Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, OBAMANIA! — Rick Moran @ 7:47 am

Say all the bad things you want about the two Democratic candidates for president as far as what they believe and what they espouse. It is immaterial to the raw excitement generated by their hotly contested race for the nomination. Both candidates are scrambling for every available delegate. Each individual contest becomes hugely important, generating the kind of excitement in a political party not seen for a generation.

Here’s a report from a Washington state caucus goer on Saturday to illustrate the point:

After convening my precinct’s caucus nearly an hour ago, and screaming myself hoarse to the HUGE crowd of people gathered in my precinct, I think the appropriate word to describe turnout today is megagigantic-massive.

I was not prepared for this. None of the organizers at our area were.

We ran out of chairs.

We ran out of sign in sheets (had to send someone to the copier for more).

We ran out of pens.

We ran out of tables.

Press reports had thousands of people attending a caucus where they expected only hundreds. Overflow caucuses were reduced to straw poll sites as people unable to get in to caucus were given paper ballots to mark their preference.

In the past, Washington state always held its caucuses too late to make an impact on the nomination. Not this year. With 78 precious delegates at stake, both sides poured resources into the state. Both candidates paid several visits to Washington in the last hectic days before the caucuses.

For Obama, the effort paid off with a big victory, 68-31. So far, Obama has been awarded 45 of those 78 delegates with Hillary Clinton getting 15. Obama is likely to pick up a few more after a very complicated district, county, and state convention process ends in May.

Obama ended up winning the rest of the contests this past weekend as well. Nebraska caucus (67-32), Louisiana primary (57-36), and the Maine caucuses yesterday (59-41). But despite these big wins, the Democratic nominating rules requiring proportional awarding of delegates is keeping Hillary in the race. The latest RCP delegate count has Obama ahead by 4 measly delegates, 1139-1135.

Other tabulations, according to Salon’s Walter Shapiro:

But this mini-surge has not brought clarity to the overall delegate counts by major media organizations, nor is it likely to. When it comes to landslide leads in the quest to win the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination, there is the CBS News tabulation, which currently has Obama besting Clinton by exactly three delegates, 1,134-to-1,131. The Associated Press has them flipped with Clinton leading 1,135 to 1,106, while the New York Times, using a very conservative methodology and not counting some caucus results, has Hillary ahead of Barack 912 to 745.

The New York Times is not awarding caucus delegates who must be chosen at district and state conventions, although the caucus results will be used to seat convention attendees who support the candidate who won at their caucus site thus assuring a very close tally of national convention delegates compared with the winner of each individual caucus.

Obama will be able to give himself a little breathing room on Tuesday where he is expected to sweep the so-called Potomac Primaries of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. And if he does it by similar margins he won by this weekend, some people are going to start asking if Hillary Clinton should still be in the race.

This is nonsense. Unless the Superdelegates start coming out in droves for Obama this week, Hillary will stick it out for a while longer. Why should she quit when even if Obama blows her out on Tuesday he only gets at most a couple of dozen more delegates than she does? Clinton will stay in until at least the March 4 primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. An Obama sweep there will probably be the ballgame not because she’ll be so far behind in delegates but because the Superdelegates will almost certainly start to weigh in heavily for Obama. At that point, the writing will be on the wall for Clinton and for the sake of unity, she will make her exit.

Hillary will be limited only by the amount of money she can raise to compete with Obama’s mega-treasury. The fact that she’s raised more than $10 million in less than a week would seem to indicate that there is a vast wellspring of support for her still out there. Her problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a real “firewall” state where she could make a stand and stop Obama’s momentum. She still has a chance in Wisconsin with the latest ARG Poll (2/6-7) giving her a 50-41 lead. But a week is a lifetime in this race and Obama’s momentum may have made that poll moot already.

However, a victory in Wisconsin for Hillary would definitely stop the Obama juggernaut and give her some momentum going into the March 4 races. At the very least it will hold off the Superdelegates from beginning a parade for Obama. There are two weeks between the Wisconsin primary on February 19th and the mini-Super Tuesday of March 4 and one can imagine party pros lining up behind Obama in the interregnum if Hillary hasn’t won a state or caucus since Super Tuesday.

If it sounds like Clinton’s options are closing down you would be correct. Shapiro highlights some of the endgames for the candidates:

THE OBAMA AVALANCHE: Even though 2008 so far has been a momentum killer (think of Clinton’s comeback in the New Hampshire primary), it is arguable that Obama’s string of February victories is a predictor of shifting Democratic sentiment. (He is likely to add two more trophies to his collection on Feb. 19 in liberal Wisconsin and his birth state of Hawaii.) If Obama somehow triumphs in Ohio and Texas on March 4, he will have filled in the one blank on his political résumé — his ability to win primaries in major states outside his own Illinois. At that point, Clinton may sound desperate to restless superdelegates as she pleads with them (probably in vain) to wait until the next major contest, the April 23 Pennsylvania primary.

THE OBAMA BANANA PEEL: Clinton has been pushing (unsuccessfully so far) for weekly debates for a simple reason — she excels in the format and she keeps hoping that Obama will make a fatal miscue. What might peril Obama would not be just a tart remark (such as his suggesting that Clinton was “likable enough”), but an error that dramatically highlights his inexperience. The question that Clinton wants Democrats (super and ordinary) to be asking themselves is, “Do we want to go up against John McCain with a candidate who was in the Illinois state Senate just four years ago?”

THE CLINTON COMEBACK (MARCH 2008 EDITION): While statewide primary victories do not radically alter the delegate calculus (Clinton, for instance, only won 44 more delegates in California than Obama, despite carrying the state by a 10-percentage-point margin), they do create a compelling political narrative. If Clinton wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, she will end April having won virtually all the big primary prizes. It will be hard — but not impossible — for Team Obama to argue that caucus landslides in smaller states (Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Washington) should count more than the traditional building blocks (California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) of a Democratic Electoral College majority.

To me, the first scenario seems the most likely at this point. However, Hillary will be able to point to the delegate total after March 4 in this scenario and ask a good question; why should I get out when I’m only a hundred or so delegates behind? This is where the Superdelegates will make the difference by moving to Obama and proving to Clinton that she has no chance to win it on the convention floor.

As for the “Banana Peel” scenario this is always a possibility with Obama. Some of the truly dumb things he has said in debates were ignored by the press earlier. Now that he is the front runner, that would change and the media would jump on a statement like his suggestion we bomb the Taliban in Pakistan without the permission of Musharraf or that he would meet with Ahmadinejad, no preconditions. And he could still be tripped up by Hillary on health care, especially since Obama’s plan doesn’t include mandates for people to buy insurance and yet claims it covers virtually everyone. Every time Obama tries to explain how his plan would still cover everyone, he steps in it a little deeper.

But Hillary can’t count on Obama at this late stage to screw up in the one debate they have left in Ohio.

The final scenario is probably her best bet. It’s the argument Republicans are using against McCain - that the candidate can’t win where he’s supposed to. If Hillary were to win Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, not only would she make the case that Obama can’t win in Democratic bastions, she will also be very close to Obama in the delegate count - probably less than 100. At that point, Obama’s “inevitability” argument falls a little flat and the heat would really be on the Superdelegates.

One final thought on those Superdelegates. Since they are made up of politicians, I think it is possible that a large group of them - perhaps a couple of hundred - will form an “uncommitted” bloc and take a wait and see attitude between the last primary in early June and the last week in August when the convention convenes. They would agree to throw their support en masse to one candidate or the other thus putting them over the top.

That’s if the #3 scenario is in play. I really do think Obama running the table on March 4 will mean it would be all over for Clinton. It is hard to see the Superdelegates giving Hillary enough support to overcome Obama being the obvious preference for a majority of the party - especially since he is currently polling better against McCain than she is.

A somewhat clarifying weekend for the Democrats to be sure. But it’s still far from over. And anyone who underestimates Hillary Clinton would be foolish. She proved it in New Hampshire. She can prove it again.

1 Comment

  1. We must face up to Obama vs McCain. On the one side we have Rove against/with the swiftboaters vis a vis McCain. On the other we have momentum vs. entitlement. Toss in sexism, racism, and the sleeper Islamicist. I swear to God, it’s ours to lose!

    Comment by bobwire — 2/12/2008 @ 2:10 am

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