Who are the Superdelegates?

February 3, 2008

by CB Buchholz

Our Deaf Voter Education page drew a lot of attention from our readers and also many questions on the differences between pledged delegates and superdelegates. The two most common questions were these — who were the superdelegates, and how did the Democratic National Committee come up with a huge group of superdelegates? Time for a civics lesson here!!

There are 852 super delegates, roughly 40 percent of the amount of delegates needed to win the nomination. The superdelegates are defined as unpledged delegates who legally reside in their respective states and are recognized as part of their state’s delegation. They include:

* members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)

* if applicable, the Democratic President and the Democratic Vice President of the United States

* all Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives and all Democratic members of the United States Senate

* all the Democratic governors, if applicable.

* all former Democratic Presidents (Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter), all former Democratic Vice Presidents (Walter Mondale and Al Gore), all former Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders (Dick Gephardt), as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is composed of the chairs and vice-chairs of each state Democratic Party Committee, plus two hundred members apportioned among the states based on population, plus a number of elected officials serving in an ex-officio capacity, and a variety of representatives of major Democratic Party constituencies, some of who are appointed by party chairman Howard Dean.

In the last half of the 20th century, the Democratic Party suffered several presidential election losses. The primary voters chose George McGovern as the Democratic nominee who lost in a Richard Nixon landslide of 1972, before the Watergate scandal erupted. Then in 1976, Jimmy Carter ran as a dark horse Democratic nominee who scored an upset victory over President Gerald Ford.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter survived a challenge by Senator Edward Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, only to be landslided by Ronald Reagan in the November election. Four years later, Reagan landslided yet another Democratic nominee, Walter Mondale. Then we saw Michael Dukakis get clobbered by George “Poppa” Bush in 1988.

By then, the Democratic Party leaders wanted a new system where they could influence the nominating process and block the nomination from a candidate they thought was “unwinnable.” They figured that if they had such mechanism in place during the 1970s, they could have blocked Jimmy Carter’s nomination which in turn would have prevented a series of election losses occuring since then. Thus, the system of pledged delegates and superdelegates was created.

Many people have made claims that with the delegate/superdelegate system, the Democratic Party ran the risk of alienating millions of Americans who participated in the primary/caucus process. As one website explained this — Many see the (superdelegate) system as undemocratic… It was set up as a safety net for party leaders to correct a ‘mistake’ by the voters. When this system was being devised in the late 1980s, Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee was quoted as saying, “It’s a risk, but when you lose 49 states, it’s time to take some risks.”

Only time will tell if this delegate/superdelegate system really works to the benefit of the Democratic Party, in terms of picking candidates with the “right stuff” and winning presidential elections.

Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors



  1. Well written, CB. Even though you and I are co-bloggers here, I still continue to be amazed at what I DON’T know and your wonderful knack of finding these types of information….I’m constantly learning! 🙂

    Keep ’em coming!

  2. Is Joe Lieberman a Democratic superdelegate?

    I wouldn’t think so, but I can’t find any evidence that he definitely isn’t one.


    Hello there,

    You presented an excellent question and that caused us to pause and think on it. We now say that Joe Lieberman is NOT a Democratic superdelegate because the one of the Democratic Party rules clearly states — “all Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives and all Democratic members of the Untied States Senate.” Joe Lieberman did not get elected to his current Senate term as Democratic but as an independent; therefore he will not be counted as a superdelegate because officially speaking, he is not a member of the Democratic Party. Morever, he is ACTIVELY campaigning for John McCain!

    Again, thanks for your excellent question!
    — The DEAF DEMOCRATS editors

  3. The superdelegates need to support Hillary. Obama cannot win over McCain at the Election. The frenzy surrounding Obamarama hyperbole is like when you see a fabulous pair of shoes in a window, you want to try, on and walk around the store in but when you come to purchase you leave with Burkenstoks or some other familiar and comfortable to wear shoe. Trust in the superdelegates to do what is best for the party to win at the election.

  4. I AM concerned about that. I would much rather see a Hillary/Obama team than Obama alone. Much as I think he would be good for the country, I agree he just isn’t ready, lack of experience is one.

    I think the young people out there don’t really understanding fully their own power. They’re voting for an image. We are looking at the pager/cell phone/internet generation. Communication is immediate and since they are still young and impressionable, they tend to fluctuate. I could be wrong, but I do remember my time, when I first voted in the California primary back in 1972. My thoughts then, were simply for the passage of certain bills going to the state legislature the hell with voting for whomever. I didn’t fully understand the issues at the time because I had other things on my mind.

    Today the young people have all the communication tools within reach. They can talk, share and express what is important to them.

    So, if Obama wins the nomination, I hope the Secret Service is prepared to seriously PROTECT him . I so fear something may happen. Sigh!

  5. does president bush have a secret service because to me he really does need it globably?


    Yes, President Bush receives Secret Service protection. Once he became president in 2000, he and his wife were entrusted into Secret Service protection and this protection will remain in effect for the rest of their lives until their deaths. Their daughters also are entrusted into Secret Service protection but only up until their parents leave the White House next year. Also, the Bushes’ ranch in Crawford, Texas has been designed to accomodate the Secret Service agents.

    — the DEAF DEMOCRATS editors

  6. Senator Joe Lieberman cannot even vote in the primaries because he is Independent.
    He has already endorsed Republican McCain.

  7. There is a parallel between today’s Obama-Billary and the early Sixtieis’s Beatles whom Americans — in John Lennon’s words — worshipped “more than Jesus.” Political analysts observe that Obama is eclipsed whenever Billy is at Hillary’s side. Some analysts say that Obama’s Change and Hillary’s Solutions are empty. Obama is being unrealistic for wanting to privatise the Social Security. Kennedy was upset about Hillary’s neglecting to read Bush’s fine prints in a health bill and rubber-stamping aye on Bush’s health bill. Also, she was the reason for over 20 million uninsured Americans after designing the reform for Bill Clinton a health bill co-crafted by Newton Gingrich in 1990s. Now over 45 million uninsured Americans. Hillary still never regrets for voting for Bush’s unjustified war!

    Obama has not served a governor, as a senator for more than three years, or met with world stateswomen/men. Scanty experience about foreign affairs.

    Vote for the less evil. For whom? Hillary. If Obama won, America would vote for M

  8. Sorry, I did not type the full name “M” in the last line — it is MCCAIN. 🙂

  9. I agree with you Jean,

    there’s a lot of press out there saying that the GOP are saying “A vote for Obama is a vote for McCain…”

    Now see, I don’t want another four years of Bush.

    Der Sankt

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