Superdelegates in the 2008 presidential primaries

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"Superdelegate" is an informal term for some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the quadrennial convention of the United States Democratic Party.

Unlike most convention delegates, the superdelegates are not selected based on the party primary primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state. Instead, the superdelegates are seated automatically, based solely on their status as current or former elected officeholders and party officials. They are free to support any candidate for the nomination.

The Democratic Party rules do not use the term "superdelegate". The formal designation (in Rule 9.A) is "unpledged party leader and elected official delegates".[1] In addition to these unpledged "PLEO" delegates, the state parties choose other unpledged delegates (Rule 9.B) and pledged PLEO delegates (Rule 9.C).[1] This article discusses only the unpledged PLEO delegates.

The Republican Party also seats some party officials as delegates without regard to primary or caucus results, but the term "superdelegate" is most commonly applied only in the Democratic Party.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention the superdelegates will make up approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates. The unforeseen and unprecedented closeness of the race between the leading contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama following Super Tuesday has focused attention on the potential role of the superdelegates in selecting the Democratic nominee, inasmuch as in the aggregate they could come to be kingmakers to a degree not seen in previous election cycles. [2] Such an outcome would result in the first brokered convention since 1952.

Types of superdelegates

The Democratic Party rules distinguish between pledged and unpledged delegates, with the selection of the former being based on their announced preferences in the contest for the presidential nomination. In the party primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state, voters express their preference among the contenders for the party’s nomination for President of the United States. Pledged delegates supporting each candidate are chosen in approximate ratio to their candidate’s share of the vote. In some states, the delegates so chosen are legally required to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, at least on the first ballot at the convention. By contrast, the superdelegates, selected by virtue of their status as current or former elected officeholders and party officials, without regard to their presidential preferences, are all unpledged delegates. Many of them have chosen to announce endorsements, but they are not bound in any way. They may support any candidate they wish, including one who has dropped out of the presidential race. There are also "unpledged add-on delegates" selected under Rule 9.B and "pledged party leader and elected official delegates" selected under rule 9.C.

The process of selecting delegates is described here and here. To sum up, the Democratic Party's delegates fall into seven categories:

  • District-level delegates
  • At-large delegates
  • Unpledged party-leader delegates
  • Unpledged elected-official delegates
  • Pledged party-leader delegates
  • Pledged elected-official delegates
  • Unpledged add-on delegates

Both the Democratic and Republican party have a number of state level unpledged delegates that are chosen by each state's party through convention, caucus, or state party leader vote (depending on how that particular state-party body has decided to choose them)[11]. The state level unpledged delegates tend to vote for the candidate who received the most votes from their state (although they are not required to and some state parties give them more leeway than others). Many state Republican party delegations are made up entirely of unpledged delegates which gives them the distinction "winner take all". Even with these traditions, unpledged delegates are allowed to change their vote at any time before the national convention. This is why both the Republican and Democratic parties have the potential for a brokered convention. This is far less likely for the Republican party where the traditions are more strict and there are far fewer unpledged delegates who are given a free hand.

Add-on superdelegates

Add-on superdelegates are named on a schedule lasting from February 2008 to June 2008.

Main article: 2008 Democratic Add-on Superdelegate Calendar

Articles and resources

Collection of LiteraryOutpost articles on the creation of the Superdelegate Transparency Project and various updates.

Collection of Open Left reporting by Chris Bowers on the role of superdelegates in the Democratic nomination process.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Democratic National Committee, "Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention," August 19, 2006 (accessed February 8, 2008).
  2. Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse, "Neck and Neck, Democrats Woo Superdelegates," February 10, 2008 (accessed February 14, 2008)

External resources

  • DemConWatch - Best source for superdelegate endorsement info.
  • USAToday Election Central - Probably the best resource for votes. Pledged PL/EOs and At-Large delegates are shown at the bottom.
  • - Adobe Acrobat document with full listing of superdelegates broken out by state and then type.
  • CapitalEye - Lists campaign contributions in last cycle.
  • - State political party links (the Washington Post link above should give complete information. However, if you need to follow up, try these links.
  • -'s page showing superdelegate status. If you click on the '+' icon for any state/territory, the list will expand and show the commitments. WARNING - This should not be considered a valid source for updating the table. It is however useful as a reference for finding source material. For instance, you can use a Google's news search to confirm a superdelegate's status as it is shown on
  • - Links to Secretary of State offices (for official election results).
  • Wikipedia's page on superdelegates - This list may supplement the info available at DemConWatch. Watch out for unsourced information, though.

External articles

Some of the information on this page is adapted from the superdelegates article on Wikipedia and is used here under the terms of the GFDL.[link title]