The Democratic Party’s “superdelegates” have been in the news lately as a potential base of support for Hillary Clinton in what may be a long battle with Bernie Sanders for the presidential nomination. I agree entirely with Pat Rynard that talking about superdelegates as Clinton’s “firewall” plays perfectly into the Sanders campaign narrative of anti-establishment warrior. Furthermore, I support eliminating superdelegates, which came into being before the 1984 presidential campaign as a way to give party insiders more leverage over the nominating process.
Since we’re stuck with superdelegates for this cycle, I’ve named Iowa’s likely representatives below. The Democratic National Committee has yet to confirm the list but is expected to do so next month.
The idea behind introducing superdelegates was to prevent a popular but unelectable candidate like George McGovern from winning the Democratic nomination for president. For more than twenty years, superdelegates remained an obscure part of DNC rules. But during the hard-fought 2008 battle between Clinton and Barack Obama, controversy erupted over the possibility of superdelegates handing the nomination to Clinton even if Obama won a majority of pledged delegates in primaries and caucuses.
After that campaign, the DNC considered but ultimately rejected a reform proposal to eliminate the superdelegates. Instead, party leaders adopted “a compromise, whereby superdelegates will keep their powers but will have their collective influence diluted from about 20 percent of voting delegates to about 15 percent.”
Iowa had twelve superdelegates in 2008 but will have only eight this year. [UPDATE: As explained below, that number shrank to seven.] The Iowa Democratic Party provided the following list of likely superdelegates. As mentioned above, they have not yet been confirmed by the DNC.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire
Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair Danny Homan
Senate Majority Leader and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Chair Mike Gronstal
U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack
DNC Member: Scott Brennan
DNC Member: Sandy Opstvedt
At-Large Member: Jan Bauer
National Democratic County Officials: Linda Langston
McGuire has been officially neutral during this presidential election cycle but was a high-profile Clinton endorser before the 2008 Iowa caucuses.
Gronstal endorsed Clinton the day before the caucuses at a rally in Council Bluffs.
Loebsack made his support for Clinton official at a Labor Day picnic last September.
Brennan is a former Iowa Democratic Party chair who participated in the first “Ready for Hillary” event in Des Moines two years ago. He officially endorsed Clinton the week before this year’s caucuses. His wife, West Des Moines School Board member Liz Brennan, made her support for Clinton public last summer.
Opstvedt is a prominent figure in organized labor circles and supported Clinton before the 2008 caucuses as well as this year.
Linn County supervisor Langston was included on the same Iowa women for Hillary list.
Many superdelegates who originally committed to Clinton during the 2008 cycle changed their preference as it became clear Obama would be the party’s nominee, and the same could happen this year if Sanders continues to rack up victories. But for now, it appears that Clinton will have a clean sweep of Iowa’s superdelegates.
UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Bauer’s comments to the Washington Post last spring about “waiting to see how aggressively pursued I am” partly inspired this Bleeding Heartland post about “prairie prima donnas.”
MAY UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user iowaprogressives noted in the comments,
Linda Langston apparently stepped down in her position as NaCo President and has lost her superdelegate status as a result. This year Iowa will only have seven superdelegates according to Christian Ucles, Convention Director for the Iowa Democratic Party.
The National Association of Counties announced in March that “former NACo President Linda Langston will join NACo as the association’s director of strategic relations. After serving as a Linn County, Iowa supervisor for more than 13 years, Langston plans to resign and will begin her new role at NACo on April 18.”