Monday, March 3, 2008


Although a win tomorrow by Obama in both Ohio and Texas will make the point moot (and don't think for a minute that the Clintons won't try to fight on if they win one of the two states, and lose the other narrowly), Geraldine Ferraro's op-ed last week about the role of super-delegates is worth revisiting.

Ferraro served on the Hunt Commission, which in 1982 revised the manner in which the Democratic Party chose its nominees. Last week in the NY Times, she wrote that "[T]he superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow," after many of them "walked away" from the party's nominee (President Jimmy Carter) in 1980.

In 1984, these superdelegates stuck with former Vice President Walter Mondale when he was in trouble, having lost 16 of 26 primaries or caucuses to Senator Gary Hart. But the core group of 700 or so superdelegates stuck with Mondale (many had committed before the primary season even began), and as Hart later said, "I got almost none of them, because [Mondale] was considered inevitable."

But whatever happened in the general election in 1984?

If you listen to Ferraro, it was a deus ex machina that caused the general election defeat:
We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.
But while the loss may have not have had anything to do with 'infighting', the record reflects that Mondale lost 49 of 50 states (he also won the District of Columbia, along with his home state of Minnesota.)

The superdelegates helped Mondale on his way to a record matched only by George McGovern in 1972, who won just Massachusetts and DC.

Perhaps the 1984 voters, like those in 2008, had a better sense of who could challenge Ronald Reagan in the fall. After all, it's hard to argue that Gary Hart would have fared worse.

No comments: