Clinton's Delegate Gambit

Last November when the DNC handed down its “death sentence” punishment to Michigan and Florida for holding their primaries prior to the party mandated February 5 date, there was immediate speculation that the penalty of taking away all of their delegates would never stand, that the party would never risk alienating two of the 10 largest states in the union.

During the intervening months, most of the pros I talked to were at a loss as to what would happen. Most didn’t think the penalty would stand and that some kind of accommodation would be reached prior to the convention.


But not one politico from either party that I spoke to in the last months foresaw a scenario where one of the candidates would brazenly claim solidarity with those state parties and seek to have their delegates seated
at the convention:


“I hear all the time from people in Florida and Michigan that they want their voices heard in selecting the Democratic nominee.
 

“I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan. I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision. But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention.


“I hope my fellow potential nominees will join me in this.


“I will of course be following the no-campaigning pledge that I signed, and expect others will as well.”


To review the situation, the DNC forbade candidates from campaigning in those states or running any advertising. Obama and Edwards went so far as to remove their names from the ballot in Michigan, believing that the DNC stricture would stand. Clinton didn’t think it “necessary” to remove her name from consideration in Michigan and a later effort to restore the two candidate’s names to the ballot failed in court.


Of course, this left Hillary a wide open field on January 15 when Michigan Democratic primary voters went to the polls and gave her 55% of the vote and 73 of the 128 available delegates – if the Michigan people were going to be seated at the convention. “Uncommitted” received 40% and 55 delegates.


Tuesday’s Florida primary will have all Democratic candidates on the ballot but none of them have campaigned in The Sunshine State and Hillary leads Obama by double digits in the most recent polls.


And now Clinton – in what has to be considered a shocking display of naked power politics – is seeking to change the rules in the middle of the race in order to benefit her campaign.


Ezra Klein:


This is the sort of decision that has the potential to tear the party apart. In an attempt to retain some control over the process and keep the various states from accelerating their primaries into last Summer, the Democratic National Committee warned Michigan and Florida that if they insisted on advancing their primary debates, their delegates wouldn’t be seated and the campaigns would be asked not to participate in their primaries. This was agreed to by all parties (save, of course, the states themselves).


With no one campaigning, Clinton, of course, won Michigan—she was the only Democrat to be on the ballot, as I understand it, which is testament to the other campaign’s beliefs that the contest wouldn’t count—and will likely win Florida. And because the race for delegates is likely to be close, she wants those wins to matter. So she’s fighting the DNC’s decision, and asking her delegates—those she’s already won, and those she will win—to overturn it at the convention.

She’s doing so right before Florida, to intensify her good press in the state, where Obama is also on the ballot. And since this is a complicated, internal-party matter that sounds weird to those not versed in it (of course Michigan and Florida should count!), she’s adding a public challenge that, if the other Democrats deny, will make them seem anti-Michigan and Florida.


I wish I could be outraged by Hillary’s gambit but frankly, the way Ezra describes it, one can’t help but admire its underhanded brilliance. Ultimately – and this would hold true especially if the race for delegates extends beyond the primaries – I doubt whether the results in Michigan and Florida will stand and the lion’s share of the victories simply handed to her. But by raising the issue on the eve of the Florida primary, she lays claim to the sympathies of both state parties while putting the DNC on notice that there’s s new sheriff in town and that the rules other candidates may play by simply don’t apply to the Clinton’s.


This blog post originally appears on my personal site Right Wing Nuthouse




Last November when the DNC handed down its “death sentence” punishment to Michigan and Florida for holding their primaries prior to the party mandated February 5 date, there was immediate speculation that the penalty of taking away all of their delegates would never stand, that the party would never risk alienating two of the 10 largest states in the union.

During the intervening months, most of the pros I talked to were at a loss as to what would happen. Most didn’t think the penalty would stand and that some kind of accommodation would be reached prior to the convention.


But not one politico from either party that I spoke to in the last months foresaw a scenario where one of the candidates would brazenly claim solidarity with those state parties and seek to have their delegates seated
at the convention:


“I hear all the time from people in Florida and Michigan that they want their voices heard in selecting the Democratic nominee.
 

“I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan. I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision. But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention.


“I hope my fellow potential nominees will join me in this.


“I will of course be following the no-campaigning pledge that I signed, and expect others will as well.”


To review the situation, the DNC forbade candidates from campaigning in those states or running any advertising. Obama and Edwards went so far as to remove their names from the ballot in Michigan, believing that the DNC stricture would stand. Clinton didn’t think it “necessary” to remove her name from consideration in Michigan and a later effort to restore the two candidate’s names to the ballot failed in court.


Of course, this left Hillary a wide open field on January 15 when Michigan Democratic primary voters went to the polls and gave her 55% of the vote and 73 of the 128 available delegates – if the Michigan people were going to be seated at the convention. “Uncommitted” received 40% and 55 delegates.


Tuesday’s Florida primary will have all Democratic candidates on the ballot but none of them have campaigned in The Sunshine State and Hillary leads Obama by double digits in the most recent polls.


And now Clinton – in what has to be considered a shocking display of naked power politics – is seeking to change the rules in the middle of the race in order to benefit her campaign.


Ezra Klein:


This is the sort of decision that has the potential to tear the party apart. In an attempt to retain some control over the process and keep the various states from accelerating their primaries into last Summer, the Democratic National Committee warned Michigan and Florida that if they insisted on advancing their primary debates, their delegates wouldn’t be seated and the campaigns would be asked not to participate in their primaries. This was agreed to by all parties (save, of course, the states themselves).


With no one campaigning, Clinton, of course, won Michigan—she was the only Democrat to be on the ballot, as I understand it, which is testament to the other campaign’s beliefs that the contest wouldn’t count—and will likely win Florida. And because the race for delegates is likely to be close, she wants those wins to matter. So she’s fighting the DNC’s decision, and asking her delegates—those she’s already won, and those she will win—to overturn it at the convention.

She’s doing so right before Florida, to intensify her good press in the state, where Obama is also on the ballot. And since this is a complicated, internal-party matter that sounds weird to those not versed in it (of course Michigan and Florida should count!), she’s adding a public challenge that, if the other Democrats deny, will make them seem anti-Michigan and Florida.


I wish I could be outraged by Hillary’s gambit but frankly, the way Ezra describes it, one can’t help but admire its underhanded brilliance. Ultimately – and this would hold true especially if the race for delegates extends beyond the primaries – I doubt whether the results in Michigan and Florida will stand and the lion’s share of the victories simply handed to her. But by raising the issue on the eve of the Florida primary, she lays claim to the sympathies of both state parties while putting the DNC on notice that there’s s new sheriff in town and that the rules other candidates may play by simply don’t apply to the Clinton’s.


This blog post originally appears on my personal site Right Wing Nuthouse