How Far Will Hillary Go to get the Nomination?

Thomas Edsall, a very sharp and well connected political reporter who now works for the Huffington Post has written a story on what the Clinton campaign might do in order to get the nomination.

Calling it "the nuclear option," the Clinton-dominated rules committee which will meet at the end of the month, will be used to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations at the convention thus giving Hillary a huge boost toward the nomination:

With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate.

Using the Rules and Bylaws Committee to force the seating of two pro-Hillary delegations would provoke a massive outcry from Obama forces. Such a strategy would, additionally, face at least two other major hurdles, and could only be attempted, according to sources in the Clinton camp, under specific circumstances:

First, this coming Tuesday, Clinton would have to win Indiana and lose North Carolina by a very small margin - or better yet, win the Tar Heel state. She would also have to demonstrate continued strength in the contests before May 31.

Second, and equally important, her argument that she is a better general election candidate than Obama -- that he has major weaknesses which have only been recently revealed -- would have to rapidly gain traction, not only within the media, where she has experienced some success, but within the broad activist ranks of the Democratic Party.

Under that optimistic scenario, some Clinton operatives believe she could overcome several massive stumbling blocks:

Would she dare? Of course she would. But despite the damage done to Obama over the Wright fiasco, Hillary Clinton is not in a very good position to take advantage of the opening. The reason? Her own negatives are so high that Democrats appear willing to run a badly bruised candidate like Obama in the fall rather than a candidate they don't trust and don't like very much.

Still, with the typical Clinton "take no prisoners" attitude, running roughshod over the party's rules committee would not be unexpected. As Edsall points out, however, even those on the committee who support her might hesitate unless the case against Obama is very strong. They have their own political careers to think about and if Obama were to end up winning the nomination anyway, they would be toast.

I think for such a scenario to develop, Clinton would have to win North Carolina convincingly. It will take a while for momentum against Obama to build and with three weeks before the committee meets, it may take that long - as well as victories by Hillary in West Virginia, Kentucky, and a possible win over favored Obama in Oregon - before Democratic regulars reluctantly come to the conclusion that putting Obama at the top of the ticket would be a disaster of historic proportions.