Why Do Republican and Democratic Delegates Matter?
I remember Mike Huckabee saying after a Republican Presidential primary loss that his campaign still had steam and relevance as long as he was amassing delegates.
Today, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards will announce that they are stopping the campaigns for President of the United States. Edwards has amassed 26 delegates to-date while
Giuliani has amassed 1 delegate. What happens to these delegates once the candidate drops out of the race? That answer to follow but first let’s talk about the definition of a delegate.
What is a delegate?
A delegate, typically referred to as a pledged delegate, is a state or locally -elected or -chosen individual who will vote for a specific candidate at the national convention. In other words, given John Edwards’ 26 delegates to-date, it is assumed that pledged delegates will vote John Edwards as the Democratic Parties national convention in Denver. Pledged democratic delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate they’re thought to be voting for (Republican pledged delegates must indicate candidate choice). However, candidates are the convention can review and eliminate delegates they think will not cote their way. Kind of a checks and balances selection process here. Democratic party superdelegates comprise a small percentage of the total delegate field and are comprised of unelected people such as Congressmen, governors, national committee members and national party leaders – even including past Presidents and Vice Presidents. The Republican party does not have superdelegates; rather, they have unpledged delegates who are not required to indicate a candidate preference. The unpledged delegate group is a high profile group, similar to the superdelegate group in the Democratic party in that they are comprised of national Republican party leaders.
The Democratic Party has a total of 4,049 delegates, 3,253 (or 80%) of which are pledged and 796 of which are superdelegates.
The Republican Party has a total of 2,380 delegates, 1,917 (or 80%) of which are pledged and 463 of which are superdelegates.
How Are Delegates Awarded?
The Democratic Party Awards delegates proportionate to the percentage of votes they receive in a primary. For instance, Clinton won 39% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary and therefore was awarded 39% of the 22 delegates available (9 delegates). A candidate, however, must win at least 15% of the vote to be awarded a delegate.
The Republican Party does not require that a candidate receive at least 15% of the primary vote to be awarded delegates. Typically, a candidate is awarded delegates in proportion to the amount of popular votes received.
What Happens With a Retired Candidate’s Delegates?
It appears to be a state-by-state process but the sentiment is that Democratic pledged delegates are not forced to vote for the candidate that earned them, regardless of whether that candidate is in the race or not. However, as politics goes, delegates will be persuaded to follow the lead of their candidate in pledging their delegate vote to another candidate. As an example, today John Edwards is dropping out of the race and has not pledged his support to Obama or Clinton – not yet anyway. Edwards has amassed 26 delegates so it would be assumed that they 1) remain loyal to Edwards and vote him at the national convention (remember, Democratic delegates do not need to pledge intentions), 2) transfer support to whomever Edwards supports (said to be noone or Obama, Clinton is tied to Washington establishment that Edwards rails against), or 3) go their own way and vote their conscience.
Republican pledged delegates must state voting intentions. Therefore, it is assumed that the intention of Giuliani’s 1 delegate will be known shortly. Giuliani will support McCain today so his delegate will probably move over to McCain, who has already amassed 95 pledged delegates.