Sunday, June 01, 2008

"Moved Goalposts" and Renewed Vigor for Clinton Campaign

I watched the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee hack its way through the controversy over Florida and Michigan's delegations Saturday, and came away with several impressions, most of which were favorable.

First, even though I am a Republican I was proud to see the party that usually represents my opponents showing the world how America works. Lots of debate, conflicting opinions, diverse points of view, passions and positions laid bare, but no one was dragged out of the room, imprisoned or summarily executed.

We are allowed to get intense in America, but no one goes to a gulag over it.

I also came away with a favorable opinion of one of Hillary Clinton's primary allies on the Rules Committee. Harold Ickes pretty much called the situation as it was, didn't sugar coat anything, and let the other side know that neither the fight, nor the game is over until it's really over, not just when the opposing side gets tired of fighting and wants to quit while they are ahead. Ickes catches a lot of flack from my side of the fence usually, but frankly, he is the kind of ally you want on your side.

Me being me and all, I also enjoyed it when he said "You bet your ass," several times, which made some others on the committee squirm noticeably.

The issue with Michigan and Florida is relatively simple. They voted out of turn in the primaries and were penalized because of it. The order of vote is established by the national Democratic committee and breaking the rules carries the penalty of loss of half the delegates from each state, both of which were won handily by Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama and some of the other Democratic primary candidates also pulled their names from the ballot in Michigan which was - how shall I say this gently - stupid.

So, now that the Democratic race for the presidential nomination is hanging on a thread Obama wanted as many Michigan delegates as he could get his hands on. The Rules Committee obliged, and gave him all the delegates labelled "uncommitted" as well as four others that the Clinton camp says should have gone to her.

Interesting. That is what got Ickes all riled up. He noted that the DNC constitution has an actual "uncommitted" category and that since Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, he should not get all those votes just because he is one of two candidates still in the race. Ickes stated that the four Clinton delegates which also were given to Obama were "hijacked."

That didn't sit too well with some of the other Rules Committee members.

Ickes made it very clear when all was said and done that Hillary will be appealing to a higher authority - the Democratic National Committee's Credentials Committee, if necessary. Frankly, I think he can go even higher, straight to the American voting public which was continually referenced during the sometimes raucous proceedings Saturday.

Here is what is really interesting though. After the Kentucky and Oregon primaries in May, in which Mrs. Clinton did better than Obama by a pretty big margin overall, the media was saying that Obama needed 66 delegates to lock up the nomination before the Democratic convention in August.

Then it dropped to 65 then to 63, then to 55 then to 46 as of Saturday morning - May 31. How this happened with no other primaries is beyond me, and I never saw a single plausible explanation in any media outlet for the differences or where all these numbers came from. But, there was no way Barack Obama was going to get the 46 delegates anyway. Yes I said it.

Here's why.

55 delegates are at stake in Puerto Rico. Mrs. Clinton is ahead there. Give her 30 and give him 25. This is pure speculation on my part, and we'll know the truth later today. But let's just say Puerto Rico ends up 30 to 25 for argument's sake.

That means he needed 21 more delegates from Montana, which has 16, and South Dakota which has 15. Meaning he would have to beat her by in excess of 66 percent to 33 percent to get at least 10 delegates from each state. I don't see than happening either.

That would have given Obama the magic number of 2026 delegates to lock in the nomination.

But, as a result of the Rule's Committee's decision Saturday, the magic number has moved to 2118, which is - ya gotta love this - 66 delegates more than Obama has. Right back where it was after the Kentucky and Oregon primaries. The reason the magic number moved is that it represents one more than half, or a majority of the pledged - committed - delegates. When the total increases, as it did by adding Florida and Michigan, the number needed to attain one more than half also increases.

So, what does this all mean? It means no one can can lock up the nomination before the convention unless someone quits, which I don't expect to see from Hillary Clinton, regardless of how many pundits say she should and she will. After the Montana and South Dakota primaries this week we get into the arena of backroom political arm twisting and mud wrestling.

My money in that fight is on Mrs. Clinton.

Remember too, the Democratic Party includes "Super Delegates" who really aren't committed to any candidate until the moment they actually vote at the convention. They can say they are committed one way or another, and some, even a majority, may honor those commitments.

But they aren't bound by party rules to stay with any commitment, as the 'pledged' delegates are. So if the political winds blow from a different direction between now and August, there could be a flood of Super Delegates shifting loyalties.

It happened in Puerto Rico this past week when a former Clinton Super Delegate, who then declared for Obama, reversed himself yet again and returned to the Clinton camp.

Mathematically, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton can lock up the committed delegates with the remaining primaries and I would be the most shocked commentator this side of Harold Ickes if Mrs. Clinton threw in the towel instead of fighting this thing all the way to the convention.

So, let's wait a few hours and see what happens in Puerto Rico. Oh, did I tell you that Hillary now also has the majority of the popular vote? What was that chant from 2000 when Al Gore didn't win his or Bill Clinton's home states and thus tried to wrest the presidency from Florida voters?

Oh yes, I remember now. "Let Every Vote Count."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insightful commentary. I'm bookmarking your blog to read on a regular basis going forward!
-- Your old friend Andy

PS Let me share an interesting factoid rarely (except briefly one time) mentioned by the major news organization commentaries: Jack Johnson, a Maryland County executive elected in the state's primary as a Clinton delegate, switched on his own to become an Obama delegate later in the spring. In a sense, more power to Obama for that, at least in the short run. But if elected delegates can switch one way, what's to stop the other direction? More important, why does it necessitate this kind of blog person-to-person comment to have such elementary facts come out when there are so many major political commentators?

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 06/02/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

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