The Plank

More On Clinton's Insane New Strategy

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The Clinton plan to go after delegates already pledged to Obama--i.e., delegates he "won" in caucuses and primaries--seems to me, if anything, even more self-destructive than Isaac describes. The Politico story by Roger Simon (who deserves kudos for the scoop) repeatedly suggests that the reason the Clinton campaign is talking about going after these delegates is that it wants to avoid the appearance that unelected superdelegates could decide the race and be perceived as overruling the will of the voters:

But one neutral Democratic operative said to me: “If you are Hillary
Clinton, you know you can’t get the nomination just with superdelegates
without splitting the party. You have to go after the pledged
delegates.”

Winning with superdelegates is potentially party-splitting because
it could mean throwing out the choice of the elected delegates and
substituting the choice of 795 party big shots.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned against it. “I think there is
a concern when the public speaks and there is a counter-decision made
to that,” she said. “It would be a problem for the party if the verdict
would be something different than the public has decided.”

Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000 and is a
member of the DNC, said recently: “If 795 of my colleagues decide this
election, I will quit [the DNC]. I feel very strongly about this.”

On Sunday, Doug Wilder, the mayor of Richmond and a former governor
of Virginia, went even further, predicting riots in the streets if the
Clinton campaign were to overturn an Obama lead through the use of
superdelegates.

“There will be chaos at the convention,” Wilder told Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.”

“If you think 1968 was bad, you watch: In 2008, it will be worse.”

As Simon writes: "But would getting pledged delegates to switch sides be any less controversial? Perhaps not."

Perhaps? You must be kidding me. It's one thing to go after free-floating superdelegates whom everyone knows are allowed to vote their conscience, even if it means going against the popular will. If the Clinton campaign seriously goes after pledged delegates, delegates explicitly chosen by voters to support another candidate, the uproar would (rightly) make the old target-the-superdelegates strategy look like a minor faux pas among friends.

The reason all the Democrats quoted in Simon's article are focusing on how bad the superdelegate strategy would be for the party isn't because they think it would be better if one of the candidates instead tried to pry away the other's pledged delegates. It's because none of them imagined a campaign would be brazen enough to publicly announce that this was its plan. I mean, honestly, is there any more explicit way of overruling the voters than pressuring the delegates they elected to switch sides and violate their written (though evidently non-binding) pledge?

One other brief point: The Clinton folks quoted in the article repeatedly assert that they're confident that Barack Obama will try to do the same thing, based of course on no evidence of any kind. Indeed the sole Obamaite quoted in the article says he is unaware of any such plan. So why does Simon just accept the Clintons' disingenuous spin at face value in his closing graphs:

If, however, after the April 22 Pennsylvania primary the pledged
delegate count looks very close, the Clinton official said, “[both]
sides will start working all delegates.”

In other words, Clinton and Obama will have to go after every delegate who is alive and breathing.

Perhaps that "Clinton official" should just be speaking on behalf of the candidate he knows firsthand is contemplating overturning the democratic process and tearing the party apart. 

Correction: I initially credited the Politico story to Ben Smith rather than Roger Simon. I have corrected the text and apologize for any confusion.

Update: TPM has Clinton spokesman Phil Singer adamantly denying the story. Jon Chait's suspicions may have been well-founded.

--Christopher Orr

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