Watchdog Blog

Herb Strentz: A Reality Check from Iowa on Presidential Delegate Counts

Posted at 12:24 pm, January 19th, 2008
Herb Strentz Mug

Delegate counts for Democratic presidential candidates are fiction but The Associated Press and newspapers, broadcast stations and Internet sites are reporting who is ahead in the delegate race as though it is fact.

If you visit Web sites you will be told, in all seriousness, that – in convention rhetoric – “The Great State of Iowa” has committed 45 of its 57 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Sen. Barrack Obama has 16; Sen. Hillary Clinton has 15; John Edwards has 14. The real tally likely is closer to 0, 0 and 0.

Despite the much ballyhooed Iowa caucuses, no Democratic candidate has a single guaranteed delegate. In their horse-race mentality and collective rush to judgment, the pundits and political reporters conveniently overlook these facts:

1. At the precinct caucuses on Jan. 3, Democrats elected delegates to 99 county conventions. Not a single delegate has to vote at the county convention for whomever he or she supported at the precinct level.

2. In fact, many of the delegates selected at the precinct level will fall by the wayside at the county and district levels. You don’t even have to attend a precinct caucus to wind up as delegate to the district, state or national conventions.

3. How the news media arrived at the “45 committed” count is a mystery I am still trying to unravel because only 29 of the state’s delegates are selected via the route of county, congressional district and state conventions. The other 28 are distributed among party officials and bigwigs – few of whom have made commitments and many of whom haven’t even been named.

Nevertheless, the press reports with a straight face that Iowa has committed 45 of its delegates – 16, 15 and 14.

Believe that if you want to play games. Me? I’ll just pull the bed blankets over my head and try to stay sane during the election campaign. Unfortunately, one way to maintain sanity is to ignore much of the news coverage.

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