An Iowa native who is the "godfather" of the Democratic Party’s "super delegates" suggests the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be decided in June or July rather than in August at the party’s national convention. Charles Manatt is a native of Audubon who as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1983 developed the "super delegate" system.
Manatt says it wasn’t disastrous for Democrats in 1960 when the race went all the way to the convention. "The fact that we have somewhat extended the campaign troubles some people because they start so early now because the states have moved up many of their primaries and caucuses and the process," Manatt says. "But again if you know history and geography the 1960 campaign got down to Wyoming on the first ballot before JFK was the nominee and we indeed were victorious that fall."
Manatt, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is one of those "super" delegates to the 2008 national convention, but he predicts the race will be resolved earlier. "Some games are scheduled for nine innings and whole boxing matches are scheduled for 15," Manatt says. "It looks to me as if this one is certainly going to go into the ninth inning. Perhaps in June or July we’ll have the answer."
Manatt defends his decision to create "super delegates" to the Democratic Party’s nominating conventions. "Public officials would not run against their constituents to be delegates and so it was that at the 1980 convention we only had 19 senators or governors or congressman even show up at the convention and who are the people with the political organizations, with the get out of the vote operations, obviously fundraising operations once the convention is over and we face a presidential campaign?" Manatt says. "It’s the governors, senators, congressmen and major city mayors."
Under Manatt’s proposal, Democratic governors, U.S. senators, 60 percent of the Democrats in the U.S. House and big city majors were "automatic" delegates to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Later, other DNC chairmen added other party leaders, including state legislative leaders, to the mix so that there will be nearly 800 "super" delegates at the party’s 2008 convention.
Manatt will be named one of Iowa State University’s "Distinguished Alumni" during a ceremony Friday afternoon on the Ames campus. You can listen to Manatt’s conversation with Radio Iowa or read the transcript on the Radio Iowa blog.