Democratic race, all eyes on delegates

February 20, 2008 7:29:24 PM PST
The race between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton is so close, it is all but mathematically impossible for either candidate to lock up the nomination on their own. That's why so much attention is being paid to superdelegates.

It's not that reporters like to play worst case scenario, but the fact that the Democrats have a very close race has forced the question -- what now?

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have racked up impressive numbers of votes. However, it is looking increasingly likely that the Democrat's choice for the presidential nomination will be made at the convention by delegates who can switch their allegiances -- or not.

I asked political science professor, Mellisa Michelson, what will happen if the delegates pick the candidate that didn't win the popular vote.

"I don't know if it would cost them the election, but it might make a lot of voters feel disenfranchised. It might make them stay home and it might make it closer than it needs to be," says Michelson.

Michelson's expertise is political behavior. She says it would be a disaster for the Democratic party. So, you'd think that party officials would be quick to say it won't happen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi side stepped the question.

"I think that the delegates each will make his or her own decision related to his or her own state his or her own experience," says Nancy Pelosi, (D) Speaker of the House.

State Senator, Carol Migden, didn't ever say yes or no.

"I believe each delegate should follow his or her conscience and not without question. I don't believe delegates or superdelegates will want to intercept what becomes a popular nominee," says Migden.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has endorsed Hillary Clinton and doesn't feel that the superdelegates should follow the majority vote.

"They should follow their own gut and instinct. I mean, they were elected to do what they thought was right."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will only say that she doesn't think it will happen, that delegates, super or otherwise, will vote to nominate the candidate that came in second.

"I have confidence that this will fall into place. You are just going to have to relax and wait and not declare it over that nobody can get the number of delegates and maybe they won't, but somebody will be ahead."

South Bay Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a superdelegate committed to Barack Obama, agrees.

"I think that's going to happen it won't be the one who got the least amount of votes."

However, it has happened before.

"In 1968, the party insiders nominated Heubert Humphrey instead of the popular candidate and we had rioting in the streets and violence on the streets of Chicago," says Michelson.

What the Democratic Party leadership hopes is that one of the candidates will rack up a big enough lead that it'll be obvious that the other candidate should withdraw.