Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Dem race: It'll all end in court

If the current polls are anything to go by then we're going to go down to the wire in the Democratic race. We might not get to the political anorak's fantasy of a brokered convention (see the West Wing series seven for details), but we could easily get to a point where the invalidation of the Michigan and Florida primaries will be all important.

A reminder - the state Dems in each of these two states decided to bring forward their primaries in order to secure a bit more attention. The Democratic National Committee objected and insisted they stuck to the original timetable. The states persisted and so the DNC decided to withdraw the right of those primaries to elected convention delegates. The DNC also told the candidates not to campaign there.

Clinton, through some chicanery, managed to get herself on the ballot in Michigan when all the other candidates were not - so she ran against 'Undecided' and, not surprisingly, won fairly easily (about 55-45 if memory serves).

In Florida, all the names were on the ballot but candidates were barred from campaigning. Clinton again sailed close to the wind by announcing that she would visit the state to make a victory speech after polls closed. The clearly got a lot of airplay in Florida. In the end she also won there.

Rough calculations suggest that, with the proportional sharing of delegates in the Democratic primaries, Clinton would stand to make a net gain of 53 delegates over Obama if the results were allowed to count. Whilst the Supreme Court has declared that parties can decide the rules as they see fit, there is nothing to stop a desparate Clinton from giving the courts a go in the hope of forcing a climb down (or at least a compromise).

Alternatively, she could wait until the Convention committees are decided. The candidate ahead on number of delegates gets to decide all sorts of matters and it may be that a Clinton controlled committee could decide to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations after all.

The DNC is highly unlikely to want to wait to see who pulls the strings in this manner and so may attempt to head things off. They have three options:

1. Stick to their guns and say that Michigan and Florida delegations will not be seated. The upside is that they are playing by the rules and being consistent. The downside is how this will play int the respective states. Could the Dems really hope to win those states in November if they have snubbed them in this way now?

2. They could cave and allow the delegations in - either splitting the delegates equally between those candidates in the race at the time or according to how people voted at the time. The upside of this is it avoids a Clinton court case. The down side is that it is like Obama would object (especially in the latter scenario). I mean, how could Clinton be given a load of delegates for a contest where she was the only name on the ballot?

3. The compromise is the do-over. Hold the primary contests (or, more likely, caucuses) towards the end of the primary season. By that stage they really could make all the difference.
Hat-tip to Marc Ambinder for his analysis.


Manfarang said...

Interesting to see Americans living overseas being able to vote in a primary organised by Democrats

Anonymous said...

It's the end of season 6 rather than season 7, isn't it?

Lee Griffin said...

They'll never change their stance on Florida or Michigan while Obama is ahead, it'll tell Democrats that they don't care about the result, only about getting Clinton a win.