06 March, 2008

Back to Nominations

Despite its unfortunate directional composition, I find this NYTimes graph a succinct way to bring our posts up to date. Gathered in one place are the outlooks of Obama and Clinton going into the last stretch, and a barebones look at why the nomination will be decided by the superdelegates. Now you can see here that Obama certainly has the edge in almost every scenario - that is, he'll need far fewer of the outstanding superdelegates unless Clinton wins 60+% of the delegates in the remaining primaries. (Note that this analysis does not include the speculated seating of Florida or Michigan delegates.)

So, with the current delegate count appearing to lean in one direction and the momentum waffling from candidate to candidate, I have to say that the race could still be called "close." Close enough, anyway, that both candidates can hold out real hopes of winning (and by real, I mean math, not miracles). So even if one of those candidates is pinning that hope on a significant change in popular opinion (or a scandle) AND a nod from a large number of superdelegates, I think there's good reason to expect this race to go all the way to the Convention. Just because causing a change in the lead seems unlikely, or even somewhat underhanded, doesn't mean its completely crazy. In this primary season (where we've seen some crazy bids for nominations) I just don't see any remaining candidate dropping out for the good of their party, no matter how much I might agree that it would be best.


Elliot said...

Right, clearly the race is close in the sense that neither candidate seems likely to reach the required number of delegates before the convention. And thus, Clinton's logic is that the longer she can hold off being declared "dead", the more likely it is that 1) something catastrophic will happen to Obama's candidacy, 2) Florida and Michigan delegates will be reseated, or 3) she can arrive at the Convention more or less tied in delegates, and then pull some behind the scenes wheeling and dealing.

But in another, very real sense, the race is not close at all. After her "amazing" comeback on Tuesday, Clinton appears to have gained no more than 15 delegates on Obama, and more likely less. Because of the proportionality system, its just not realistic that she's going to make up the difference even if she keeps beating Obama by ten points. Barring something catastrophic or totally against the rules (such as reseating Florida and Michigan without a re-vote) Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee.

But it seems like you agree with all that. What you're saying is not that Clinton has much of a chance, it's that no one can expect her to drop out as long as she has any chance, small as it is.

And I agree with that, no one can expect her to do that. And I think the close race reflects in a very real way that many Democrats are unsatisfied or unconvinced by Obama, and that matters.

So what I think should happen now is that the Democratic leadership should recognize that this race needs to be wrapped up, and it should intervene to bring it to a close. Dodd has already endorsed Obama, and people like Richardson, Edwards, Dean, and maybe even Gore can make it clear to the Clintons that there has to be some sort of negotiated truce.

What would that look like? Clinton has hinted that she would be open to a joint ticket with Obama. That idea first repelled me - will all those independents that loathe Hillary but swoon in droves for Obama split for McCain in the face of a Obama/Clinton ticket? I don't know. Much as I hate to admit it, I don't think that right now Obama can say he has the full support of Democratic voters, and that matters. And either way, a joint ticket would be hell for identity politics - would it be the man always trumping the woman, or the white always elbowing out the black?!?

spencer said...

Elliot's right, I think, that Barack Obama should be the Democratic nominee based on how the math works out. Look, Hillary is not going to get 60% of remaining pledged delegates. That simply is not going to happen. So Obama will have the most pledged delegates going in to the convention. Thus Hillary can only win in two ways:

1) She wins a majority of superdelegates, in effect overturning the popular vote.
2) The Michigan and Florida delegations are seated with or without a re-vote or re-caucus in those states.

Option 2 is, quite starkly, cheating. Everyone agreed that no campaigning would take place in Michigan or Florida. Michigan and Florida were fully aware of what they were getting themselves into. Honestly, if she wins by getting these delegations seated, I don't think I'd be able to vote for her in November. Just the thought of it makes me sick.

Option 1 is not cheating in any sense, but it certainly leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. And ultimately, I don't think this could happen; I don't think Howard Dean is going to let this happen. After the 2000 debacle, I don't think many people besides the Clintons would support overturning a popular decision.

So, no, the race is not close. Hillary Clinton will only be the nominee through cheating or anti-democratic practices. No doubt she knows this. Yet, she continues on. I can only assume, then, that she intends to cheat or overturn the popular vote in order to win the nomination. Look, any outcome that involves her staying in is bad for the Democratic party. Either we will have a undemocratically elected nominee or a protracted battle in which her attacks give the Republicans more and more ammunition to use against Obama.

Elliot said...

Just with regards to the joint ticket: It has become clear since Clinton first suggested the idea that it was little more than a desperate ploy. Bill has reiterated that her offer is only for Hillary to be at the top of the ticket, which makes little to no sense -- she clearly needs Obama more than he needs her.

So I more or less recant having entertained a Unity ticket. Clinton would never serve as VP, and her attempt to appear gracious by offering Obama the slot even though she is inalterably behind is, as dear Cassady would say, pure snake-in-the-grass. Obama should get used to the idea that this is going to the convention, settle in for the long haul, win it fair and square, and then pick whomever he damn well wants for his running mate.

Eremita said...

I agree with all of the above comments: that it is extremely unlikely that Clinton will win in any way that is not "cheating or anti-democratic," that her continuing to campaign does prevent Obama from doing some party unification right now, and that suggesting a joint ticket is a political ploy. Nevertheless, I just don't think that "bad for the party" means much, aside from registering a complaint about the way things have turned out. It certainly isn't going to mean much in terms of what Clinton does up until the Convention. And if I were Clinton or a supporter of hers that truly believed her presidency would be so much safer/better than anyone else's that it was worth some maneuvering, then I certainly wouldn't drop out at this point. It's hard to believe that "doing good for the party" is really more important than fighting it out to the end even when you're behind. That might not be great for the power of the Party, but it is what democracy and elections are supposed to allow you when you think you have something important to say.

spencer said...

Eremita makes a good point: what is Democracy if not the ability to fight for your ideas even when you have no hope of winning? I don't know, ask Ralph Nader.

What really bugs me, then, is that Hillary knows she cannot win and is attacking Obama in ways that may damage him in the general election. So, by all means, continue to run, but don't jeopardize those very ideas that you are fighting for.