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The Premature Counting of Colorado Delegates

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The national media continues to post and update delegate totals to the Democratic National Convention. In the case of Colorado, Leslie Robinson of Colorado Confidential points out it’s far too early to be able to accurately state how our delegates are positioned. The next step after our neighborhood caucuses is the county convention. After that it’s the state convention on May 17, and then the National Convention in late August.

Colorado will have 70 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, broken down as follows:

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Who are considered “the party leaders and elected officials” (called PLEO)? They are mayors of cities with more than 250,000 residents, and state-wide elected officials. This group also includes “State legislative leaders, state legislators, other state, county and local elected officials, and party leaders (including precinct committee people).

Bill Compton, the Political Director of the Colorado Democratic party says:

“Colorado is a caucus state so we really won’t know the exact presidential delegate split until the congressional and state conventions are wrapped up on May 17….The party refuses to make any official comments until that time.”

After our February 5 caucuses, Dan Slater, the vice-chair for the Colorado Democratic party made some preliminary calculations based on voter preference as expressed at the caucuses. His calculations showed Hillary Clinton with 19 pledged delegates and Barack Obama with 36. But he expressly excluded superdelegates.

On March 12, the party announced that it had completed its calculations of the caucus preferences. 10 of our uncommitted delegates were then assigned. As a result, Hillary Clinton picked up 7 more delegates while Barack Obama added 3, which resulted in a gain of 4 delegates to Hillary. Obama remained ahead, this time with 35 delegates to Hillary’s 20.

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That’s where it will stand going into May 17. The superdelegates will have a crucial role. Since they can change their mind up until the time they vote, it’s silly for the national media to be sizing them up now.

Will the decision happen in August? There are too many unknowns yet to say. What happens with the Michigan and Florida delegations clearly will have an impact. As will Pennsylvania, the next big state to hold a primary, on April 22.

I think it is likely that one candidate may be ahead in pledged delegates and the other in popular vote total. The superdelegates will consider not just how their districts voted. They also will make an individual assessment of who they think can best beat John McCain in November.

It’s a complicated formula, and one that doesn’t gel like a puzzle when the pieces fit. Surely there must be a better way for the future. But for this year, this is what we’ve got.

So the next time you hear the AP or CNN do a projection on Colorado’s delegate preferences, remember, nothing’s set in stone before May 17, and it could still change between then and the convention.

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So, when will we know how our delegates are voting? After the Colorado State Democratic Convention on May 17. Robinson writes,

The state party 70-member national convention delegates come from five different arenas and this group won’t be finalized until the May 17 state convention. Super Delegates are already in place, but some have not indicated their presidential preference.

Colorado’s Model Delegate Selection plan is here (pdf). If you’d like to be a state delegate, you have until April 17 to submit an application, which you can download here.

Also of interest is the breakdown of our state population:

I don’t think Barack Obama will lose Colorado by any combination of factors. The question is, how close to him can Hillary get? Every delegate counts in a race as close as this one. If she wins Pennsylvania, she’ll have that momentum again which may convert more superdelegates.

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Could this go down to the wire? Yes, although party officials will come up with plan after plan to avoid it. The Democrats have two strong candidates, neither of whom are inclined at this point to give an inch, let alone concede.

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