The Green Papers
The Green Papers

Hillary Clinton's victory in Pennsylvania
sets the scene for Democrats' "denouement"

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson Staff
Thu 24 Apr 2008

At the top of this website's 'Presidential Primaries At A Glance' page, there is the following quotation from a book written now over three decades ago and entitled The Party's Choice: Studies in Presidential Selection by Keech and Matthews:

In fact, [presidential] primaries have been much more likely to sow division than unity, and most likely to leave things as they are.

Keech's and Matthews' point was that, at the time they were writing (right after Jimmy Carter had used the proportional pledging of delegates on the Democratic side throughout the process to gain that Party's 1976 Presidential Nomination), the whole, long (nowadays even longer!) Primary/Caucus "season" historically seemed to accomplish only two things: it either confirmed a Party's choice for President that (even if only in retrospect) was, in the end, inevitable or (albeit more rarely) it badly divided the Party come the National Convention.

Time since has tended to make the second of their two alternative scenarios even more common as, in presidential election cycle after presidential election cycle, the presumptive nominee- in both Major Parties- has almost always been known well in advance of the end of their respective Presidential Primary/Caucus schedules, let alone their respective Conventions! (Yes, even in 1992, despite Senator Clinton's own somewhat revisionist history regarding her husband's first presidential nominating campaign [yes, technically, Bill Clinton did mathematically clinch his nomination rather late in the "season" but we all knew, a few months earlier, that his by-then only surviving challenger, former California Governor Jerry Brown, was not going to be the Party's nominee]).

This year, however, and in the immediate wake of Senator Clinton's Keystone State victory, we are now at a crossroads: the Democratic Party US can take one of two paths- it can "leave things as they are" (by strongly giving either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama the vast majority of the votes in the few remaining contests to come) or it can "sow division [rather] than unity" by continuing to 'split the difference' over the remaining 6 weeks (yes, I know: hard as it might be to actually believe, there are, indeed, but 6 weeks left till the last Primaries are held on Tuesday 3 June)

And the next set of Primaries- Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday 6 May- will do rather little (that is: if we assume the current polling numbers are an at least decent 'window' into how the Democratic Presidential Primaries in those two States might ultimately go) to help the Party choose whichever path it might yet follow! (I will, by the way, have much more to say regarding these two States in my next Commentary to be posted in the next week or so, before those two events).

For now, we remain- despite Senator Clinton's victory in Pennsylvania- in a stage of the Democratic Party's presidential nominating process that I can best describe by using my own words from back on 2 April 2007, where I wrote about the possibility of, in at least one of the two Major Parties, a "junkyard dog fight" for a presidential nomination and noted that the relatively few delegates left to be pledged will thereafter be the limited amount of "meat" left on a rather desirable "bone".

Well, we are now up to the point where the amount of "meat" left on that "bone" is quite limited, indeed!

Senator Clinton's win in Pennsylvania is notable-- but it is not significant. She won the State by roughly 10 percentage points, yes-- but she had already won both New Jersey and Ohio by pretty much the same margin (and I have already pointed out how Pennsylvania politically resembles both of those States in my Commentary immediately previous to this one): thus, she was expected to win a State such as Pennsylvania by a margin along those lines.

So, while "a win is a win is a win" and, therefore, Clinton's win in Pennsylvania should simply be taken as such, said win actually does nothing to change the political landscape of the Democratic nomination race per se. She cannot claim a "comeback" because she already "came back" with her victories in Primaries in Ohio and Texas 7 weeks before and, while she did not fail to meet expectations in the Keystone State, she also failed to exceed them. In short, she did nothing to potentially knock Obama out: instead, she merely survived yet another Round in this heavyweight fight-- she gets to go back to her "corner" (as Obama gets to go back to his), get a sip of water and a pep talk from the trainer and then wait for the bell to sound signalling the start of the next Round less than two weeks away.

Yet, to quote Senator Clinton herself (in her victory speech in the wake of having won the Primary in the Keystone State): "The tide is turning".

She may well be right:

Senator Obama put together his "run" of first-step delegate selection event victories between 'Super Duper' Tuesday on 5 February and Super Tuesday II on 4 March largely thanks to local Caucuses. Now. however, there are no more local Caucuses: every significant delegate selection event from now until 3 June is a Primary and, while the early portion of 2008's Democratic Primary/Caucus "season" was a test for Hillary, the remainder of this "season" turns into a similar test for Barack.

In other words: while Mrs. Clinton has to begin to put together her own "run" of Primary victories (a "run" that would, theoretically, begin with West Virginia on Tuesday 13 May [if we assume, if only for the sake of this argument, that Senator Clinton wins Indiana while Senator Obama wins North Carolina on the 6th]), Mr. Obama has to- likewise- hold her at bay by preventing her from winning most, if not all, of the last 6 determinative Primaries (from West Virginia on [Nebraska and Idaho being Advisory "beauty contests" on the Democratic side- thus, not determinative).

But, again, I will deal with this whole scenario in far more detail in a future Commentary as events warrant.

However, I cannot close this piece without noting that there is yet one more serious procedural issue still looming over the whole Democratic presidential nominating process, an issue aside from that of the so-called "superdelegates", perhaps, still having the final, definitive say as to who the Democratic presidential candidate should be in a politically correct "smokeless 'smoke-filled room'", and that ever remains the seating (or not) of Democratic National Convention delegations from both Florida and Michigan, sanctioned for having moved their respective Presidential Primaries up to before 5 February.

In the immediate aftermath of the Pennsylvania Presidential Primary, while awaiting better Congressional District returns, 'The Green Papers' estimated the Clinton/Obama split of pledged delegates coming out of Pennsylvania to be 84-74 (with the caveat that such a split might, in the end, change by one or, perhaps, even a few more when the final numbers are certified). Added to the pledged delegate "soft" count on our site, plus our best estimate as regards "superdelegate" endorsements going into Pennsylvania's recent Primary, plus adding in Florida and Michigan "as is" (that is: assuming, if only for sake of this exercise, that Florida and Michigan are seated as currently pledged [including 55 formally Uncommitted delegates from Michigan] with no alterations at all), we get the following quite interesting total "soft" delegate count (what we at 'The Green Papers' call our "alternative" count):

Obama 1793, Clinton 1782 (with a new "magic number" of delegates "necessary to nominate" of 2209 in such a case).

In other words: if Florida and Michigan are factored in "as is", Hillary has just about caught up to Barack in overall delegates: thus, the "junkyard dog fight" now also includes even more snarling and baring of teeth over whether or not to seat Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention in the first place and, if so, how are they to be divvied up.

Further complicating all of this are the reports, coming out of last Saturday's (19 April) Michigan District Conventions, that persons known to support Hillary Clinton (or at least leaning toward her) are among the "warm bodies" said Conventions chose to sit in close to half of the 36 of those 55 otherwise 'Uncommitted' seats filled by said Conventions. Now this does not at all surprise me, for I wrote back on 28 January of this year that [a]s it stands, many of the 55 Uncommitted delegates also pledged as a result of Michigan's 15 January Primary will also likely go for Mrs. Clinton in any event (quite ironic, considering that most of those who voted 'Uncommitted' that day did so as a vote against Hillary): how could one expect Senator Clinton to not try and seat something on the order of a hundred delegates which will be pledged to her come the Convention?

What needs to be noted now, however, is that- give Senator Clinton roughly half of the Uncommitted delegates coming out of Michigan (say, for sake of this piece, 27 of those 55)- and Hillary Clinton would now hold the overall delegate lead in delegates (again, using the "alternative 'soft' count" on 'The Green Papers') by 1809 to 1792 over Senator Obama with her being exactly 400 shy of the "alternative" (Florida and Michigan not sanctioned) 'magic number' of 2209.

In any event, it now all gets even more interesting and, as the alleged "curse" says:

May you live in the most interesting of times!

Modified .