No guessing about one super delegate

February 20, 2008 2:49:02 PM PST
The Democratic nomination for president could come down to a vote-by-vote struggle for superdelegates. But while Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her delegate advantage over Barack Obama, she knows she can bank on one superdelegate no matter what.

Bill Clinton is guaranteed a spot as a superdelegate: Safe to say his wife gets his vote. With the two candidates separated by fewer than 100 delegates, every vote counts.

So, is it an unfair edge to be married to a super-duper-delegate, a former two-term president, the last Democrat to hold the office and a leader who's still wildly popular within the party?

Critics have said the unpledged superdelegate system can overturn the wishes of voters and grass-roots political movements.

Those nearly 800 lawmakers, governors and party officials who wear the tag superdelegate could tip the nomination to one candidate even if the other gets more votes in primaries and caucuses.

Unlike pledged delegates won through a primary or a caucus, superdelegates can vote for whomever they choose, and they are not beholden to vote for the candidate they endorse.

"I don't think it's going to come down to the president's vote, but as he has said many times, he would be supporting her even if they weren't married," Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said in a written statement.

A spokesman for Obama declined to comment.

Obama leads in the latest Associated Press count of delegates although Clinton still maintains an edge with superdelegates.

Political analysts don't see the former president's role as superdelegate as a problem.

"I don't think the status of superdelegate gives Bill Clinton any more power to influence the outcome of the election than it would if he were not a president," said Doug Muzzio, a politics professor at Baruch College in New York. "The objection is obvious, the guy's wife is running for president and he's voting for her, but he's one of 796."

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, doesn't object to Clinton the superdelegate. She worries more about his dual roles as a former president and party leader who happens to be married to one of the candidates.

"People will be more responsive to him than virtually anybody else," Lerner said.