Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Clinton and Obama - March 10, 2008

As a former member of the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee (aka DNC) I am fascinated by the political drama playing out on the nightly news. Will the Michigan and Florida delegations be seated? Yes. Will the super delegates decide the outcome of the Clinton/Obama match? No. Why did black elected officials give early support to Hillary Clinton, despite strong popular opinion in favor of Obama? That’s what politicians do. Who will be the Democratic Party’s nominee? Obama, unless he has a train wreck.

Now, for those of you who are fascinated as I am by the race, here is a brief explanation. The Michigan and Florida delegations will be seated for three reasons. One, it will make the DNC look bad in the eyes of voters if their votes are not counted. Two, Democrats need to count those votes to help figure out who wins. Three, the Democratic Party can’t make rules that effectively deprive voters of the Constitutional right to vote. It is not a matter of whether the votes will count, but how will the votes be counted. Caucuses benefit Barack. Primaries benefit Hillary. The most sensible proposal I have heard so far was proposed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist – send every registered Democrat a ballot and ask that they mail it back in. It’s a relatively cheap, quick and comprehensive solution.

The super delegates are running fast to get in front of the people and lead them where they want to go. Once again, what the voters think matters. Many of the super delegates are elected officials. They don’t want voters mad at them the next time they run, remembering their failure to support Obama. Clue: Those up for election in November, 2008 are running the hardest, while those who don’t face re-election until 2010 are a little slower to get on the Obama band wagon. I am not offended that some black elected officials supported Hillary early. EMILY (Early Money Is Like Yeast) is an organization that gives money to female candidates. The same principle applies to endorsements – early endorsements are also like yeast – they help a candidate rise when they need it most. Elected officials who wanted to endear themselves to the Clintons early did not necessarily make a bad call. Who could have predicted the Obama steamroller in September? (Actually, I did – Rainbow PUSH went to South Carolina to gin up young voters on a dozen college campuses just after Labor Day – I had a hunch.) Even a member of Congress is only one of a club of 535 people – not all of whom are owed a political favor by the White House on Day 1. All politicians try to use their influence to get leverage. What separates the good politicians from the bad ones is the good ones will use the leverage in favor of their constituents. The bad ones will use it for themselves.

Obama is running a smooth operation. Great Internet strategy. Great fundraising ability. Few hiccups. Focused message. Great speech maker. Beautiful family. The nomination is his to win, or to lose. Hillary can’t beat him. The only way he gets beat is that he beats himself. But don’t count on it. Keep watching. This is a history-making year.

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