August 7, 2008
Could Obama still lose the nomination?By Denis Keohane
Will Hillary outsmart Obama and take the nomination at the last minute?
Many of us familiar with Hillary Clinton's approach to achieving her goals refused to believe that she ever gave up all hope of winning the nomination and the presidency. Her words and actions on the subject of the convention itself always left the door open for a return, should Obama falter or suffer some calamity.
Her artful evasions were enough to lull journalists and (more importantly) Obama and his supporters into the presumption of inevitability. No further rumblings of a mass protest in Denver should the first black candidate be denied his rightful due were heard. After all, he received enough publicly expressed support from super delegates to put him over the top. And he won the popular vote in the primaries, we were assured, lending legitimacy to the super delegates who voiced their support.
Everyone presumed the presumptive nominee was a lock.
Now there are a few signs that Hillary may be making her move.
- Blogger Patterico alludes to the Hillary Clinton campaign burning up the phone lines to the super delegates.
- Bill Clinton told ABC News, "I am not a racist" and contended the race card was played against him. Even when prompted in the same interview to state that Obama was ready for the Presidency, he did not deliver.
- Hillary's PUMA ( short for "Party Unity My A--.") supporters in Denver and nationally plan a rally at a Denver park during the convention.
- ABC news reported yesterday that Hillary Clinton does not rule out putting her name in nomination,contradicting earlier press reports.
Many people, including no doubt a goodly number of nervous Democrat super delegates, are asking themselves the David Brooks' question about Obama's standing in the polls: "Where's the landslide ?" After evaluating him for several months, voters in the middle still aren't ready to embrace him.
National polls show not only a tightening of the Obama-McCain race to a statistical dead heat but momentum toward a McCain lead, something inconceivable only weeks ago. The specter of an Obama collapse has to haunt more than a few super delegates.
Buyer's remorse seemed evident and growing among many Democrats toward the end of their primary season when Obama lost again and again to Clinton, even as the delegate math was by then stacked in his favor. That remorse was put on hold (but apparently not resolved) by Obama's seeming to secure the nomination and the subsequent popular boost he enjoyed at first. But lately the candidate with a difference has had a hard time living up to his promise to be a new kind of politician.
According to RealClearPolitics, Obama has 1766.5 pledged delegates, 352 short of the 2118 needed to secure the nomination. He also has 463 super delegates, which puts him over the top -- if they hold. If a combination of Clinton campaigning and nervousness can cause a hundred and twenty or so super delegates to sit out the first ballot, Obama does not get the nomination on the first ballot and perhaps not at all. After that first vote a great many pledged delegates and all the super delegates are free to vote as they choose.
How much pressure could there then be for the forty-seven year old Obama to take the VP spot under Hillary, with the understanding that he would as such be the next Democrat in line for the top nomination whether Hillary won or lost, served one, two or no terms?
It looks like Obama's belief in his inevitability may have led him into a blunder, making it easier for Hillary supporters to prevent a nomination on the first ballot. After that point, anything goes, as all super delegates and many pledged delegates are free to vote their preferences.
After accepting the party's decision last June to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida but with half votes, only days ago Obama said he wanted the delegates to have full votes
Obviously, he said this believing he has won the nomination and that pandering to voters in critical general election states is of more importance.
If the party goes along with Obama's request, it reduces the number of super delegates who would need to sit out the first ballot for Obama to be denied the nomination, opening the way for Clinton! Ouch!
This is proof that the man should not be negotiating with Ahmadinejad. If he cannot think strategically and recognize his vulnerability to a last minute ambush at the convention, he would be eaten alive in big league world affairs.
Worst of all, in his letter to the Credentials Committee arguing in favor of full votes for the two delegations, he writes:
These words tacitly argue for acceptance of the popular vote results in those states. Obama cannot see one step ahead, for adding them to the vote count would give the Democratic primary season popular vote majority to Hillary.
There are about three weeks to the delegate voting. Things can still happen or even, as sometimes suspected with the Clintons, be made to happen.