Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

More woes for the Democrat convention

Honestly folks, this is fun to watch. It's been fun since this fight started, and given the fact that Republicans crossed over to vote for Hillary in Texas and Ohio, it's evident that we want these two to keep fighting it out. In today's Wall Street Journal, June Kronholz explains these woes, and it carries a warning for Democrats. Key 'graphs:

Sen. Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidential nomination were deeply wounded by the apparent collapse of do-over primaries in Florida and Michigan this week. The other big loser may be the Democratic Party.

With five months to go before the national convention, party leaders still hope voters will settle the nomination by leaning decisively toward one candidate or the other in the remaining 10 primaries.

The party's superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders who aren't bound by vote results, could then follow the popular lead. With the nomination wrapped up, the party could seat the Florida and Michigan delegates and avoid angering voters in two states that are important to a Democratic win in November.

A muddled outcome in the remaining primaries could force any decision about the nomination onto the party's nearly 800 superdelegates or the 186-member committee charged with settling delegate disputes, and then onto the convention floor.

It's awful" if Michigan and Florida reach the credentials committee, said Michael Steed, a Clinton supporter and committee member. And if any credentials-committee decision "changes the outcome, you'll see a battle like you've never seen."

On Monday, Florida's party said it was acceding to input from its members and dropping plans to stage a vote-by-mail primary that would have been open to 4.2 million registered Democrats. The next day, Michigan Democrats said they had failed to agree to legislation that would have allowed for a state-run, privately financed primary.

The decisions were Sen. Clinton's "worst news of the week" because it deprived her of the chance to narrow or even erase Sen. Barack Obama's estimated 700,000 popular-vote lead and convince superdelegates of her electability, said Norm Ornstein, a senior scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Sen. Clinton won 55% of the popular vote in Michigan, where Sen. Obama wasn't on the ballot, and beat Sen. Obama by 300,000 votes in Florida, where neither of them campaigned. The Democratic Party had stripped the two states of their combined 365 delegates for holding their primaries outside the party calendar.

Sen. Obama leads Sen. Clinton by 1,617 to 1,498 delegates, including superdelegates, according to the Associated Press. Neither candidate can reach the required 2,025 delegate votes in the remaining primaries, political experts agree. But wins in Florida and Michigan could have allowed Sen. Clinton to pull even with Sen. Obama in the popular-vote count and given her new leverage with the superdelegates, whose votes are necessary for either candidate to win.

With little to lose in a revote, the Clinton campaign argued for new primaries, which would have come weeks before the party's national convention in August.

Michigan and Florida party leaders said do-over votes were never a serious option. They would have required the help of Republican legislators, and both state parties would have needed to raise millions of dollars to pay for them. That allowed both deals to collapse without pressure from Sen. Obama, who could have lost his national lead if the Michigan and Florida polls had gone against him. ...

It is unclear what happens now, but pretty much any resolution involves the superdelegates -- and only the worst resolution involves the credentials committee, party activists said. Perhaps one-third of the superdelegates haven't endorsed a candidate and those who have can switch.

Sen. Clinton could make a strong argument to those superdelegates if she wins handily in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary and pulls even with Sen. Obama's popular vote in the primaries that follow. Polls suggest Sen. Clinton has a wide lead over Sen. Obama in Pennsylvania, where 188 delegates are at stake, and that Sen. Obama has a narrow lead over Sen. Clinton in North Carolina, which votes May 6 and offers 134 delegates.

Likewise, if Sen. Obama stumbles, the superdelegates could begin to desert him. The Illinois senator is thought to have been hurt this week by the racially incendiary sermons of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but "he would have to be bloodied far beyond what he is now" for superdelegates to ignore his popularity with voters, Mr. Ornstein said.

If a winner becomes clear after all the primaries, party activists said, the two campaigns would likely reach a compromise that would allow the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated in a way that wouldn't alter the outcome. The results of the two primaries would be counted if it were clear Sen. Clinton was going to win. If it became clear Sen. Obama was the winner, the states' delegations would be divided evenly, increasing each candidate's delegate count without narrowing the gap.

The issue is now before the party's 30-member rules committee, where Clinton supporters hold a slight majority. That committee stripped the states of their votes and could ratify any compromise the two campaigns bring, but it can't draw up a solution on its own. If the rules committee hasn't seated the two states by late June, the issue could be bumped to the convention's credentials committee. Most of those seats are allocated to the states, based on the popular vote in each state. By a rough calculation, Sen. Obama has an advantage. ...

Letting the issue get to the committee would be perilous for the party, however. The Democrats' last two notable credentials fights were in 1968 and 1972. They lost both general elections that followed.

Both Obama and Hillary have been shooting each other at point-blank range for months, and neither one is willing to give an inch to the other. Even when other options have been put out on the table, they refuse to compromise. Sure, Obama leads in the delegate count, and in the popular vote count, but if Hillary were to get either/both states seated, the outcome could shift dramatically. Given that Obama is still reeling from the Wright fiasco, it isn't foolish to posit the idea of Hillary sweeping the majority of the ten primaries left to go.

There is also another possibility. I know that a lot of pundits might blow this off, but we're not because it's a real scenario. That is, simply, that if consensus isn't reached on the first ballot at the convention, then they go to a second ballot. When that vote occurs all delegates are released from their responsibilities. That means they can vote for whomever they wish. And rumors circulating right now is that there is a draft Gore movement afoot. This would be bad for Hillary because they're talking about pairing him up with Obama. The bad news is that idea would likely upset a great deal of Democrat voters because, while Obama is clearly the man people want, Gore isn't, and hasn't racked up a single vote. The idea of a compromise candidate will be anything but pretty.

But the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. They set this system up, including the superdelegates, and they're the ones that let Hillary break the rules in Michigan and Florida. They made their bed. Now they have to lie in it.

Publius II


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