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Intra-jonathan Squabbling

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The other Jonathan, below, makes the case for Hillary Clinton staying in the race and winning with superdelegates. I think his points are correct in theory, but don't do a good job of describing reality. He argues that superdelegates should play their role of helping decide on the basis of "which candidate will serve the party best, in the election and beyond." I agree that it's perfectly legal, and not totally illegitimate for superdelegates to overrule the elected delegates.

But are superdelegates really going to follow the party's interests? Look at all the superdelegates Clinton locked up early. Were they making a dispassionate judgment about the party's interests? No, they were friends of Bill and Hillary, or they were threatened and cajoled into offering their support. I really have trouble seeing how people who work in Democratic politics for a living can make dispassionate judgments without considering their own career issues at stake. That's why a superdelegate-driven outcome could be seen, rightly, as somewhat illegitimate.

Second, he argues that it's plausible for Clinton to pull within 75 elected delegates. I don't know. Last Tuesday, voting in states that were especially Clinton friendly and represented 38% of the remaining elected dlegates, she managed to reduce Obama's elected delegate lead by about 3%. Even if every primary going forward was as successful as March 4, she couldn't get anywhere near a 75-delegate deficit...

...Unless, of course, she just rips his guts out and disqualifies him as a plausible president. That's the only move she can make that could have any hope of getting her elected delegate lead under 100, and persuade a majority of uncommitted superdelegates to back her. Given that many superdelegates have declared that they plan to follow the elected delegates, that seems like a real longshot. Not impossible, but a real longshot.

Now, Jon says that Clinton should "stop making attacks that are so potentially destructive to the party." Well, okay, but as I argue, this is her only shot at the nomination. Jon's sort of like Woodrow Wilson here, insisting that the German fight the war without using their u-boats. (Jon is also, like Wilson, brilliant, skinny, and interested in progressive social reform, though Jon is a far nicer person, not a segregationist, and less prone to doing things like censoring political dissidents.) She needs a roughly 2-to-1 majority among the uncommitted superdelegates, and she knows she can't convince them to override the elected delegates unless she's made Obama an unacceptable nominee.

Anyway, I agree with Jon that the role of superdelegates is not per se illegitimate. But the fact remains that any plausible -- as opposed to theoretical -- Clinton path to the nomination is extremely ugly.

--Jonathan Chait

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