Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Morning After Ohio and Texas

The morning after the Democratic primaries in Ohio and Texas the situation for the Democratic Party is much more problematic than we might have anticipated, considering the fact that the electorate shows every inclination to elect the Democrat, whoever that might be, in November. Of course that circumstance makes the nomination something worth fighting for. If Obama had won last night overall, that would have been the end of it. If Clinton had won large, decisive victories in both Ohio and Texas, that would have meant a whole new race. But Clinton won big in Ohio with approximately 55 percent of the vote, and very narrowly in Texas with maybe three points between them, and Obama expected to pick up some more delegates when the caucus results come in later this morning (Texas assigns about two thirds of the delegates by popular vote during the day, then another third by caucus in the evening. I have no idea why). So the decision was as split as split can be. There's a lot of talk about "delegate math," but the unpledged "superdelegates" are presently rolling around like loose cannons on the deck: they've been drifting over to Obama during his late string of victories, but many of them gave their word to Clinton long ago, and now there is not a case that either is the clear popular favorite (it's not unreasonable to assume that many superdelegates will try to represent the popular vote in their states or in the country as a whole). There are, as of this morning, 256 formally unpledged superdelegates (technically they are all unpledged, remember: nothing legally binds any of them). I'm using today's New York Times coverage by the way. And as of this morning, Obama has 86 more delegates than Clinton out of 2,868 popularly elected delegates so far pledged between them. The superdelegates can still decide the nominee at the convention: it's false to claim that Obama has that locked up. Of course, the nominating rules, complex as they might be, have been known to all since the beginning, and so if Obama does win a narrow delegate win, and even if that occured while Clinton had won the popular vote overall, fair's fair and that will be that. But we're not there yet. Where we are is in a terribly difficult space: the only really big primary left is Pennsylvania, and that doesn't happen until April 22, an eternity from now. Seven weeks of the two Democrats throwing bricks at each other, while McCain gets down to running for president (and McCain, Bush et al pile on with attacks on the Democrats). Obviously (right?) the Democrats need to get together and put Obama and Clinton on the same ticket, but who blinks? There is a case that Obama is the front-runner, but it doesn't amount to much more than the "delegate math" argument, which is just not incontrovertible at this point. In fact I find much more persuasive the fact that Clinton has won California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, and nine other states. Sit down with the Electoral Calculator and tell me which states the Democrats need to carry to win, if you're so impressed with delegate math. And by the way, what can it be but an intemperate bias towards Obama to just dismiss the voters of Florida and Michigan, two absolute must-win states for the Democrats? Millions of people voted in those states. The argument for Obama turns out to be quite thin - I'd say the argument for Clinton is stronger. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to e-mail both campaigns and beseech them to make a deal. You should too. If enough of us did, they'd start to move in that direction. Obama-Clinton, the ticket I thought was impossible a few weeks ago, looks like the ticket to me now. Otherwise it has to be Clinton-Obama (my preference). Consensus politics.

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