In case you thought the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was a little too easy to follow, consider this notion: We do not currently know exactly how many delegate votes will be required to win the party nod when it convenes this summer in Denver.
How can that be? Because the number of superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials who are guaranteed places at the convention — keeps changing.
At the start of last week, the number was 794.
Then Maryland Congressman Al Wynn, who lost a February primary to progressive Donna Edwards, announced that he was resigning from the House to become a lobbyist.
With his exit from Congress – which is expected to come early in June — Wynn will cease to be a superdelegate. But, because Edwards has not been elected to the seat, she is not a superdelegate.
So the superdelegate total drops to 793.
That means that the overall number of delegates is now 4,046. Thus, if all delegates vote and if they all vote for one of the two remaining candidates — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — it will require 2,023.5 votes to be nominated.
But that figure will change.
If a special election is called and held in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District before the end of August, Edwards might become a superdelegate. (Like Wynn, she’s an Obama backer.)
Special elections for House seats in California, Mississippi and two Louisiana districts could conceivably add as many as four new Democratic members of Congress, upping the superdelegate total by four. (The all-but-certain election by San Francisco Bay area voters of Jackie Speier to replace the late Tom Lantos will move the total up by at least one.)
Then there is the nasty question of whether and how to seat 23 superdelegates from Michigan and 27 from Florida — not to mention all the other potential delegates from those currently disenfranchised states. Anyone who expects to see the doors to the convention hall barred to senior members of Congress such as Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, D-Michigan, Energy and Commerce committee chair John Dingell, D-Michigan, or Florida Senator Bill Nelson is just being ridiculous at this point. But how they get in, and how they vote, remains to be seen.
Bottom line: We do not know how many delegates it will take to win the Democratic presidential nomination because we do not know how many delegates — super or otherwise — will be seated in Denver.