…from The Washington Post…
Once the convention rolls around, the party will hold a vote among the delegates in attendance to determine the party’s nominee. On the first ballot, pledged delegates are expected to vote for the candidates they are there to represent. If there’s no majority on the first ballot, another round of voting is held in which unpledged superdelegates (mostly party leaders and elected officials) have a vote and in which delegate pledges are set aside.
That “expected to vote for” is important, of course. Pledged delegates are pledged in the same way that teenagers pledge not to smoke: The success of the pledge largely comes down to their willingness to abide by it — and their relationship with the candidates they’re meant to represent.
Campaigns do their best to make sure that their pledged delegates uphold those pledges.
“During the selection process, once delegates at any level, of any type, are selected, the campaigns have the ability to review those candidates that are selected to represent them at the convention,” Putnam said. “So, typically, these are pretty loyal people — if you’re talking about a well-organized campaign, anyway — that’s been involved in this process from the start. And if they’re involved at the presidential level, they usually are.”
In other words, Biden’s campaign will work to ensure that its pledged delegates are fervent Biden supporters and not people who might get to the convention and suddenly decide that maybe Sanders is worth a vote. That’s useful, too, for any second (or third) round of voting: A die-hard Biden loyalist will probably keep voting for Biden as long as the Biden campaign wants him to.
You’ll notice that we haven’t yet talked about the congressional district delegates representing candidates who’ve suspended their campaigns. Those delegates and the statewide delegates the candidates protected by suspending their campaigns would go to the convention unpledged — meaning that they can vote for anyone they want on the first ballot.
“While both candidates may retain some control over who gets selected,” Putnam wrote Monday, “they do not have full control over any delegates selected to represent them.” The delegates who are going to the convention on Buttigieg’s behalf probably aren’t going to be the sorts of loyalists that Biden or Sanders would send, since that requires a somewhat robust campaign infrastructure when states hold the conventions at which delegates are picked. It’s therefore somewhat less likely that Buttigieg can effectively wield those delegates in negotiations over the nominee. One of the biggest effects Buttigieg and Klobuchar have over delegates, Putnam argues, is that, by technically staying in the race, they deny the reallocation of their delegates to Sanders.
Assuming the convention moves through multiple rounds of voting without a candidate earning a majority of delegates, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and other suspended candidates can encourage their delegates to vote for a particular candidate (Biden, for the first two), but that request is less like a parent insisting a kid stop smoking than it is like a random adult passing by and yelling at teenagers smoking cigarettes in a park. (Just to extend that particular analogy.) The weight is limited.
Putnam notes that we’re not talking about many delegates here anyway. If the Democratic nomination comes down to a 20-delegate margin between Sanders and Biden, these calculations and the decisions of the delegates themselves become fraught. It’s more likely that it will be the unpledged superdelegates who are the determining factor.
The party decides, as it were….