Brokered Convention Not As Likely, Or As Messy, As Once Thought

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Feb 06, 2008 at 11:45

( - promoted by Chris Bowers)

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.  
Chris Bowers :: Brokered Convention Not As Likely, Or As Messy, As Once Thought
  1. 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.

  2. 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.  

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This is what a lot of us figured already (4.00 / 3)
But it's good to have your due diligence to verify that we were correct.

Now have a beer, my friend, and get ready for the next few rounds.

Agreed. (0.00 / 0)
I've been arguing that if either gets 55% of the pledged delegates, I can't see the SuperD's not breaking with that candidate.  Even if it's only 53%, I think they'd break that way; so long as there is at least 5 percentage points between the top and bottom place finisher, I would think there would be substantial pressure for the SuperD's to break for the winner.  Below 5%, I'm not sure there would be enough.  

And if Mr. Bowers reads this, I would suggest a different nomenclature:  it might be a brokered nomination, without its' being a brokered convention.  I think the party leaders would probably make it clear before we get to August which way they are going to break, and would work to pressure the candidates into some kind of resolution before the nationally televised convention.  Too many people want to win this year, and want it too badly, for anybody to be willing to have a floor fight for the whole world to see.  

[ Parent ]
And if the margin is less than 100 (4.00 / 2)
then it probably won't be that messy anyway, because then the race will be pretty much a tie anyway, given all the error introduced by apportionment and caucuses.  Letting superdelgates decide it in that case is essentially a tiebreaker, but one that is nicely decided beforehand.

I'm actually way more comfortable with superdelegates deciding it than making some weird rule about MI and FL.

How do you know this for sure? (4.00 / 2)
"Most super delegates are, in fact, waiting to see which way the wind blows before solidifying their endorsements."

Most of the super delegates are random DNC people -- more than half. I wonder if they might be a different story than the electeds, who I think would be easier to hold accountable with the kind of public pressure you are talking about.

I guess I'm saying I wouldn't rest so quickly. :) It seems like it could still get pretty ugly, and I really don't know at this moment what kind of pressure would sway a random party person who is not accountable to anyone.

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

I don't intend on resting (0.00 / 0)
But mainly I'm think that when Clinton built her large super delegate lead, just as when Dean built his in 2003, she was ahead in the national polls. In other words, there seem to be strong signs that super delegates just go whichever way the winds blows.

But I don't intend on resting. It is important to keep the pressure up. Either vote your district, or vote how the nation voted. There might be some people who will spurn both, but hopefully not many.  

[ Parent ]
Wind isn't the only factor (4.00 / 1)
How many of the superdelegates are paid consultants to the campaigns or own companies that are vendors hired by the campaigns?

Voter Genome Project

[ Parent ]
relationships (0.00 / 0)
I would think relationships have more to do with Clinton's early lead in super delegates. My experience in party politics tells me that ideology would also be a key factor in who the national DNC members would support, and that decision may have been more difficult with Edwards in the race. What do you think based on your party work?

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

[ Parent ]
No Rest for the Weary! (0.00 / 0)
Yup, don't rest.  It is vitally important to have a ligitimate, democratic (small d) process.  

[ Parent ]
In the end, I believe (0.00 / 0)
the super delegates will have no say in the process. There's no way that the pledged state delegates, in a close race, are going to leave the final nominating decision to the likes of Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe and members of the DNC. An agreement will be made that whoever leads in the number of pledged delegates at the end of June should become the nominee.

There is absolutely no way delegates should be seated from either Michigan (where only one candidate was on the ballot) or Florida, where Obama or Edwards did not have the opportunity to campaign, hold rallies and build essential momentum throughout the state. The fact that Hillary is pushing for those delegates to be seated underscores the very issues I have with her candidacy.

[ Parent ]
credential committe members (0.00 / 0)
Question: Will Florida and Michigan have their members counted in the credentials committee?

I guess (0.00 / 0)
In a true "bylaws will eat themselves" moment, that would be a matter for the committee to decide.  

[ Parent ]
Fl & MI not on Credentials Commitee (0.00 / 0)
The Temporary Roll of the convention will not include Fl and MI, so neither will the Credentials Committee. But watch on thing. FL and MI will be dealt with serially. Lets say FL gets approved. Then FL could be added to the Committee, and then its easier to approve MI. Just one scenario that could play out.


[ Parent ]
also (0.00 / 0)
do you know how the district thing works with the DNC people? I guess it would go by county, since that's how party central committees are organized? Or maybe just by state?

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

Which districts? (0.00 / 0)
Which districts are you referring to?

[ Parent ]
I think she's referring to selecting credentials committee (0.00 / 0)
Namely how it's distributed. For example California gets 17 members on the committee but how does it divide its 17 members? Its pledged delegates were divided in a combination of district and at-large delegates but your post implies that this will be based on popular vote... I think that's the district issue she brings up (sorry for talking for someone else), or at least that's a question that came to my mind. If it is popular vote, how about caucuses that do not release (or even keep track?) of popular vote?

Finally, it'd be interesting to have a projection of the committee's makeup. I think, much like Nevada caucuses, it will be a tricky calculation. For close states, the ones with an odd number of committee members may be decisive.

[ Parent ]
re: which districts (0.00 / 0)
you said this:

"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."

And you are saying the superdelegates could be pressured to "vote their district." I would see that applying to the Congressmembers who are superdelegates, and you could apply states to Senators. But I'm not clear on what you think the pressure could look like for the DNC superdelegates? I was wondering if they represented a district, but as far as I can tell they are more like at-large style.

I also think "vote with the people" could be challenged with "vote for whoever won the most pledged delegates." So how would you handle that?

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

[ Parent ]
Oh (0.00 / 0)
I just meant the districts from which the elected officials and DNC members hail. That's all.

And if there is a difference between who won the popular vote and who won the most pledged delegates when all is said and done, then we are definitely going to the convention.  

[ Parent ]
This is what I always assumed; (0.00 / 0)
that if the remaining superdelegates didn't endorse Hillary when she was Inevitable, why would they start when she's losing among pledged delegates?

Better safe than sorry, though, so thanks for the research.

Phew. (0.00 / 0)
Glad that we are past contrived formulas for dividing the Mich. and Fla. straw delegates in a way that would determine the election.

John McCain doesn't care about Vets.

Well done (0.00 / 0)
You look after your due diligence don't you. I did not have it figured out. I also hear this, and so should all:

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 hope with all my toes, this goes like syrup on a pancake. I fear any path that does not go through this eye of the needle. I share your concern. Did all 500 sup's call you to pledge this vote pattern?





The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

Tie expected (0.00 / 0)
Apparently, Obama's camp is predicting a tie:

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama's campaign is forecasting that the Democratic presidential race will remain deadlocked after the primaries end, and the outcome may depend on a fight over whether delegations from Florida and Michigan are counted.

By the time the last primary is held June 7, Obama's advisers project he will have 1,806 delegates to 1,789 for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, according to a document outlining the scenario that was inadvertently attached to a release on delegate counts from yesterday's Super Tuesday primaries.

The forecast doesn't include Florida and Michigan, which were stripped of delegates by the Democratic National Committee for holding primaries ahead of the schedule set out by the party. Clinton, who won uncontested primaries in both states, is vowing a fight to have those delegates -- slated to be 366 in total -- seated at the nominating convention.

``This is only one of an infinite number of scenarios,'' Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said, adding that the release of the information was unintended.

Another issue is the so-called super delegates, 796 Democratic officials and officeholders who aren't bound by the results of primaries and caucuses. Obama's campaign projects about half will be pledged to either the Illinois senator or Clinton, and the rest could swing the nomination.

A Draw

After a year of campaigning and 26 contested primaries and caucuses since January, Obama and Clinton have essentially battled to a draw. After yesterday's Super Tuesday voting in 22 states across the country, the two candidates are separated by less than 30 delegates in the nomination race.

Obama's advisers are predicting victories in 19 of the remaining 27 Democratic primaries and caucuses, with Clinton winning the big states of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the campaign document. The final contest is a primary June 7 in Puerto Rico.

Before being penalized, Florida had a total of 210 convention delegates and Michigan had 156.

Clinton, 60, won half the popular vote in Florida's Jan. 29 primary, though none of the candidates publicly campaigned in the state. While she got 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, Obama withdrew his name from the ballot and the next highest vote went to uncommitted.

The campaign document shows Obama, 46, prevailing in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia in next week's primaries. Wins are also forecast in Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington.

Democratic Party rules call for dividing delegates proportionally based on the popular vote, and Obama's campaign anticipates a close race in most states to the end.

Just guessing... (4.00 / 1)
I think this is an attempt to make sure that the MI and FL delegation are not allowed in until we know what effect they will have. If Clinton is able to set this up as a disenfranchisement issue then she has the advantage. If Obama is able to define the seating of the delegates as essentially deciding the election, then he has the advantage.

Am I wrong?

[ Parent ]
No you're not wrong. (eom) (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
That is a strange thing to leak (0.00 / 0)
I doubt it was leaked unintentionally, but I don't know why. It is probably one of many scenarios out there, and not one that favors them. Strange stuff.  

[ Parent ]
expectations game? (0.00 / 0)
One thing that hurt Obama last night is that everyone overhyped polls and it started to look like a Clinton come-from-behind victory or something when she took MA and NJ by healthy margins.  By setting the bar low for OH and TX, if he wins one, or both, he can effectively deliver the knockout blow.  But the expectation has to be that he'll lose.

Just a thought.

Insert shameless blog promotion here.

[ Parent ]
this .. (4.00 / 1)
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.

I thought it also had to do with 1968 .. and the party elders didn't want the rabble making what they thought would be a really bad choice

Welcome to Chillaxobamamanialandia (0.00 / 0)
Put your feet up. Have a home brew :-)

Dean claims an intervention would happen... (0.00 / 0)
From DNC Chair Howard Dean, via CNN:

"If there is no nominee selected by his predicted mid-spring date, or by Puerto Rico's June vote - the last presidential primary on the Democratic calendar - Dean said the party would likely bring both sides together to work out a deal.

"Because I don't think we can afford to have a brokered convention," he said. "That would not be good news for either party."

I wonder what sort of deal would, or could, be worked out under such a scenario.  

Anyone else watching this? (4.00 / 1)

Since mid-december I've been looking at this every day, it's really fascinating:

It's almost like a momentum-meter for the campaign...

[ Parent ]
Puerto Rico (4.00 / 1)
A strange thought occurred to me...
If the closeness of this race continues indefinitely, isn't there a chance that Obama and Clinton could find themselves campaigning in Puerto Rico?  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

Top Clinton Staffers Going Without Pay (0.00 / 0)

Top Clinton Staffers Going Without Pay

[ Parent ]
Good work here (0.00 / 0)
I guess I can delete my diary.

The Politics of Bruno S.

How can I find out how my district voted? (0.00 / 0)
I'm in California, CA-37, and my rep. is Laura Richardson, a member of the CBC.  CA-37 has a large black population, and I would wager that my district went for Obama.  Yet Laura Richardson has committed herself to Clinton before the primary.

What are my district's primary results?

Find out how your county or district voted (0.00 / 0)
Here are the county results for CA:

Here are the district results for CA:

[ Parent ]
Pledged delegate questions: (0.00 / 0)
Can anyone here answer these?

1. What prevents pledged delegates from voting for a candidate other than their pledged candidate? (Chapter and verse from some rule book would be appreciated.)

2. What will the status of Edwards delegates be? Are they going to be held for the first ballot, and then free? Will they be free agents from the get-go? Will they be obliged to go along with an Edwards endorsement?

The Pledge is Moral & Political, not Legal (0.00 / 0)
Yet, there are virtually no cases where these pledges have been violated, but nobody would go to jail if they voted for somebody else.  This harkens back to the Kennedy vs. Carter rules fight of 1980.  Some delegates might, in throry, vote against thier candidate on rules or credentials fights but that strategy failed for Ted Kennedy in 1980.  Carter had the numbers that year.  If it had been closer Kennedy might have made some headway.

[ Parent ]
pledged delegates (0.00 / 0)
From the Call to the Convention:

All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.

Thats it. They can vote for anyone they want to. But remember, these are very loyal delegates. (Note: There are some state rules that require delegates to vote for their candidate, but they've never been tested and its not clear they would be uphold on the floor of the convention).

Like all other pledged delegates, Edwards delegates can vote for who they want. They can follow an Edwards endorsement or not.

There is no first-ballot binding for delegates. That rule was removed in 1982.


[ Parent ]
The Edwards delegates are an interesting question... (0.00 / 0)

Does he keep them?  If so, and they are then allowed to vote for their choice - I'm going to guess they all go for Obama.

Edwards campaign chairs have mostly all gone to Obama.  His online groups have mostly all endorsed Obama.  The unions that endorsed Edwards have mostly all endorsed Obama.

So, I think it follows that his delegates would trend that way.


[ Parent ]
Path to Winning the White House (0.00 / 0)
Do you see the Democratic path to a November presidential election success going through South Carolina, Utah, North Dakota, Alabama, etc., or New York, California, Florida, Michigan, etc.?  

I don't want to turn Florida away from our side, remember 2000?  Or Michigan, either!  

Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will be key pointers where this will end up.

We sure don't want four years of a Bush clone!

No Worry. (0.00 / 0)
Democrats in Florida won't be voting republican in November because their states nominating delegates were stripped.

Same for Michigan.

[ Parent ]
Really? (0.00 / 0)
So all the MI/FL voters who voted for Hillary, and hypothetically saw her denied the nomination solely because MI and FL didn't count, 100% of those voters will show up for Obama anyway?

Are you sure none of them will be a teeny bit upset?

[ Parent ]
well, (4.00 / 1)
I suppose if they like the war, they can vote for McCain.

[ Parent ]
Unbelievable Obama fundraising today, chance to break Ron Paul's single day record (0.00 / 0)
Obama has already nearly raised $5 million today online.  His campaign went from $3.8m to $4.8m in under an hour.  There is a great chance of Obama breaking the single day record of $6 million set by Ron Paul.

Obama's small donor, activist base is as enthused as it ever was.  This is big news.

Obama raises over $6 million in one day, sets new fundraising record (0.00 / 0)
Extraordinary day for Barack Obama.  At 11:59, his small donor, activist base pushed his fundraising total for the day above $6 million.  This breaks Ron Paul's single day record set on December 16 of last year.

A great day for Obama, and people powered politics.

I know this isn't specifically relevant to Chris' post, but I just wanted to make sure he saw it.

[ Parent ]
Will review the SD transparency watch. h/t (0.00 / 0)

setting the bar too high (0.00 / 0)
You write: "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."

If Florida and Michigan were to count, and the Michigan "uncommitted" delegates assigned to Obama (only fair because to vote "uncommitted" in Michigan was to vote against Hillary Clinton), Clinton would not pick up 100 delegates.

Florida was originally going to get 210 delegates including supers, or about 173 pledged delegates (going by NY's ratio). But Obama would get many of these delegates, and Edwards would get some too (he was 14% state-wide but over 15% in many counties).

In Michigan, Hillary got 55% of the vote, to 40% for uncommitted.  You can't give an uncommitted delegate from Michigan to Hillary, because the voter had the chance to vote for her and chose not to, preferring "none of the above".  There would be about 128 pledged delegates from Michigan.

I think that the best Hillary would do if these 301 delegates were seated would be to get 60% of them, so she'd get 180 to Obama's 120.  To me, that means that the number needed to raise a stink would be around 60.  If Obama wins by more than that, even giving Hillary the pledged delegates she "won", with no penalty at all, won't suffice.


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