Click on the following student questions for a transcript
and audio clip:
1. Why do the Democrats have super delegates,
and the Republicans do not?
2. How can I become a super delegate?
3. What's the point in voting if the super
4. Will super delegates vote for the candidate
most likely to win in November?
5. Does Hillary Clinton still have a chance,
even though she's behind?
6. How much have the candidates spent on
7. Why should the race or gender of a presidential
8. How big of a factor is race in this
9. Should supporters of candidates who
dropped out be allowed to re-vote?
10. Why can't all the primaries be on
11. Can the party force Obama and Clinton
to run together?
12. Could the long primary process have
a negative effect on the Democrats?
13. Isn't the electoral college outdated
in today's society?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Welcome to this week's Insider Forum,
I'm Judy Woodruff. This week is special.
Insider Forum has teamed up with the Online NewsHour's
Extra for Students, and we've invited high school and
middle school students around the country to submit
questions on the 2008 Democratic Primary race, and the
general election, as you'll hear.
We have received many, many questions and comments
for our two guests, and they are here now to answer
First, Tad Devine. He is a senior strategist and adviser
to the Democratic presidential campaigns of Vice President
Al Gore in 2000 and Sen. John Kerry in 2004. He is,
today, a partner at Devine Mulvey, a political consulting
Also joining us is Tony Corrado, he's a professor of
politics and theory at Colby College in Maine. He is
also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Mara and Lisa,
New York City:
"Why do the Democrats have super delegates, and the
Republicans do not?"
TAD DEVINE: Well, the Democrats have super delegates,
because in the early 1980s our parties came together with
a commission called the Hunt Commission. And that commission
was empowered to look at our nominating process for president.
And the Hunt Commission members -- it was led by former
North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, and the other members
who were mostly party activists -- looked at our nominating
And they concluded that the lack of participation of
elected officials -- particularly members of the United
States House of Representatives, United States senators,
governors -- in the 1980 campaign, was something that
the party needed to remedy.
And to remedy that, and to get the participation of
those elected leaders of our party, and other activists,
as well, the Hunt Commission decided to create a category,
which are called "unpledged party leader and elected
official delegates," but popularly known as super
delegates. And these elected officials become delegates
-- not because of what voters do in primaries and caucuses
-- but because of their status as elected officials.
This was felt to be good for the party for a number
of reasons. One is, to make sure that these people --
the congressmen, the senators -- actually participate
in the nominating process, because if they do it was
felt they'd participate in the general election and
help our nominee win elections.
And they also provided other benefits, as well. An
element of peer review -- these are usually the senators,
the representatives -- they know these candidates for
president and they'd be able to exercise their own judgment,
and review all the candidates.
And the party leaders also wanted to have some kind
of mechanism within the party so that if we had a stalemate
in the nominating process, where two candidates won
a lot of delegates but not enough to become the nominee,
that there would be this group on uncommitted delegates
who could move towards one candidate or the other, achieve
some kind of closure, and allow the party to come together
behind a candidate.
So, for a number of reasons, but I think particularly
to make sure that these elected officials are included
in the process -- these delegates, categories of delegates,
Now, during the course of time, you mentioned 800 --
we started off with 540 super delegates from the Hunt
Commission, now we're up over 800, and so there's been
a lot of growth in their ranks, and I'm sure that's
something that, after this election, our party may step
back and decide whether we have too many super delegates
High School in West Chicago:
"How can I become a super delegate?"
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, one way you become a super delegate
is you become elected to office, and you become a United
States senator, or a member of Congress or a governor
in the Democratic Party.
A second way you can become a super delegate, and what
the largest group of super delegates are, are members
of the Democratic National Committee -- individuals
who have been appointed by their States to serve on
the Democratic National Committee, or the individuals
who serve as the chair or the vice-chair of the state
party in their state.
So, that's one of the reasons why it's a pretty elite
group -- it tends to be the individuals who are active
in the party, who have been party members for a long
Now, someone who would like to go to the convention
as part of this group of party leader and elected officials,
also have the option of seeking delegate status by running
in their state.
Because one of the interesting things about Democratic
rules is, while we have all concentrated on the super
delegates, there's also a small group of party leader
and elected official delegates that are selected at
the state level.
These are delegates who are known as "bonus delegates,"
they are 10 percent of a state's delegation who are
added on to the number of delegates in that state, which
is kind of an obscure category that was actually created
by Tad Devine --
Tad Devine: Late one night.
ANTHONY CORRADO: And what's interesting is that it's
often the case that people who are involved in the elections
can be selected for that group, even though they're
not a major elected official.
Penn High School:
"I understand it's important to vote, but what's the
point in voting if the super delegates decide?"
JUDY WOODRUFF: She's referring to the fact that at this
point, neither Sen. Clinton, nor Sen. Obama, can get to
the 2,024 that they need to have to become the nominee,
they're going to have to depend on these super delegates,
both, aren't they?
TAD DEVINE: Yes. Well, that's -- it's a very good question.
And I would say the point of voting is that more than
any other single factor, in terms of affecting the decisions
of the super delegates will be what voters do in primaries
That the votes of those people who participate will
weigh very heavily on the decision making process. So,
I think people should vote, not just to elect those
pledged delegates who, after all, are the largest group
of delegates out there, but more importantly, to affect
the decision making, now, of super delegates in the
course of the next couple of months, couple of weeks.
Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland:
"Would the super delegates vote for the one who had
the best chance to be elected president against John
McCain, no matter what the people say, or would they
vote for the person who the people favored, and why?"
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, I think Rachel's question highlights
the decision the super delegates are making which is,
should I follow the people in my state, or the people
in my district, who I represent, or should I serve as
the representative of my state or district to reflect
what's best for our party, nationwide, and what's best
for the general election?
And I think many of the super delegates are looking
at the votes in their state, to see which candidate
will do well in their state in the fall, and they are,
in large part, going to follow the guidance of the people
in their state.
One of the issues that they confront, however, is what
happens if the candidate ends up at the end of the nominating
process in a place where one might be better in the
general election than the other?
And that's why so many of the super delegates are still
undecided. They're waiting to make a decision about
which candidate do they think will be the strongest
candidate in the fall campaign, and the votes that candidates
win in the states is one of the things they're looking
at to make that decision.
"Does Hillary Clinton have a chance to be president,
even though she's still behind?"
TAD DEVINE: Yes, she does have a chance to be president,
and first by becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party.
She is behind, and Sen. Obama's advantage -- while
it is small in terms of delegate numbers, we've talked
about it at the beginning, about 130 or so delegates
ahead -- nevertheless is significant because of the
system that we use in the Democratic Party -- we don't
allocate our delegates the way that the Republicans
do, they have winner-take-all, and we have something
called proportional representation, which essentially
splits the delegates.
But, for Sen. Clinton to win, she's going to have to
really have a few very, very good weeks in the weeks
ahead, she's going to have to build on that big victory
she just had in Pennsylvania and the win she had before
that in Ohio.
She's probably going to have to go into the next set
of events in Indiana and win convincingly there. Keep
it very, very close in North Carolina, if not, surprise
Obama, as well. She's going to have to win a number
-- most of the upcoming states, places like West Virginia
and Kentucky -- and she's probably going to have to
go to a place where right now people expect Obama to
win, and important battleground state, like the state
of Oregon, and she's going to have to beat him there.
Now, if she does all of that -- and that's quite a
tall order -- and manages to, perhaps by the end of
the primary season to actually get more votes than he
has, in terms of popular vote, then I think she may
be able to, you know, find a way to put together a nominating
majority of delegates.
That could come as a result of the fight over the credentials
of the delegates from places like Florida and Michigan,
which haven't been resolved yet.
So, there's a way home, although I think we'd have
to say that Sen. Obama right now is the clear favorite.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in connection with that, and I'm
just going to throw in my own question here, to Professor
Corrado -- what are the odds at this point, Tony, that
this could go all the way to the Democratic Convention
at the end of August?
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, I think that there's still the
prospect that that might happen, but I don't think that
the odds are very high that it will happen.
In part, because many Democrats want to see the nominating
race resolved at the beginning of the summer, so that
they have time to prepare for the fall. And there will
be meetings that occur prior to the convention -- meetings
of the Rules Committee, meetings of the Credentials
Committee -- that determines who is officially seated
as a delegate, and members of the Platform Committee,
who will decide, what are the issues the Democrats are
going to stand for in their platform?
And it's often the case that, when there are divisions
within the party, those divisions tend to be resolved
during those meetings in the month before the convention,
where they work out issues.
Because the one thing the Democrats want is a unified
convention, and to begin to turn their attention to
the general election campaign.
But one of the issues will be -- if it is the case,
as Tad just noted -- that Sen. Clinton does very well
in this last part of the nomination campaign, and if
it proves to be a much closer delegate race than we
think it will be at this point, then you may see that
fight go on for some time.
But there are many incentives, and that's one of the
reasons why the super delegates are important -- they
have an incentive to bring the party together, to not
have this go all the way to the convention, and I think
one of the reasons why many of them are watching and
are still unpledged to a candidate, is they want to
help to be in a position to resolve some of the divisions
in the party, so to help bring the party together before
the convention in Denver in August.
Ryan, West Chicago:
"How much do you think that Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton have spent on this election?"
TAD DEVINE: You know, actually, Professor Corrado's really
the authority on that, but I'll just say off the top of
my head that it looks like they have, together, spent
close to $400 million.
Is that right, Tony? You are more of an authority than
ANTHONY CORRADO: At the end of March, they had spent
a combined $352 million. Barack Obama had spent $190,
and Hillary Clinton had spent $163 million.
So, Tad's estimate of about $400 million is probably
close to where they are at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow. That's a lot of money.
TAD DEVINE: That's a lot of $2,300 contributions. Or
in this case, $25 contributions.
"How come the Democratic Party is getting so
much publicity because of race and gender, when those
qualities do not determine if someone will be a good
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, I think one of the reasons why
they've been given so much attention in this race --
because we really face a historic choice.
For the first time we have a realistic prospect that
we will have a woman, or the first person of color to
be nominated for not only the major party presidential
nomination in the Democratic Party, but a real prospect
of winning the presidency.
So, this has raised a lot of discussion about the fact
that we have a woman and a person of, you know, the
non-majority race running for President.
It has excited many women to come into the process
and vote, and support Hillary Clinton, as well as Barack
Obama. We have seen many members of the African-American
community and other minority communities get very involved
for the first time, and therefore it's one of those
features that's unique about this race, which leads
to a lot of discussion of race and gender.
But, I think that she's correct -- these aren't the
most important features in terms of selecting a president
and one of the issues is really which of these two candidates
would have the best leadership characteristics, which
of these two candidates has the best character, which
of these two candidates has the best ideas about the
future, and how to improve the country in the future.
So that, while they're not the most important factors
in voters making a decision, they tend to be highlighted,
just because of the historic nature of these two candidates.
TAD DEVINE: And Judy, can I just add that, for me,
it's wonderful to hear a young person say that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
TAD DEVINE: That these are not factors. Because it
says, and I think signals where this next generation
is coming from, and where our country, as a result,
is likely to go, which is in a very, very good place.
Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa.:
"How big of a factor is race in this campaign?"
TAD DEVINE: Well, you know, I think picking up on what
Tony Corrado just said, that it's important because of
the historic context that both of these candidacies arose
Our Democratic Party this time, will for the first
time have a nominee who is either a woman or an African-American.
And that in itself is a remarkable achievement.
But, I think the question really goes to how voters
feel about this and whether or not voters' behavior
and their voting patterns are affected by these issues
of race and gender.
I think, you know, so far in the campaign we've seen
just remarkable occurrences in respect to the issues
of race and gender. Iowa and New Hampshire, for example,
have long been thought of places that would not be hospitable
to an African-American candidate.
And Barack Obama, not only winning in Iowa, but also
doing very, very well in New Hampshire -- he got more
votes in New Hampshire than Michael Dukakis, John Kerry,
or Paul Tsongas did when they won New Hampshire. And
so, you know, that in itself was a remarkable achievement.
I think a lot of these barriers have begun to break
down. Now, I don't think they've all broken down --
either the barriers surrounding race or gender, when
it comes to all voters.
But, I think what's happening in this process is, we're
beginning to see the end of voting patterns which would
have precluded people from winning elections, either
to the nomination of our party, or ultimately, the election
as president, because of their race or gender.
So, I think it's been a big step ahead already, there
are many more steps to go between now and November.
But I think the outlook on this issue is very, very
JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying it's not behind us, but
it's the beginning of the end.
TAD DEVINE: That's right.
High School in California:
"Should the people who voted for nominees --
or candidates -- who dropped out such as John Edwards
and Mitt Romney -- be allowed to re-cast their votes
for their party?"
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, you know, that's an interesting
question -- one of the problems we've always had in
the presidential race is you have, in Iowa and New Hampshire
and the early states, all of the candidates competing,
but many of them drop out early.
So that the candidates who end up going on, tend to
offer fewer choices to the voters.
But one of the ways that it's often the case that individuals
do get to, in some way, recast their vote, is that in
many of these states like Iowa, which is a caucus, they
don't select their delegates until June in a state convention.
And the individuals who voted, for example, for John
Edwards, or Mitt Romney in Iowa, can move on and ask
representatives to their Congressional District Caucus,
recast their votes and chose among the other candidates,
or they can choose to continue to support a John Edwards
or a Mitt Romney.
And one of the things that we see in some of these
states is that individuals do end up changing -- they're
originally elected to represent Mitt Romney, and then
they decide to go along and support Sen. McCain.
Or they're originally voting for Edwards, and they
decide to vote for either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama.
So that that does give us some benefit of the type of
thing Brian talking about.
But it's also one of the reasons why some individuals
have argued, we should have something like four primary
days, or a national primary, where you have time for
everyone to consider all of the candidates, and then
be able to vote for them.
"Why can't all the primaries be on one day? Wouldn't
this save a lot of money for the states and the candidates?"
TAD DEVINE: The answer is, yes it would. And I think
after this year, and with all of the changes that are
coming up, primary and caucus process in recent years,
and all of the interest, I think, around this campaign
and the way people are looking at the rules -- I think
we've actually come to a point now where after this
election is over, I believe we actually may be at the
point where we have real reform, the kind of reform
that Christian's talking about, where perhaps, some
kind of regional set-up.
There are a number of plans that have been proposed
by different people, there's legislation before the
Congress right now which addresses this, that maybe
three or four days of voting where many states on the
first Tuesday of the month or some other day like that
would have all of their primaries be on a regional,
or some other basis.
To allow different States to come earlier in the calendar,
to allow a much more orderly process, and I think that's
really a good development and hopefully it will happen.
Dan and Ian,
Bronx Science School in New York:
"Can the party can force Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton to run as president and vice president, or is
it up to them?"
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, it's really up to them. It's
the decision of, first of all, the nominee of the party
to decide who he or she feels comfortable with as a
vice president, who he or she believes is qualified
to be their vice presidential candidate, and certainly
there will be the case that the members of the party,
and the supporters of the candidates often advocate
the candidate they support as the best vice presidential
candidate, if their candidate has failed to become the
But there's no way for the party to force them to be
together, it's going to be the choice of the individual
who's going to be the nominee.
But one of the aspects of this election is that both
candidates have showed such strength amongst the voters,
and have shown such an extraordinary ability on the
campaign trail, that there's lots of discussion about
the possibility of the two of them getting together.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tad, very, very quickly, what do you
think the chances are that could happen?
TAD DEVINE: I believe despite the conventional wisdom
that it will never happen, I believe it can happen,
and I actually predict that it will happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: OK, that's provocative.
McNamara High School in Mitchellville, Md.:
While the Democratic candidates go at it, the presumptive
GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain is cruising by doing 'presidential-type
things,' like visiting troops in foreign countries like
Iraq. Won't the fact that the Democratic nominees are
still only focused on debating and attacking each other
have a negative effect on whoever gets the nomination
and doesn't this weaken them in the fall against the
TAD DEVINE: Yes, it does. I think Lauren's correct.
You know, one of the axioms of presidential politics
is that the longer it takes you to win your nomination,
the more difficult it is for you to win the general
So, I think Lauren is correct that the best hope for
the Democrats is, probably, another axiom of politics,
which is that if the incumbent party's president is
in trouble with low approval ratings, if the country
thinks we're heading in the wrong direction which is,
right now, historic high, then the challenging party
has a great opportunity.
So, I think these two forces are going to collide in
the general election, the fact that the other party
settled early on their nominee and had an advantage,
and the fact that our party has real advantages in terms
of the climate of the election.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And quickly, to Tony, how do you see
ANTHONY CORRADO: One of the things I see is, we have
to remember, John McCain has a lot of work to do in
traveling around the country, because his nomination
campaign ended so shortly. And on the Democratic side,
they have had very strong campaigns in all 50 states,
they've registered lots of new voters, they've brought
a lot of new people into the party, and that will help
them in the fall.
And I also agree with Tad -- that presidential elections
tend to be based on real-world events, and the real
problems of voters.
Voters are looking at their economic position, they're
looking at how they're doing in life, they're looking
at their sense of what's going on in the world and whether
or not the government is heading in the right direction,
and that ultimately becomes more important as they start
to look at who they want the next leader to be in the
general election campaign.
The electoral college -- a good idea for America
in 1776 -- when it was difficult, if not impossible,
to count the vote of every American citizen -- seems
to have become outdated in today's society where communication
and the exchange of information is both easy and instantaneous."
ANTHONY CORRADO: Well, I think that Jennifer is right.
The electoral college has become, in some ways, an antiquated
institution. It was originally formed because it was
difficult for voters to get information.
There was concern about the big imbalance in population
among the states, and many of the founders felt that
Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia would be the states
that would tend to select presidents, because they had
so many more people. So, they went to the electoral
But I think now what we find is the electoral college
is something that is probably in need of fundamental
reform, that we really should eliminate the electoral
college because it tends to reduce participation and
the incentive for voters to get involved in the general
election, because it ends up being a handful of states
where the campaign is really conducted.
And it's also the case that if you had direct election
of the president, every vote would count. And whether
you were voting in California or whether you were voting
in Wyoming, or whether you were voting in Maryland,
your vote would be equal to every else and would count
just as much as everyone else's.
And I think that that would really increase interest
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Tad, you don't think it would disadvantage
the smaller states?
TAD DEVINE: Having once worked for a candidate who
got more votes and still lost the election, I think
Jennifer's idea has a lot of appeal to me, personally.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You're referring to Al Gore?
TAD DEVINE: I am referring to Al Gore in the 2000 elections.
And I agree with what Tony has said, but I think the
other side of the coin is worth thinking about, too,
which is if we move to electing our candidates just
on the basis of popular vote, a lot of the issues right
now which concern people, which are the way that different
states work, and some states being ignored, and other
factors, we could actually have a different set of problems.
I think instead of states being ignored, you know,
we'd have population-center directed voting, where people
would just be spending all of their time and all of
their energy in places where there are just large populations.
And this is a big country and a lot of states, and
a lot of regions -- whether they're rural regions of
the country -- that people pay attention to, because
a state like Missouri or Iowa or Wisconsin are going
to be very, very close in the election.
So, if we do change it, I hope we give it a lot of
thought and a lot of study before we make those changes,
because one thing we can say about our system, it may
not have been perfect, but it's worked pretty well for
a couple of hundred years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just to clarify -- to change it
what would that require?
TAD DEVINE: Actually, believe it or not, changing the
electoral college would require a lot less than I think
people realize. You know, we could actually move --
and a lot of people have been looking seriously to a
system of popular vote -- well short of amending the
So, there are different processes where states could
band together and agree that they would cast their votes
on the basis of popular vote winners on a national basis,
without actually resorting to Constitutional amendment.
I think Tony's probably more of an expert on this than
me, but I think there's a lot of ways to get there,
short of amending our Constitution.
ANTHONY CORRADO: But truly, if we wanted to change
the system the way that is the best, is to have an amendment
to the Constitution, since the Electoral College system
is part of our Constitution.