Friday, March 21, 2008

Hillary, Obama, and the Democrats

Amid all the Democratic Party controversies of recent weeks, the fact remains the race is still far from decided. Indeed, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen argue that Hillary Clinton's actually got practically a snowball's chance at winning the nomination, but her campaign's staying in the game by any means necessary (via Memeorandum):

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

In other words: The notion of the Democratic contest being a dramatic cliffhanger is a game of make-believe.

The real question is why so many people are playing. The answer has more to do with media psychology than with practical politics.
Read the whole thing.

Personally, Hillary has a legitimate case that she's won the big states, which are key in the electoral college, and she'd be better able to unify more traditional elements of the old-line Democratic Party coalition.

She's also doing well heading into Pennsylvania, where
polls and data analysis show her leading Obama by double-digits.

Mathematically, however, Obama's almost guaranteed to come out ahead in the delegate count, which has the Clinton campaign initiating a behind-the-scences move against him:

To foster doubt about Obama, Clinton supporters are using a whisper and pressure campaign to make an 11th-hour argument to party insiders that he would be a weak candidate in November despite his superior standing at the moment.

“All she has left is the electability argument,” a Democratic official said. "It’s all wrapped around: Is there something that makes him ultimately unelectable?”

But the audience for that argument, the superdelegates, will not easily overturn the will of the party’s voters. And in fact, a number of heavyweight Democrats are looking at the landscape and laying the groundwork to dissuade Clinton from trying to overturn the will of the party rank and file.

The argument against Clinton's whisper campaign is that if she's succesful in pulling enough superdelegates her way to win at the convention, the party could end up choosing a nominee who did not win the popular vote.

But such a scenario's within the party's rules, and as the DNC's recently prevailed in upholding its rules in denying Florida a do-over primary for its penalized delegation, it'd be hypocritical to deny Clinton a chance to win the nomination by leveraging her power with the superdelegate bloc.

That's the lesson people should not forget: In effect, don't count out the Clinton machine.