IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

What is a superdelegate and why are they important? NBC's Chuck Todd explains

Just what is a superdelegate and why are they so important in the Democratic presidential race? NBC's Chuck Todd provides a primer for TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Superdelegates may prove to play a crucial role in the Democratic presidential race — but what exactly are they?

Superdelegates are essentially party leaders. There are 712 of them and include Democratic National Committee members, the party’s governors, senators and U.S. representatives. They also include the current and former vice presidents and other former Democratic elected officials.

Why are they so important? Although winning state elections provides Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with a majority of their delegates, superdelegates are not beholden to such results.

Democratic presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton wave to supporters during a party debate in March.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

They may choose to throw their support behind whichever candidate they choose, regardless of who won their state's primary or caucus.

Other facts about superdelegates:

  • They only exist in the Democratic party. Republicans do not have them.
  • A total of 4,765 delegates will attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25-28. To win the nomination, a candidate must have a majority of them, or 2,383 delegtaes.
  • The superdelegate system was implemented in 1982 to prevent an outsider or insurgent candidate from winning the party's nomination and getting wiped out in the general election.