With architect of the DNC rules turned Clinton apparachik Harold Ickes playing dead-ender to the hilt, the Rules & Bylaws Committee decides to seat Michigan and Florida as half-delegates. (However irate the stark raving Clintonites, even the former President has suggested recently — in private — that this compromise made the most sense.) For those keeping score, this makes the new delegate threshold 2118, which, if all goes well, puts Obama in striking range to end the primary season officially on Tuesday night (in Montana and South Dakota.)
Helping him pass the threshold, of course, will be the superdelegates, who have continued their trend toward Obama during my moving week. Since the last update, according to DemConWatch, Obama has picked up fifteen supers to Clinton’s four, and word is the rest of the “undecideds” are just waiting for the word to break for our nominee. At long last, it’s over, folks.
“The irony to all of this, of course, is that while the mechanics of the Democratic nomination fight overwhelmingly favor Obama, the media is giving Clinton a huge lift. And this comes after a year of Clinton complaints that the media was doing them more harm than good.” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd argues that the press may be the only thing keeping Clinton in it (and that the supers may not much like Clinton anyway.) Gee, you think?
In related news, the NYT’s Adam Nagourney argues Clinton’s path to the nomination has gotten harder, now that Michigan and Florida don’t appear to be revoting. “If there is a road to victory for Mrs. Clinton, it is a fairly narrow one.” Emphasis there on “If.” But, hey, at least they’re starting to figure it out. Update: CNN also gropes toward the math.
“We researched every potential alternative process — from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections — but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.” Florida announce it won’t do a do-over, and Michigan looks headed the same way. On one hand, this means Senator Clinton can continue to try to spin the beauty contest results as definitive, as I’m sure she will. Given her campaign’s reliance on a strategy of continued uncertainty, however, the closing of doors in Michigan and Florida is likely bad news for her (particularly when Clinton’s top Michigan surrogates are arguing that a re-vote “wouldn’t make much difference” anyway.) Update: The Michigan do-over is pronounced dead.
“Contrary to the gullible media’s belief that ‘time’ is a ‘powerful ally’ on Clinton’s side, in fact, Clinton’s only ally is uncertainty. The minute it becomes clear what will happen with Michigan and Florida — re-vote them, refuse to seat them, or split them 50-50 or with half-votes, as some have proposed — is the minute that Clinton’s last ‘path to the nomination’ closes. The only way to keep spin alive is to keep uncertainty alive…Penn can claim that there is a path to the nomination, but under any possible actual resolution of the uncertainty, there is not.“
TAP’s Mark Schmitt explains Clinton’s FL/MI strategy: prolong the chaos. “[T]he specific resolution doesn’t matter, because whatever it is, it will introduce certainty and finiteness, and without the comfort of ambiguity, the Clinton spin-campaign cannot survive. The Clinton campaign began — unwisely — by spinning inevitability; it ends, equally unwisely, by spinning cosmic uncertainty. In between the two spin campaigns, they apparently forgot to give people enough of a positive reason to actually vote for Senator Clinton.“
Update: It’s out of this same desire to muddy the waters, says Al Giordano, that the Clinton camp is now trying to put the brake on the Texas caucus results: “Only by generating smokescreens can it obscure from everybody’s view that Clinton has ceased to advance in national convention delegates while party leaders – from the national to the local – continue to converge in a near-consensus that Obama is the nominee that has earned it, that the voters most support, and that they view as most able to defeat McCain in November.“
“The results of those primaries were fair and should be honored.” Speaking of rogue states, the Clinton campaign continues its gamesmanship in regard to the beauty contests held in Michigan and Florida. (As reported yesterday, Florida’s House Dems — four of nine of whom are Clinton supers (two are Obama voters) — already stepped on the idea of a do-over.)
As for those “fair” primaries being seated as they are, that’s obviously ridiculous if the contest is still in doubt, particularly given that Sen. Obama wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. But, don’t take my word for it — Here’s Sen. Hillary Clinton on the question back in 2007: “It’s clear: This election they’re having is not going to count for anything. I personally did not think it made any difference whether or not my name was on the ballot.“
“The (pro-Clinton) Florida Democratic Party leadership has floated a mail-in primary as the best-case-scenario for its candidate (after all, senior voters are less transient will receive mailed ballots in higher numbers than student, youth and minority voters), and the Obama campaign seemed even willing to go along with that proposal to allow Floridians a legitimate say. But, alas, there is the sticky wicket of The Law.“
Rural Votes‘ Al Giordano explains why the mail-in plan for a Florida revote is illegal. “At this late date, time is running out. The continued gaming of the system demonstrates that they don’t really want a solution, mainly because the results would certainly be different than those of the January 29 beauty contest. But scratch the surface, and this is really about some Democrats now using GOP style voter-supression tactics…That’s not only ethically indefensible. It’s stupid politically, as it takes away the state party’s moral standing to contest the inevitable GOP voter-supression tactics coming to a Sunshine State near you next November.” Update: Florida’s House Dems nix a do-over.
“What has not been widely reported or discussed is how this decision by the Democratic Party changes the dynamics of the nomination process. They have reduced the total number of available delegates by 341 from 4049 to 3708. If they keep the required magic number of delegates to win the nomination at 2025 (50% +1), they have effectively required a successful candidate to garner 55% of the available delegates to win the nomination (2025/3708).“
Uh oh…A commenter over at Salon explains why the Michigan-Florida delegate issue might not go away anytime soon. Indeed, it may ensure — and determine the fate of — a brokered convention. “As explained above, in the democratic race, Edwards is siphoning off enough delegates to prevent either Barack or Clinton to sew up the nomination. The 341 unseated delegates from Michigan and Florida (8% of the total delegates) strengthen this effect considerably. The combined total of Edwards and the unseated delegates from Michigan and Florida is roughly 22% of all delegates leaving only 78% for Clinton and Obama to split. The loser will have to fall to 28% to leave 50% remaining for the winner.“
If this math is correct, and the race stays close in the weeks after Super Tuesday, it sounds like Michigan and Florida may well have to schedule do-overs. Or there’ll be blood on the floor at the convention, no matter how the MI-FL controversy shakes out. Update: This math, of course, is now moot…for obvious reasons.
“I am a gutter-ball bowler.” — Sen. Hillary Clinton, observed while (not) campaigning in Florida last Sunday. Hey, Sen. Clinton, you said it. The WP‘s Dana Milbank puts her comment in context: “The remark…was no doubt meant literally; she was standing outside Lucky Strike Lanes in Miami Beach. But in politics, too, Clinton has recently been putting some questionable rotation on the ball.” (As partial evidence, Milbank points to Clinton’s “ersatz victory party” in Florida last night, which he deems “a political stunt worthy of the late Evel Knievel.”)
“Her arrival is Sarasota was timed so that she could be photographed with palm trees behind her. ‘It is a perfect day here in Florida,’ declared a bemused candidate who officially was not campaigning in Florida as she posed for the classic Florida campaign photo.” According to The Nation‘s John Norris, Hillary Clinton has broken the spirit of her pledge and is now actively campaigning in Florida. (“She arrived in Sarasota taking care to abide by the details of the agreement, because events in Sarasota and later in Miami were not open to the public. With a wink at the deal, Clinton carefully staged her arrival so she left her airplane with palm trees in the background for photographers.”) As Matt Yglesias brilliantly put it, once again the Clintons — like the GOP — have shown they think elections in America are just a no-holds-barred game of Calvinball.