How delegates are selected

The Democratic and Republican nominees for the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election are decided in a series of state-by-state contests. The key to winning the nomination for each party is ultimately not about the popular vote, but about securing the number of delegates needed to win the nomination at each party's convention – July 18-21 in Cleveland for the Republicans and July 25-28 in Philadelphia for the Democrats.

The following is a guide to the nominating process:

Q: Is the delegate selection process the same for the Republican and Democratic parties?

A: No. The parties set their own rules. One thing that is the same is that at each party convention, a candidate needs to reach only a simple majority of the delegate votes to win the nomination.

Q: How many delegates are there?

A: The Democratic convention will be attended by about 4,763 delegates, with 2,382 delegates needed to win the nomination. The Republican convention will be attended by 2,472 delegates, with 1,237 delegates needed to win.

Q: I keep hearing about “superdelegates.” Are they different from other delegates? Do both the Republicans and Democrats have superdelegates?

A: Superdelegates, officially known as unpledged delegates, are a sort of wild card in the nominating process, but only the Democrats have them.

The category was created for the 1984 Democratic convention, and according to political scientists, they are a legacy of the 1980 convention when there was a fight for the nomination between President Jimmy Carter, who was seeking a second term in the White House, and Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Members of Congress were frustrated by their lack of influence, because delegates elected to support one candidate could not switch to support another. So Democratic members of the House of Representatives led an effort to win a role for themselves. That resulted in the creation of superdelegates. Unlike other delegates, superdelegates may change what candidate they are supporting right up to the convention.

There is no fixed number of superdelegates because the group is defined by various categories whose members change from one election cycle to another. Here is who gets to be a superdelegate: 

All Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; the Democratic governors; the Democratic president and vice president of the United States; former Democratic presidents and vice presidents; former Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate; former Democratic speakers of the House and former Democratic minority leaders. Throw in the members of the Democratic National Committee and the former chairs of the DNC and you finally have the whole pool of superdelegates.

Q: What about the other delegates? Do they get to choose which candidate to support?

A: Both the Democratic and Republican parties send delegates to their conventions based on the popular vote in the primary elections and caucuses held in each of the 50 states. But the parties have different rules on how delegates are allotted to a candidate.

The Democratic Party applies uniform rules to all states. In each state, delegates are allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary or caucus vote in each district. But a candidate must win at least 15 percent of the vote to be allocated any delegates.

The Republican Party lets states determine their own rules, although it does dictate some things. Some states award delegates proportionate to the popular vote, although most such states have a minimum percentage that a candidate must reach to win any delegates. Some other states use the winner-take-all method, in which the candidate with the highest percentage of the popular vote is awarded all the delegates. Other states use a combination of the two methods.

States that use the proportionate method may instead use the winner-take-all method if one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the popular vote. 

In addition, the Republican Party requires that all states with nominating contests held between March 1 and March 14 use the proportional method, meaning that all the states holding votes on Super Tuesday will have to award delegates proportionally. 

Q: What happens to delegates if a candidate drops out of the race?

A: Another good question, because we have certainly seen that happen this year.

For the Democratic Party, in every state, delegates are reallocated to the remaining candidates.

For the Republican Party, it varies by state. In some states, delegates are required to stick with their original candidate at least through the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. In some other states, if a candidate drops out, his or her delegates may immediately pledge to another candidate. There is also a middle ground in which those delegates are reallocated to the remaining candidates.

Paul winds down campaign but keeps delegates

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has effectively given up his presidential campaign but will not yet give up his delegates to Mitt Romney.

Paul, a Texas Republican, said this week that he would no longer compete in his party’s primaries, leaving Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, the only viable candidate for the GOP nod still running.

Romney remains about 200 delegates shy of securing the nomination, but his erstwhile rivals, including Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, have either formally endorsed him or pledged to do so.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Paul would retain his delegates in order to leverage influence.

“Our delegates can still make a major impact at the national convention and beyond,” Jesse Benton, a top strategist for Paul, said in a memo obtained by the Times.

Paul’s presence and influence in the race helped veer the other candidates to embrace some of his libertarian ideas, particularly on reducing or eliminating the role of government in the financial system.

His isolationist views, especially on cutting assistance to Israel, have not gained as much traction.

Election 101 — who is your choice?

This time of year, we know that you are seeing signs everywhere about the upcoming presidential election. So many people, so many numbers … and even though you won’t be able to vote until you are 18, we think you should know what it all means.

1) What is a caucus?

A caucus is a private meeting of members of a political party — sometimes caucuses are held in public places, but they can even be held in someone’s home — to select delegates for a nominating convention. In a caucus you are voting for a delegate to represent your choice but not the actual candidate, as you would in a primary.

2) So what is a primary?

It is an election held before the general election, where voters select the candidates who will run on each party’s ticket. Primaries can be open, meaning any registered voter can vote in any party’s primary, or closed, where the selection of a party’s candidates in an election is limited to registered party members.

3) So what’s the difference?

In a primary you fill out a ballot — and you can even send it before the election date, as an absentee ballot. In a caucus, you vote by physically standing in an area designated for your delegate. After discussion and debate, an informal vote is taken to determine which delegates will be chosen.

Both caucuses and primaries help to narrow down the number of candidates in a political party. The Democrats started the presidential race with eight candidates and now they have five — three of whom are considered “front runners.” The Republicans have seven candidates.

4) So what is a delegate?

A delegate is a representative who bases his or her votes on the majority opinions of the people he or she represents.

5) And what’s a nominating convention?

It’s where each political party will finally confirm who they are nominating for President of the United States (and there will be plenty of speeches from the leaders of those two parties). The two major ones are the Democratic Convention and the Republican one. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver, Colo., from Aug. 25-28; the Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., from Sept. 1-4. There will also be conventions for other smaller parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party.

6) So how many delegates does it take to win the party’s nomination?

Well, that depends on the party. To win on the Democratic side, you need 2,025 delegates. On the Republican side, you need 1,191. And many states have a policy where even if you don’t win a primary or caucus, if a certain number of people vote for you, you get some delegates.

7) When and how does California vote?

California votes in a primary system on a day called Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), when 23 other states will also be voting. We used to vote in June, but many felt this wasn’t fair because several candidates were no longer running by the time summer came around. There are 441 delegates on the Democratic side; and 173 on the Republican side in California.

There’s a lot more to this election issue … check around on the Web and watch the news with your parents to learn more about it. You can find out even more about the candidates in next week’s Jewish Journal.

If you could vote in the election, whom would you pick and why? It’s OK if your choice isn’t the same as your mom’s or dad’s. Is your classroom holding a mock election? E-mail us at over the next months and let us know. We’ll post the results here and see if kids really can pick the president.

Now Hear This

Get decked out in your V-Day outfits and declare your love of music. What better way to spend the weekend before the biggest love day of the year than at The SqueeGees’ CD release party? Join Samantha Tobey and Roman Bluem in a free family concert to celebrate the launch of their first full-length album (ask mom or dad to show you what an album looks like).

Feb. 10 at 11:30 a.m., at Dragonfly Dulou, 2066 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-8448.

The Convention Comes to Town

The story goes that a young man gets an entry-level job with the Democratic National Committee in the nation’s capital and for his first assignment is told by his boss to buy Christmas decorations for the upcoming office party.”I’m not sure whether I’m the right person,” protests the young man. “You see, I’m Jewish.”

“So is everybody else,” says the boss. “Get the decorations.”Slightly exaggerated, of course. When the Democrats meet for their national convention Aug. 14-17 at the Staples Center, best guesstimates are that around 10 percent of the delegates will be Jewish, but the curve rises sharply among party leaders, and even more steeply among big financial contributors.

Besides offering party politics and political parties, the convention will serve the useful purpose of bringing together many of America’s most influential Jews for the first time since the unsuccessful Camp David negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. “They’ll have plenty to talk about,” says well-connected activist Donna Bojarsky.

The chain starts with venture capitalist Eli Broad and music mogul David Geffen, two members of the three-man team that brought the Democratic convention to Los Angeles.

Co-chairs of the convention are California’s two Jewish senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Guiding much of the proceedings will be Democratic Party chairman Edward Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia.

Among Al Gore’s closest advisors is Leon Fuerth, the presumptive nominee’s longtime national security aide, who is considered a sure bet to fill the post if Gore becomes president.

Influential foreign policy advisors are Los Angeles attorney Mel Levine and Marc Ginsburg, who co-chair Gore’s Middle East advisory committee, and Joan Spero, an expert on international economic policy. Veteran publicist Steve Rabinowitz is a Gore consultant.

Key campaign strategists at the Democratic National Committee in Washington and Gore headquarters in Nashville include general election campaign chairman John Giesser, Josh Wachs, Laurie Moskowitz, Eric Kleinfeld, Debbie Mohile and research director David Ginsberg.Contributing or raising the really big bucks on the West Coast are the DreamWorks trio of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Geffen, ex-MCA chief Lew Wasserman, TV mogul Haim Saban and Westwood One founder Norman Pattiz. On the East Coast, some other heavy hitters are David Steiner of New Jersey, New Yorkers John Tisch and Steve Ratner, and Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress.

Patrolling the Jewish beat for the party is the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), whose executive director, Ira Forman, is sanguine that 75 to 80 percent of Jewish voters will mark their ballots for Gore in November.The council’s deputy executive director, David Harris, sees a Jewish edge for the party on three main issues: Israel (“George W. has no record on Israel, and Dick Cheney has a poor record,” he says), church-state separation, and reproductive rights.

Closer to election time, NJDC plans to mail up to 500,000 voter guides to Jewish households, targeting some 35 districts with competitive House and Senate races.

Jewish activists were also strongly involved in last week’s deliberations of the platform committee in Cleveland, among them Howard Welinsky, chairman of Democrats for Israel. His amendment to the Middle East plank, warning against “a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood,” was adopted.

Parties are a Los Angeles specialty, and Jewish hosts aim to hold their own. The largest blowout will be on Sunday, Aug. 13, the day before the convention opens, when more than 1,000 people will celebrate at Sony Pictures Studios.

In a remarkable display of Jewish unity, the affair will be co-hosted by the NJDC, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, United Jewish Communities, representing all Jewish federations in the United States, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

“This is the first time we’ve had such across-the-board sponsorship,” says AIPAC spokesman Ken Bricker. “It’s a great way to express Jewish unity on Israel.”

AIPAC will hold other events between Aug. 12 and 16: a private party honoring Los Angeles activist Ruth Singer; a reception for Democratic candidates running for open House seats; a luncheon with the Black Congressional Caucus; a breakfast with the Democratic Leadership Council; a reception for Leon Fuerth, Gore’s national security advisor; a luncheon for Democratic governors; a break-fast with the Hispanic Congres-sional Caucus; and a luncheon with U.S. senators.

In addition, the NJDC will host receptions for Democratic Party chief Edward Rendell and for young leaders, while the American Jewish Committee plans events for Congressional leaders and for heads of ethnic and religious groups. In a tangential event, Dr. Steven Teitelbaum will hold a fundraiser for First Lady Hillary Clinton on Aug. 13 to aid her U.S. Senate race in New York state. Contributions are $1,000 per person. For information, phone Amy Hayes at (917) 613-6419

Speaking of really big parties, the City of Los Angeles, not always treated kindly by the East Coast press, will throw a $1.5 million affair for an expected 15,000 thirsty members of the world media.

The presence of this massive media phalanx, all looking for action as relief from the talking heads at the convention podium, has attracted a variety of protest groups and fringe parties.

Overlapping the Democratic Convention will be the following announced gatherings: People’s Convention (for progressive groups), Reform Party Convention, Mothers’ Convention (welfare reform), North American Anarchist Convention, Homeless Convention, and Youth Convention.Promising the most fun is the Shadow Convention, conceived by feisty columnist Arianna Huffington, which is scheduling interludes for satire and humor at its daily sessions.

The serious part of the agenda, spotlighting “the corrupting influence of money in politics, poverty and growing inequalities between poor and rich, and the failed war on drugs,” is attracting a considerable contingent of liberal Jews.

Stanley Sheinbaum, a longtime Democratic stalwart and financial angel, will bypass his old comrades in favor of the Shadow Convention.

So will progressive activist Rita Lowenthal, who is incensed at the jailing, rather than medical treatment, of nonviolent drug users, and Ralph Fertig, a freedom rider of the 1950s, who is particularly concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor. He will also march in a demonstration drawing attention to the plight of Kurds in the Middle East.

The Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle, the Sholem Community and the Progressive Jewish Alliance will participate in a rally in the garment district to protest worker exploitation in sweatshops, an issue that is drawing heavy Jewish support.

Police and public officials are predicting that some 50,000 protesters will descend on downtown Los Angeles. Spokesmen for the protest movements say these estimates are vastly exaggerated, mainly because organized labor, which provided most of the bodies for the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, is staying on the sidelines in Los Angeles.

The loose coordinating body for the convention protests is D2KLA, whose main march on Aug. 14 will proceed under the slogan “Human Need, Not Corporate Greed,” says spokesperson Margaret Prescod.

Another major protest force will be the Berkeley-based Ruckus Society, which has been training its adherents in civil disobedience tactics and nonviolent resistance.

Prescod and Ruckus program director Han Chan are in close agreement that between 10 to 20 percent of their adherents are Jewish, with a somewhat higher percentage in the leadership ranks.

That’s well below Jewish participation in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protest movements of the 1950s and ’60s, which frequently ran as high as 30 to 40 percent and considerably higher among the leadership of such organizations as the radical Students for a Democratic Society.

“I think the difference is not that there are fewer Jewish protesters than in the past, but proportionately they are less significant because of the upsurge of other activists, mainly Latinos and Asian-Americans, who were largely absent in the 1960s,” says James Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, the legal support group for the Los Angeles protesters.

Tom Hayden, a leader of the street protests that almost paralyzed the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and now a California state senator, detects another difference between Jewish activists then and now.

Hayden, who is of Irish descent, believes that “the Jewish kids active in the 1960s, though they may have been alienated from their parents, were consciously Jewish in their approach to politics, citing Scripture and Jewish social tradition to explain their activism. This kind of underpinning didn’t surface during this year’s Seattle protests, and I see little of it now.”Finally, the Washington-based Arab American Institute will host its traditional public reception on the evening of Aug. 15 at the Figueroa Hotel. The event, this year themed “Meet Us at the Casbah,” generally downplays politics and attracts Jewish, Israeli and other connoisseurs of Middle Eastern cuisine.