THE PLANK MARCH 12, 2008
What worries Obama managers in Chicago is the timing: if Florida is
seen as a real re-do, and if the media portrays it as a wide open
contest, a clear Clinton victory would give her a big bounce of
momentum right as the primary window closes.
There's an interesting question here: What's worse for Obama, taking the delegate hit that would result from seating Florida's delegation as is (in the neighborhood of a net 35 delegate loss), or going forward with a revote? The consensus--which seems right to me--is that he'd probably lose again, but by a narrower margin, with a delegate loss maybe half that, or less. What's more important--the delegates or the perception of late momentum?
It's hard for me to see what Obama's ultimate strategy on this question is. Surely his campaign envisions Florida's delegation being seated somehow--it's true that winning Florida in the general election will likely be an uphill battle for him, but to refuse to seat the delegation at all would anger so many Floridians as to put the state out of play in November. The other possibility along these lines that's been floated--dividing the delegation 50–50, or in some other arbitrary fashion--doesn't seem much better, in that it doesn't actually enfranchise ordinary Floridians (whose votes still wouldn't have counted for anything), and would be hard to spin as such. So Obama's two options, essentially, are a revote or seating the delegation based on the January result.
I'm wondering whether the Obama camp's reluctance to embrace the idea of a revote is an indication that it's considering agreeing to seat the Florida delegation in exchange for some concession on the part of the Clinton campaign. Mark Schmitt suggested Obama agree to seat the delegation should Clinton agree to a do-over caucus in Michigan, in which Obama would seem to be a slight favorite. The delegate hit would be tough to swallow, but it's looking more and more like the least-bad option for Obama. Look: Florida has to count. It's not the Democrats' fault that the GOP governor and legislature scheduled an early primary. Demograhically, it's Clinton country, so any fair result is likely to hurt Obama somehow. A revote strikes me as the best choice, but if Obama doesn't want to do that, he has to agree to seat the delegation. The ball's in his court now.