What is a super delegate?

February 15, 2008 2:46:11 PM PST
In addition to the pledged delegates awarded in primaries and caucuses, there are nearly 800 un-pledged delegates who are free to back any candidate at the convention.

Here's look at how these super delegates - 71 of them from California, could ultimately decide who gets the nomination.

When it comes to, Democratic delegates, not all are created equal.

On Super Tuesday, many voted for Senators Clinton or Obama and may not have realized their vote would be tallied by congressional district.

"And whoever wins the most votes in that congressional district gets the number of delegates that are allocated to that congressional district," said San Francisco State University political science professor David Tabb, Ph.D.

David Tabb is a political science professor at San Francisco State. He says that's how delegates get to go to the convention.

Guess who is also invited? Super delegates.

Chosen mainly by the national party, they include senators, governors, and national party leaders. Even former presidents can be super delegates.

The democrats created the super delegates system to weed out candidates with ideas that may seem too radical or those with little experience.

Senator George McGovern is a good example. He won the 1972 Democratic nomination but as a presidential candidate won only one state and the District of Columbia.

So the super delegates are there to make sure the democratic nominee has a good chance of landing in the White House.

Few people we spoke to have heard of super delegates.

"I understand the super delegates can change their minds later, not follow what they did originally that's about the best I know about that though," said Matt Ahern from San Francisco.

Many super delegates have yet to pledge their support for either candidate.

State Senator Carole Migden is one of them.

"It's very much an individual decision and there are just thousands of people in this country who find themselves in this position and there will be a lot of jockeying and elbowing to secure those votes," said State Senator Carole Migden.

For the first time ever, the role of the super delegate may matter.

"They may be important because no one candidate, neither Obama nor Clinton has a majority of the total delegates needed," Said Tabb

Super delegates account for nearly 20-percent of all votes at the convention.