Politically Savvy: What is a Superdelegate Anyway?

If you've been following the 2008 election coverage, or even if you haven't, by now you've probably heard the term superdelegate being thrown around a lot. But what really are superdelegates, and why are they so important all of a sudden this year?

Every state, during primaries, has a certain number of delegates they can award to candidates based on how the vote turned out in their state – these delegates then represent their state at the national nominating conventions in summer.

However, then superdelegates enter the picture. These are a certain number of delegates from the Democratic party (796, to be exact) that are unpledged party leader and elected official delegates. Basically, lawmakers, elected officials, some pretty high-up people, whom seats are reserved for. They aren't representing any state a the convention. They also have the option of voting for whichever candidate they choose, rather than being bound to represent whatever candidate their state chose; they do not have to pledge their allegiance to any particular candidate.

In this year's democratic race, the race for delegates is getting extremely close between Clinton and Obama. Thus, it is possible that because it is so close, neither candidate may get the required majority they need to win the nomination just from the states alone – so the superdelegate factor may end up being what makes or breaks the decision. This begs the question – is this fair? A candidate from the Democratic party needs 2,025 delegates to win the nomination. If one candidate gets more state delegates than the other, but still not 2,025, and then the other candidate wins enough superdelegates to reach 2025, is that candidate really winning the popular vote and representing what the people want? This is the hot topic that's been on everyone's minds over the last few weeks as the race has heated up. What do you think – is it fair to give superdelegates that advantage?

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