable of carrying out its commitments. Either candidate, if elected president, will offer a sympathetic ear and a helping hand to Israel. The excitement generated in the Democratic race thus far augurs well for a Democratic victory in November. The writer is Counsel to Democrats Abroad Israel