On Tuesday night, Sen. Barack Obama continued to pile win after win by pulling off his ninth and tenth consecutive victories over his chief Democratic Primary rival Hillary Clinton. Obama’s decisive victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii have the Clinton campaign – again – on the ropes. Clinton’s shot at taking the nomination now rests heavily on significant wins in both the Texas and Ohio March 4 primaries.
Some onlookers have already begun writing Clinton’s political epitaph, but such talk is premature. Obama is now the clear frontrunner, but Sen. Clinton is a talented politician and still has a shot at becoming the nominee. While a few observers have predicted a long-lasting race between Obama and Hillary could “undo” party unity and hurt the eventual Democratic candidate’s chances in November, there is little reason to believe this is the case. The continuation of the Obama-Clinton contest allows both candidates to champion a progressive message to Americans across the country, while the excitement of the race steals valuable press time away from the presumed Republican nominee, John McCain.
What could spell disaster for the Democrats, however, is if the party’s nominee is selected at the party’s convention. The Clinton campaign has already hinted at two convention strategies it might utilize to derail an Obama nomination. Both tactics would be disastrously dispiriting for the Democratic Party in the general election. Moreover, on Wednesday morning, the Hillary campaign unleashed a Web site -delegatehub.com – outlining their strategy in a way that insults the reader’s intelligence and comes across as – at the very least – slightly insidious.
The first strategy is targeted around the utilization of “super delegates.” Eighty percent of the delegates at the convention are awarded votes based on each candidate’s portion of the popular vote. However, 20 percent of the votes belong to a group of “super delegates” who are not selected by voters, but instead are Democratic politicians and party leaders from across the country. Clinton staffers have begun to aggressively court super delegates into voting for Clinton. If Obama ends up winning a majority of the popular vote, but Clinton becomes the nominee due to unaccountable political bosses, there would be incredible unrest in the party. Many of the new voters Obama has been able to turn out would most certainly feel cheated and would likely stay home on Election Day. Delegatehub.com, referring to the super delegates as “automatic delegates,” infers that the delegates should select the candidate based on their “best judgment,” echoing a line the Clinton campaign has often used to emphasize Clinton’s electability. The narrative goes: Clinton has aptly fought back against decades of Republican smears and is the only “tested” candidate in the race. These arguments would likely be more effective if, rather than talk to reporters about her ability to win the election, she actually proved it by beating Barack Obama in a state or two.
The second strategy the Clinton campaign has been toying with is one in which they attempt to alter a rule that stripped delegates from Florida and Michigan. Because both of those states moved their primaries earlier than the party allowed, the Democratic National Committee voted to withhold delegates from those states. Clinton and Obama didn’t object, Obama removed his name from Michigan’s ballots, and neither candidate campaigned in the state. Yet, on Delegatehub.com, the Clinton campaign asserts:
“FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy.”
This is an obvious and cynical ploy, not merely because most readers are smart enough to infer any sentence with the word “should” in it is probably an opinion and not a fact, but also because the Clinton campaign is trying to back out on rules that they – at least tacitly – helped put in place.
Both Clinton and Obama would be terrific candidates this November and, I think, decent presidents. However, the nominee needs to be chosen by a process that is consistent and fair. Attempting to alter the rules is an attempt welded in desperation. If Clinton wants to be the nominee, she needs to convince the voters – not change the rules at the last minute.