Whither Mrs. Clinton?
Oh, by the way, who is going to be the Democratic nominee? Hillary Clinton’s victories in the Ohio and Texas primary, followed by Barack Obama’s trouble with his spiritual mentor, give reason to think that she could still pull it out. This week she’s been doing better in polls in states with forthcoming contests, including Pennsylvania, where she had been expected to win, and North Carolina, where she hadn’t.
But Obama still has the lead, and according to Slate’s Delegate Calculator, Mrs. Clinton would need to win at least 64% of remaining pledged delegates (those selected by voters in primaries and caucuses) in order to take the pledged delegate lead. That means the contest is almost certain to be decided by superdelegates, party and elected officials who automatically have seats at the convention and are free to vote however they please.
You might think the superdelegates would be leaning toward Mrs. Clinton right now, concerned as to whether Obama is electable, now that the Wright fiasco has transformed him into the candidate of “race,” an unpopular subject for most voters.
But Obama’s speech this week puts those superdelegates in an awkward position. Can they really reject Obama for staking out a position on race that is, at least by left-liberal lights, about as thoughtful and conciliatory as one could ever hope for? The danger for the Democratic Party is that if the superdelegates turn against Obama over this, it will appear as if they are doing so because he is black.
Another plus for Obama–for now, anyway–is that there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the offing for the Michigan and Florida problem. The party stripped those two states of their convention delegates because they held their primaries earlier than party rules allowed. Mrs. Clinton campaigned in both states anyway, and won the primaries, while Obama (and other, now-forgotten candidates) stayed away. The New York Sun reports that Mrs. Clinton seems to have blown it:
In a little-noticed comment that may have conflated wish with reality, the former first lady’s top adviser on delegate issues, Harold Ickes, told reporters on Tuesday, “She has urged for weeks now that there should be reruns of those primaries.”
In fact, Mrs. Clinton and her campaign publicly endorsed revotes in both states on March 12, only six days before Mr. Ickes and the rest of the Clinton crew began taunting Mr. Obama for dragging his feet in working out a compromise.
For more than six weeks, beginning four days before the January 29 primary in Florida, Mrs. Clinton’s camp took the inflexible position that the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries should be selected and seated based solely on the results of those votes, despite the fact there was virtually no campaigning in either state and Mr. Obama and most other Democrats had pulled their names from the Michigan ballot. That position never found traction with Democratic leaders, even those friendly to Mrs. Clinton, in part because it gave too much weight to her “victories” in those states and in part because her own backers, such as Mr. Ickes, voted for the sanctions against states that jumped the calendar. “This is just so nakedly self-serving,” a Democratic political consultant who said he voted for Mrs. Clinton, Garry South, said. “I just think it’s too clever by half.”
It now appears to be too late to schedule new votes. It should be noted that Obama’s approach to these two states is no less cynical than Mrs. Clinton’s, as Britain’s Press Association reports:
Splitting Michigan’s delegates between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be a fair way of resolving the dispute over whether to seat the delegates at the Democratic Party’s national convention, the Obama campaign said.
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said, rightly: “Michigan is populated by people, not numbers, and those people need to have their voices heard in this process.”
What we may end up with, then, is Obama getting the nomination thanks to his staking out a position on race that his party cannot walk away from, but that voters certainly can–and being further handicapped in November by his party’s having snubbed the voters of two crucial states.