NO REST FOR THE WEARY!
Traveling the "Last Mile" of the
2008 Primary and Caucus "season"
Sunday, June 1, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
'Tis often said that, unlike for those who work a 5-day week (especially those who work the more usual workweek of Monday through Friday), Politics never takes a day off.
Nothing could have been more true this weekend of Saturday 31 May and Sunday 1 June 2008:
First of all, there was the spectacle of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. on the Saturday of that weekend. While no real "bombshell" emerged from this conclave, we at least can now know three things with no small degree of certitude:
2. We are still, in the main, pretty much where we were before the decision in '1.' was made- but for the fact that Senator Obama is slightly farther back of the new "finish line" mandated by the results of the decision: as was the case back in 1972, the "preliminary hearing" has been held; the Clinton campaign has reserved the right to, at least potentially, bring the issue of delegate count up again before the Convention's own Credentials Committee at a future date; and, in any event, the National Convention itself ever retains the power and authority to finally decide the matter, should a dispute over how many delegates Florida and Michigan should have still be 'live' so late in the "game".
The only thing seemingly missing from a 1972-like process is the case brought before the Federal Judiciary a la O'Brien v. Brown [409 U.S. 1 (1972)] (and, keep in mind, that case only came into play when a Credentials Committee overturned an original decision akin to that made by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and the loser thereafter immediately went to court).
Thus, 3. As certain as we can be about '1.' and '2.' above, we can also still be certain that we can still use the words of the sage American philosopher, Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over"...
and it is not "over"... at least not quite yet!
To here briefly review:
The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed to allow the seating of half of the originally allocated National Convention delegates from both Florida and Michigan. What this does is, beyond anything else and any effect- positive or negative- on the continuing nomination hopes of either of the two still viable Democratic Party presidential contenders- is, finally (as I have been suggesting would be the case all along), take the representation of Florida and Michigan at the National Convention per se off the stage of the theater of possible political controversy.
In other words, whatever happens over the next now less than three months leading up to the Denver Convention- whether Florida and Michigan, somehow, get their fullest compliment of delegates restored or no, there will be Florida and Michigan delegations present and voting at this year's Democratic National Convention, no matter what, and, thereby, the Democratic Party US has now avoided making the first really big mistake of the ensuing 2008 General Election campaign.
Going into the 31 May confab, Senator Obama was- depending on whose count one used- a mere 40-something delegates short of the then-"magic number" of 2026 out of 4050 delegates. Adding a total of 184 more delegates (of which 27.5 are newly restored "superdelegate votes" [for lack of a better term, since you can't have half a superdelegate!]) creates a new "necessary to nominate" number of 2118 (2026+[184/2]) and, upon redistributing the delegates already known insofar as their commitments are concerned, put Obama at some 60-something short of the new "line" once the 31 May meeting was over: a slight setback for the Illinois Senator, but not yet a serious one.
All in all, Senator Clinton gained approximately 25-plus delegates out of 31 May in her attempts, yet once more, to "close the gap" but she still remained some 175 delegates or so out as this particular "marathon" entered its "last mile" (that is, the final week of the Primary/Caucus "season" which- hard as it is for me to, right now, realize- began a mere five months ago in Iowa [how come, then, it seems like more five years ago? ;-) How come, also, do I know- for certain- that, should I read these very words I have just typed a year from now, it will- by then- seem as if Iowa were a mere five hours earlier?]).
So, next day (Sunday 1 June), all eyes naturally turned towards Puerto Rico and its 55 pledged Democratic National Convention delegates still "up for grabs" on the island Commonwealth:
Hillary Clinton won Puerto Rico's Presidential Primary handily (further closing the gap between her and Obama by another 20-some pledged delegates, although Obama is now around 50 short of the new "magic number")-- but, again, this was not at all unexpected (and we're back to what I have been writing about over the last few weeks: that, since early March now, neither presidential contender has failed to win a Primary each was, long before, projected to win; at the same time, this means that neither has "broken serve" and taken a Primary away from the other- although Obama did put a scare into Mrs. Clinton in Indiana).
More to the point, Senator Clinton cannot shake (and it is now seems much too late for her to shake) what has proven to have been her principal weakness all along: how could a former First Lady, the wife of a two-term one-time Democratic President who is still something of a "rock star" amongst many in the Party, a Senator- in her own right- of one of the larger States of the American Union now in her second term, end up- at best- in something along the lines of the oxymoronically-termed "statistical tie" for the Democratic presidential nomination with a Senator, though admittedly from another one of the larger States in population, still in his first term in that body?
Of all the Major Party presidential contenders- Democrat and Republican alike- the closest thing we even had to the archetypal "front runner" throughout this generally wide open presidential race (as I pointed out in an interview broadcast on Australia's National Radio which was recorded now nearly six months ago) has ever been Senator Clinton herself and, as a result, all her recent public claims as to having more of the Popular Vote in the Presidential Primaries or her citing polls showing how she would do in so-called "battleground States" come November, despite her still being behind in the delegate count (as well as still significantly farther from even the new "finish line" in the latest delegate count than Obama is) only serve to make her position look all the weaker if only because it hadn't had to have been this way in the first place (and, indeed, not all that long ago, few- and I here include myself among the "many" and not these "few"- would have ever imagined it would be this way: indeed, if you had held the proverbial gun to my head around a year ago at this time and demanded of me who the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee would be, I would almost certainly have answered 'Hillary Clinton' although, unlike many among my fellow "many", I would not have thought it would be all that easy for her and, indeed, would have demurred relative to those many who- at that time- honestly thought that the Democratic nomination race would've been all but over come Wednesday 6 February last. I also have to admit that I would not have, back in June 2007, thought that Barack Obama would be the one who would emerge as her principal protagonist either!)
So, what's next?
Well, all we can do is wait for the final two States holding Presidential Primaries- Montana and South Dakota- to vote this coming Tuesday (3 June). There are only a grand total of 31 pledged delegates between them and, whatever the respective results in those two States, it is not going to have all that much of an impact on the presidential nomination race itself (except that, in any event, Senator Obama will be incrementally that much closer to the new "finish line").
Then we see where we are come Wednesday the 4th and, if need be, Thursday the 5th and, if necessary, Friday 6 June, etc. as we see how many "superdelegates" still, at least publicly, on the fence move towards whom. Meanwhile, throughout these first few days following those final Primaries of the 2008 "season", the ball will then truly be in Hillary Clinton's "court"-- does she fold her hand? or does she continue to not only "see" Barack Obama but, in addition, "raise" him?
So, although it is not yet over, it might still actually be over sooner rather than later, but a lot will depend on just how the truly uncommitted "superdelegates"- who, as has been the case for weeks now, will ultimately determine which might be the nominee- read the "political tea leaves" once all the pledged delegates that can be pledged can be reasonably projected as to whom they are/will be pledged! Meanwhile, it is well known that at least some publicly uncommitted "superdelegates" are really committed to one contender or the other and have been "lying low" merely for purposes of political strategy (being able to work behind the scenes on the Florida/Michigan dispute heard at the 31 May meeting, for example)-- if there are a number of these who have, indeed, secretly been committed to Obama for some time now, their "going public" later this coming week may be just enough to put the Illinois Senator over the new "magic number".
And, if so, then let the "exit strategy" for Senator Clinton begin!