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Delegating Responsibility

Could this year's political convention actually be interesting?

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superdelegate!

There's been a lot about of talk lately about superdelegates -- the current and former elected office-holders and party officials who vote for a Democratic presidential nominee at the national convention. Unlike regular delegates, superdelegates can support whomever they want ... and some people think that means the system is rigged. And already, this White Chick vs. Black Dude race is tighter than Britney's MTV Music Awards outfit. Not to mention just as ugly.

But just how super are the "superdelegates"? Superdelegate and Western Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle argue that they're not that super or duper.

Now, for those of you who have never paid attention to a political convention, there's this thing called the balloting process. In every Democratic primary, a certain number of delegates are at stake. They're assigned to candidates based on the number of votes each candidate gets. But each state also has "superdelegates," who aren't bound by voters or anyone else.

That hasn't been a problem, since in recent memory there's always been only one candidate still in the running by the time of the convention. Which is why the conventions have been excruciatingly boring coronations for years. But here's the thing: The candidates need 2,049 delegates to win. And if they don't get that many votes on the first ballot, all bets are off. On later ballots, all the delegates can vote for whomever they want.

So how is it possible that superdelegates won't cast the deciding vote?

Do the math, Doyle says. He doesn't think either Clinton or Obama will get the 2,049 delegates they need on the first ballot, partly because he doesn't believe the superdelegates will swing one way or the other. He says the superdelegates will split roughly down the middle, as they've already started doing: Gov. Ed Rendell and Philly Mayor Nutter are backing Clinton, while U.S. senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are for Obama. (Doyle himself says he's undecided.)

So no one will get enough votes on the first ballot ... and none of the delegates -- super or otherwise -- has to remain committed to anyone after that. The only thing super will be the chaos that ensues when everyone starts lobbying everyone else, like a crazy caucus on steroids gone wild on national television.

Imagine: News correspondents at the convention might actually have something to report!

Super Mike has more cold water to toss on the alleged importance of the superdelegates. They all know the whole world will be watching, and the last thing they want to look like is a party of hacks. "Anyone who thinks we can't wait to chomp on our cigars and get in a smoke-filled room and make a deal, that's crazy," he says. "We want to leave unified," and that means making it clear "somebody won fair and square."

But if you want fairness, what's the deal with superdelegates? Having king-makers who get in just because they're elected muckety-mucks stinks. Then again, I also despise the Electoral College. So what does Super Mike think?

"I've never even thought before about whether superdelegates are fair, because they've always been irrelevant," he says. "But if it goes beyond the first ballot, and I believe it will, they'll be irrelevant all over again."

Still, Super Mike has been enjoying his moment in the sun. He's been phone-tagging with Hillary, and he got a call from Hillary's Super Hubby, who was hanging out on Super Bowl Sunday with Super Mike's previous favorite, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. "They first called a few hours after Richardson had dropped out," Doyle says. "That's how good they are."

The former president was chatty, Doyle adds, and wouldn't let him get off the phone to continue cooking one of his Italian specialties. "I said to him, ‘You really enjoy this, don't you?' He said, ‘Yeah, I like campaigning.'"

Super Mike has not received a call from Obama. He says he might be influenced if there's a big tilt among primary voters in his district. He says he might be influenced by a candidate's commitment to getting out of Iraq soon. Doyle had the balls to vote against the war in the first place, unlike a certain White Chick.

Pennsylvania, Doyle says, "is Hillary's state to lose, but this guy's amazing." If Obama wins the state, he'll be the one they'll be measuring for a cape.

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Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty

By Mars Johnson