Don Fowler who served with Chris Dodd in running the operations as National Chair of the Democratic National Committee from 1995-1997 (before the general chair and national chair positions were merged) and who teaches American Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina recently discussed the potential role of superdelegates or as he calls them "automatic" delegates in a YouTube Feb. 13, 2008 video.
History: Superdelegates were put into the rules in the 1970's and formalized under the Hunt Commission in 1980. The premise is that an open participatory political party that has a lot of procedures and policies needs a stabilizing force - a continuing group of people who are accustomed to reviewing rules and procedures to look at the long range benefits to the party.
Who they are: All Democratic members of congress, Democratic Governors, and Members of the DNC. They have all been elected by the various constituencies within the State and are superdelegates by virtue of their offices, rather than being elected to be a delegate. The Democratic party has more superdelegates in both number and percentages than the Republican party.
Why they matter: Fowler says that superdelegates have never made a difference yet in an election. The reason is that the idea is popular now is that the "potential" is that the superdelegates who not elected by the people could have determination over an election. Furthermore, it would bother Fowler a great deal if it was perceived that one candidate appeared to have the superdelegates on their side and the other had the popular vote on their side.
He says that IF there is NOT a nominee it is likely to be chaos at the convention - it would be very troublesome. A bad convention can lose an election such as the 1968 democratic convention with Hubert Humphrey. And the 1992 Republican convention, while not as bad as the 1968 Democratic, was very contentious and contributed to Bill's Clinton's win over George Bush. In 2008, the Democratic party's convention is the last week of August which is only 10-11 weeks away from Election Day. It would be disturbing not to have a presumptive candidate before that. Fowler doesn't think the Democrats will go to the convention with a deadlock - that there will be a designated nominee. "The superdelegates will be there and cause no more stir than they have in previous years."
Don Fowler is also Chairman of the Board of Fowler Communciations Inc. an advertising and public relations firm and of Khare/Fowler In. a government relations firm.
This piece was produced as part of OffTheBus's Superdelegate Investigation. Click here to read more superdelegate profiles.