The People Who Really Matter
I'm writing this from inside a time warp—from a moment that occurred shortly before the Super Tuesday results came in, but more than a day before the paper you're holding came out. Got that? I'm not even sure I do.
But I know this much: Washington's Democratic caucuses are likely to be very important this year, and the more important our Democratic caucuses become, the more important it becomes for liberal voters to understand a facet of the nomination fight that happens completely outside the caucus process: the race for superdelegate endorsements.
Washington will send 97 delegates to this fall's Democratic National Convention in Denver. However, only 80 of those delegates will be chosen through our caucuses on February 9. The other 17 delegates are so-called superdelegates, elected officials or party functionaries who get an automatic spot at the convention and whose votes are tied to nothing but their own whims and convictions.
If the race for the Democratic nomination is not decided by the results of Super Tuesday or after the subsequent 14 primary days through June 7 (delegate rich Ohio and Pennsylvania come in March and April, for example), then superdelegates are going to emerge as key players in the nomination fight.
Nationally, there are 796 superdelgates (as opposed to more than 3,200 normal delegates). In Washington, as mentioned above, there are 17. So which way are our state's superdelegates leaning? Right now Clinton has the superdelegate lead, with five of them committed to supporting her campaign: Sen. Maria Cantwell, former House Speaker Tom Foley, Rep. Jay Inslee, Sen. Patty Murray, and King County Executive Ron Sims. Obama has only two: Democratic National Committee member Pat Notter and Rep. Adam Smith.
But 10 Washington superdelegates remain undecided, which means winning the superdelegate vote in our state is still a possibility for either side. As we head into the Washington caucuses, two fence-sitting superdelegates are of particular interest: Gov. Christine Gregoire, who has promised to make her decision before the caucuses, and Rep. Jim McDermott, who has not. Not only do these two have the potential to tilt the superdelegate tally, but they may have the ability to sway the decisions of caucus-goers. Which way will they go? Stay tuned—or, if you're really fired up, give their offices a call and bend their ears. They're elected officials, after all.