Monday, February 11, 2008

Marquette’s Jason Rae: Super Delegate

On the front page of the Journal-Sentinel today: an article on “Super Delegates” to the Democratic National Convention which will pick the Democratic presidential nominee.

And one delegate is featured: Marquette student Jason Rae.
With Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton locked in a delegate-by-delegate battle, there are many scenarios developing for how the party’s presidential nomination will be decided.

Here is one that just a few weeks ago was unfathomable: It could all come down to the preference of Jason Rae, a Marquette University student who has never even voted in a presidential election.

Or Melissa Schroeder, a party activist from Wausau.

Or Awais Khaleel, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The three, all members of the Democratic National Committee, are among 796 “super delegates,” a bloc of political free agents who will make up nearly 20% of all the voting delegates at the party’s August convention. More than half of them have endorsed candidates, but many have yet to decide.

Most delegates are allocated based on the results of primaries and caucuses.

But after Super Tuesday’s coast-to-coast voting left Clinton and Obama effectively tied when it comes to winning delegates at the polls, the intense focus is on wooing super delegates in person.

Some DNC members, such as Rae, are still a bit surprised when folks like former President Bill Clinton and 2004 nominee John Kerry call to chat.

Bill called last Friday, just as Rae was headed to dinner with friends, hoping he’d back Hillary. When John called, suggesting Obama, Rae was driving to the grocery store with a friend.

“I said, ‘Hi, Senator Kerry, how are you?’” said Rae, noting his friend “looked at me, like, ‘Are you for real?’”

Yes. And for real when former (and possibly future) first daughter Chelsea called. And former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Both were backing Clinton.

“It’s not a huge deal on campus,” said Rae, active in student government. “I’m just a normal student like everyone else. In my private life, I’m a super delegate.”

At this point in the race, Rae and the others might want to order blue shirts with a red-and-yellow “S” on the front. Red capes, too.

Indeed, when Albright called Rae, she was well-briefed: She knew he was a Marquette student, that he was elected to the national committee at age 17. He was the youngest member of the group then, and likely still is.

Rae turned 18 just weeks after the November 2004 election. His first presidential vote will be Feb. 19.

And if the political cards play out just so, his convention vote in August might be a critical one.

So is he holding out for a dorm-room debate, or at least a sit-down with the candidates?


He got to meet Clinton and Obama last year, with a handful of other super delegates, at a national party meeting.

“I really like the qualifications of both,” Rae said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing, especially in Super Tuesday, it be so close.”
When Rae took our Introduction to American Politics class in the Fall of 2005, we pegged him immediately as highly political, highly capable and highly ambitious. We thought it a slam dunk that he would be President of Marquette University Student Government.

But in fact, although he has been fairly active on campus, he has bypassed the sandbox politics of student government and gone on to real world politics. Dealing with important issues. Making decisions with actual consequences.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does one become a Super Delegate? Qualifications... connections, or?


12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need more like you! In fact, one college student whom I know has had trouble getting an absentee ballot. She has had to really do her own research to find information. Since college-age people are so vital to this Democratic election, is there some way colleges cross the country can be encouraged to simplify this process?

I;m hopeful about Democratic victory--but not completely at ease yet.


12:11 PM  

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