After conducting further research, in the extended entry I provide the best information and advice I can give on the possibility of, and what to do in the case of, an indeterminate outcome in the presidential nominating events that will take place before the convention.
Super Delegates. Most super delegates are, in fact, waiting to see which way the wind blows before solidifying their endorsements. As long as there is a candidate with a clear edge in both pledged delegates and voter support during the nomination contests, in all likelihood the super delegates will back that candidate. While, as both pledged delegate totals and dueling popularity metrics show, we have not arrived at that point, odds are that we will arrive at that point by June 4th, the day after the nominating contests come to an end. It does not have to be a large advantage, just as long as it is a clear advantage.
The original purpose behind the expansion of the role of super delegates in the convention was to guarantee greater participation in the convention by elected Democratic officials. In 1976, for example, only 14% of Democratic members of Congress actually attended the convention. Instead of forcing Democratic elected officials to run as delegates, which would actually deny a number of grassroots activists places at the convention (who is going to win an election for delegate in your congressional district, you or your U.S. Senator?), many Democratic elected officials and DNC members were simply granted an automatic spot at the convention. This was also designed to create more cohesion within the party leadership, which was sorely lacking in the 1970's.
This cycle, Clinton built her large super delegate lead during a time when she was comfortably leading national polls for the nomination. Basically, the super delegates were just blowing with the wind. As such, it seems more likely than not that Clinton's lead in this category will crumble if and when Obama takes a clear lead in pledged delegates and popular support from primary and caucus participants. Still, it is worthwhile to put pressure on super delegates to either support the candidate who had the most popular support in the given super delegate districts, or to support the candidate with the most popular support nationwide. The Super Delegate Transparency project is a good vehicle to use for this campaign. I will write more about it later, and urge everyone to check it out.
Michigan and Florida. Between now and June, the Michigan and Florida state parties will put together delegations for the national convention. Starting in mid-June, the credentials committee alone will have sole purview to accept or reject either all or part of those delegations.
The credentials committee is composed of 186 members, twenty-five of whom have already been chosen by Howard Dean. The other 161 members come from the states, proportionally based on population. Every state and territory will have at least one member, and California will have the most with 17. Click here for a complete credentials committee allocation list. In every state, committee members are delegates to the national convention chosen by the presidential campaigns. The number of committee members each campaign is allowed to select is based on the popular results of the state in question. If, for example, state X has 4 members on the committee, and state X split 50-50 during the nomination contest, then each presidential campaign chooses two members from state X for the committee.
Because of this system, the composition of the credentials committee will itself be a pretty decent reflection of the performance of the two presidential candidates nationwide. As such, accepting or rejecting either all or part of the delegations sent by the Michigan and Florida Democratic parties will also reflect candidate performance nationwide. In other words, winning nationwide outside of Michigan and Florida will almost certainly result in winning the credentials fight over Michigan and Florida.
So, there you have it. The only way we will faced with a brokered convention that produces a nominee with questionable legitimacy is if no clear popular vote or pledged delegate leader emerges at the end of the primary and caucus season. Basically, I think this means that if Obama wins pledged delegates, but does so outside of Michigan and Florida by less than 100, we are in for a real mess. Otherwise, the process should work pretty well, and I have probably been panicking unnecessarily. Hopefully, either Clinton or Obama will emerge a clear winner even without Michigan and Florida combined, and we will have nothing to worry about.
Phew. Now, I feel as though I can take a calming breath, and not worry about either super delegates or Michigan and Florida for a while. There is a procedure to handle Michigan and Florida, and that procedure will reflect the performance of candidates in other states. While there is a remote possibility that super delegates could decide to screw over the rank and file en masse, we can use Super Delegate Transparency Watch as a pressure campaign to make sure that doesn't happen. Check it out, and get involved. I'll have more on it later, but for now, it is back to our too close to call nomination campaign that is already in progress.