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Thursday, February 14, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the Boston Globe: Clinton counts on superdelegates:

Hillary Clinton will take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote, but persuades enough superdelegates to vote for her at the convention, her campaign advisers say.

The New York senator, who lost three primaries Tuesday night, now lags slightly behind her rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, in the delegate count. She is even further behind in “pledged” delegates, those assigned by virtue of primaries and caucuses.

But Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton’s communications director, Howard Wolfson.

“I want to be clear about the fact that neither campaign is in a position to win this nomination without the support of the votes of the superdelegates,” Wolfson told reporters in a conference call.

“We don’t make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,” Wolfson said. “And we don’t make distinctions when it comes to elected officials” who vote as superdelegates at the convention.

“We are interested in acquiring delegates, period,” he added.1

Well, it is hard to be more clear.

I still maintain that if one candidate goes through the candidate selection process and has more pledged delegates won via the electoral process and has won more popular votes, that a deal needs to be struck between the candidates and with the DNC that that superdelegates will vote for the winner2 I continue to believe that if Clinton in particular wins the nomination in such a manner that it will damage her substantially going into the general election. Such a move would simply reinforce one of the main criticisms of the Clintons, which is that they are mostly interested in raw power and that they will do whatever is necessary to obtain it.

From the Democratic Party’s POV the worst-case scenario for them is for Clinton to win the nomination in this fashion, as it would clearly depress enthusiasm for Clinton at the same time a Clinton candidacy would do what McCain himself cannot: energize the conservative base of the Republican Party. Further, at the moment, I think that the Obamacan3 phenomenon is real, but let’s just say that there ain’t a whole lot of Clintonicans.

One wonders if this power play will, in fact, damage Clinton’s primary prospects, as it might be enough to get some Democrats who are still deciding between Obama and Clinton to go to Obama.

If anything, the current situation underscores the flaws in the current nomination process.

Along these lines, consider the following arguments from the Clinton camp:

“Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn’t won any of the significant states — outside of Illinois?” Chief Strategist Mark Penn said. “That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”

And:

Howard Wolfson, communications director, pointed out, “We do better the more voters vote. The largest turnout primaries, by in large, are the ones that have favored us. …The presidential election is not a caucus; it’s an election for the most people to get out and vote.”

So, because we balkanize the process and use different rules in different states, we now have one side casting aspersions about the portions of the process that isn’t favorable to their side. Such undermining of the process is made easier by the process itself.

One side note on Wolfson’s argument, however: it is difficult for the Clinton campaign to claim the moral high ground on the basis of citing elections and “the most people to get out and vote” if, at the end of the process, Obama has had more people vote for him.

And, of course, the undemocratic4 decision that produced the Michigan and Florida outcomes are the direct result of the insane need to kowtow to Iowa and New Hampshire. And, shockingly, the Clinton camp is arguing that those delegates should be seated:

The campaign says it will fight to seat Michigan and Florida, where they are now claiming 178 delegates, “whose votes we think should be counted at convention,” Cecil [a member of the Clinton campaign] said.

Given that Obama wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan, that strikes me as highly problematic.

BTW, I do understand that the role of the superdelegates and their power has been known from the get-go. However, this fact does not mitigate against the fact that how this plays out will affect the eventual nominee. Further, knowing the rules does not mitigate against the fact that a deal could be struck about the roles of the delegates. For that matter, it does not stop the candidate (whomever that may be) with less votes and less pledged delegates from conceding the nomination and thereby taking the superdelegates out of the picture.

Yes, both candidates have the right, under the rules, to take this thing to the convention and to lobby the superdelegates for their votes. That is perfectly fair. That does not, however, make it the right thing to do or the thing that is in the best interest of the Democratic Party (or to the spirit of a democratic process).

And it should noted that there is an additional problem with the superdelegates that has not been well discussed to this point, which is that not all of the superdelegates are elected officials who will have to answer at the ballot box. For example, ex-DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is a superdelegate, as is Harold Ickes, which is a bit dicey (via WaPo: 796 Insiders May Hold Democrats’ Key):

The Clinton campaign paid Ickes’s company, Catalist, a broker of voter contact lists, more than $125,000 last year. Obama’s campaign also paid Ickes’s firm, spending $25,000 to rent a mailing list.

And:

A company run by Mark S. Weiner, a Clinton supporter who became a superdelegate by virtue of his party leadership role in Rhode Island, has been paid more than $800,000 for campaign bumper stickers, signs and other paraphernalia.

Beyond the financial, there is also other self-interests involved:

Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), who endorsed Clinton last year and is viewed as a vice presidential possibility, is trying to lock down the five DNC members from Indiana who are superdelegates on behalf of Clinton, according to a source close to Bayh.

You know what would be nice? A system that cut out all these middle men and let the voters vote, and then let the voters’ voices carry the day. We don’t need delegates (super or otherwise) or conventions.

The irony is that the Democrats instituted the superdelegates in 1982 because they felt that the previously process had given them George McGovern and Jimmy Carter and they wanted to better ensure a winning candidate (which worked really well in ‘84 and ‘88), and yet there is scenario (Obama with more delegates and votes, but a superD win to Clinton) that could lead to a Democratic loss in November. I wonder if there will be some rules changes in the near future/

h/t: [email protected] for the first two stories linked above.

Update: John Cole blogs on this as well, and reinforces several of the points I made above: Clinton has the right to pursue the SDs, yet it is sleazy, and, further, it is what one likely expects from Clinton. He also uses the whole thing as a reason to vote for Obama.

Sphere: Related Content

  1. Emphasis mine. []
  2. I would allow a stipulation that President Clinton can vote for his own wife, if he so chooses, I suppose. []
  3. That is, Republicans who will vote for Obama []
  4. Note the small “d”. []
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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |

19 Comments

  1. [...] An almost identical post from the Poliblogger. [...]

    Pingback by Balloon Juice — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  2. The Origins of Super Delegates

    The Origins of Super Delegates, or
    How the Democratic Elite Enacted a Crooked System to Keep Their Kind on Top
    1968

    The seeds of the current Democratic system of nomination were planted in the ashes of fires and riots of the 1968 convention and electi…

    Trackback by Prose Before Hos — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  3. If this were true I would switch my support to Sen. Obama. But after reading every news article on the subject, Mr. Wolfson never actually says it.

    Comment by Ken — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  4. Ken,

    Are you saying that you have read elsewhere that Wolfson denies saying what the Globe quotes him as saying?

    I ask, because I would be quite interested in where you read that.

    Of course, part of the problem is that it isn’t just Wolfson being quoted above.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  5. >Are you saying that you have read elsewhere that Wolfson denies saying what the Globe quotes him as saying?

    I searched every news report I could find, to verify these two claims:
    1-”Hillary Clinton will take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote”
    2-”Clinton will not concede the race to Obama , said Howard Wolfson.”

    All of them quote Mr. Wolfson saying something. But none of them, not one, ever quotes him saying #1 or #2. You’re interpretations are vastly different than what you quote him saying.

    So unless you can find a real quote you should print a retraction.

    Comment by Ken — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  6. Did you follow the link to the Boston Globe piece linked above? It really isn’t a question of interpretation, the Globe reporter directly quoted Wolfson saying, among other things:

    “We don’t make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,” Wolfson said. “And we don’t make distinctions when it comes to elected officials” who vote as superdelegates at the convention.

    “We are interested in acquiring delegates, period,” he added.

    I am not sure how it can be much clearer…

    If Wolfson is saying that the Clinton campaign will lobbying Superdelegates for their support, then the focus is clearly not on the popular vote totals.

    Further:

    Superdelegates should “vote their conscience,” despite how their states voted, Wolfson said.

    Isn’t that saying the SD’s shold vote however they like, regardless of the popular vote?

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  7. >I am not sure how it can be much clearer…

    By showing a SINGLE quote where Mr. Wolfson says:

    1-”Hillary Clinton will take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote”
    2-”Clinton will not concede the race to Obama , said Howard Wolfson.”

    -which you did not.

    Comment by Ken — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  8. So, how do you interpret the issue concerning what Wolfson did say about the superdelegates?

    (I never claimed, btw, that Clinton would not concede under any circumstances, if that is how you are interpreting that–which is from the quote from the Globe, btw.)

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  9. >So, how do you interpret the issue concerning what Wolfson did say about the superdelegates?

    I am sure the actual quotes in all the articles are correct. They just don’t support the nefarious interpretations you twist to be:

    “I want to be clear about the fact that neither campaign is in a position to win this nomination without the support of the votes of the superdelegates,’’ Wolfson told reporters.

    This is true! Do you disagree?

    “We don’t make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,’’ Wolfson said. “And we don’t make distinctions when it comes to elected officials’’ who vote as superdelegates.

    He’s spinning obviously. Obama has more primary-won delegates, so he makes ‘distinctions’.

    “Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn’t won any of the significant states — outside of Illinois?” Chief Strategist Mark Penn said. “That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”

    He’s spinning obviously. ‘Can’t win big states = lose in November.”

    Howard Wolfson, communications director, pointed out, “We do better the more voters vote. The largest turnout primaries, by in large, are the ones that have favored us. …The presidential election is not a caucus; it’s an election for the most people to get out and vote.”

    He’s spinning obviously. ‘We win big states = win in November.”

    None of these quotes mention ‘not conceding’ of ‘popular vote’.

    Comment by Ken — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 4:08 pm

  10. This is more than spinning:

    “We don’t make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,’’ Wolfson said. “And we don’t make distinctions when it comes to elected officials’’ who vote as superdelegates.

    He’s spinning obviously. Obama has more primary-won delegates, so he makes ‘distinctions’.

    The relevant issue is the last part of the quote.

    We shall see how it pans out.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  11. BTW, did you actually read the linked piece?

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  12. Dear Americans,

    Could you explain me these:

    - 90% of the black population votes for Obama, would they vote for him if he was not black?

    - Black super delegates back him up because they represent the wish of there black constituents, does it means that they are dividing the country of black and white? Is that prejudicial?

    - Will this be carried all way to the White House or even further?

    - Because of Bill Clinton reforms now black getter the seeds , so is that a kick in Clintons face? Are they traders? Should you trust them?

    - In 1992 he was 29 years old. Is Obama thankful to Clintons?

    - What about whites , are they traders also?

    Comment by Gane, Canada — Thursday, February 14, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

  13. Dear Gane,

    You are the problem…. Who ask you to post this dumb a%% question. What a lame pile of you know what. Your post is like an online cross Burnng. I can only guess that you are wearing your white hood as your wrote this crap.

    I’m looking forward to your type going the way of the Dinosaurs! Bye Bye Bye.

    You and people like you have done enough to hurt and tear up this country.

    Comment by Frank — Friday, February 15, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  14. I dont understand whats up with the American people. I’m from Illinois. Mr. Obama has NOT fixed the HEalth care system in Illinois. Let alone, he fails to mention and so does any media that his full name is Barack Hussain Obama, when he keeps yelling at the top of his lungs that he’s a Christian for 20 years! Any grade schooler will tell you…that 46( his age) - 20years = 26… so i question..Mr. Obama, what were u doing for those other 26 years of your life. I also question his fund raising. You must be kidding me, if u want me to believe that College students gave him $32 million in January….Clintons have given over 30 years of service to the U.S.A; that has made it possible for people, especially blacks like Obama, to even THINK that they can be president. People consider the global picture..not just some fancy excellent speeches. Hitler was also an excellent speaker–see what he did…speeches DONT translate into actions.

    Comment by IL voter — Friday, February 15, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  15. if one candidate goes through the candidate selection process and has more pledged delegates won via the electoral process and has won more popular votes

    OK, but what if the candidate with the popular vote plurality is not the candidate with the elected-delegate plurality?

    Of course, fortunately for whichever candidate gets the most elected delegates, we are unlikely even to know if he or she also had the most votes. The aggregate popular vote is rarely reported. It is also arguably not fully meaningful, given the way “votes” are reported in some individual caucuses and the small numbers in those contests.

    Of course, there is one place you can always turn for the running popular vote tab (as reasonably as it can be determined).

    Comment by MSS — Friday, February 15, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  16. By the way, Steven, I think there are more Clinton Republicans than you imply. Not as many as there are Obama Republicans, for sure, but there certainly are some. Even as far back as the end of 2005, polls were picking up a share of Republican vote for Clinton much greater than, for example, Gore or Kerry got. I believe that has held up, though I have not taken a close look in some time.

    To IL (or is that ill?) voter, regarding Obama not having “fixed” the healthcare problem in Illinois: As far as I understand, he was never the Governor of your fine state. Granted, there are limitations on what an executive (even President) can do to fix something that requires legislation, but to claim that his failure to “fix” the problem when he was a state legislator somehow means he can’t “fix” it as President is specious, at best. (I see no reason to address the rest of that ill rant.)

    Comment by MSS — Friday, February 15, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

  17. At least the Republicans will get some comeuppance if Clinton wins this way, by being able to say that she was “selected, not elected.”

    That’s been the mantra against Bush since 2000. . .

    Comment by Captain D. — Friday, February 15, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  18. [...] In watching the Sunday Shows, I saw NY Senator Charles Schumer on MTP and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland on FNS, both supporters of Senator Clinton, have noted that caucuses aren’t as good (democratically speaking) than primaries (and I would concur). This is clearly a key talking point of the Clinton campaign, as I noted earlier in the week when Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director, made a similar statement. [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The End of Caucuses? — Sunday, February 17, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  19. [...] I find this interesting/amusing, as one of the talking points out of the Clinton folks for the last week has been about how Obama does better in caucuses and Clinton does better in primaries, implying that when a mass of voters gets the chance to participate, Clinton prevails (see here and here, for example). They clearly are seeking to say that some wins are more important than others, but how to spin yesterday presents a new challenge. [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Big Day for Obama (Plus Primaries v. Caucuses and “Independents”) — Wednesday, February 20, 2008 @ 7:11 am

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