Hillary Clinton Trying to Steal Nomination?

Hillary Clinton Trying to Steal Nomination?Hillary Clinton has issued a call to retroactively seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida that were ousted for holding their primaries earlier than allowed. She does so in the language of party unity:

“I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan. I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision. But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention.

Of course, this is complicated somewhat by the fact that she ran unopposed in Michigan — because her opponents followed the rules and took their names off the ballot and she did not — and is expected to win Florida easily.

Robert Prather observed in the previous post, “I suspect that this is only the beginning of the Clintons’ shenanigans.” Quite right.

And this view isn’t just coming from the Clinton Derangement Syndrome infected Right Wing Conspiracy engaging in the Politics of Personal Destruction because they Hate Strong Women.

From the Obama campaign:

“No one is more disappointed that Florida Democrats will have no role in selecting delegates for the nomination of the party’s standard bearer than Senator Obama. When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she made it clear that states like Michigan and Florida that wouldn’t produce any delegates, ‘don’t count for anything.’ Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary, she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred. Senator Clinton’s own campaign has repeatedly said that this is a ‘contest for delegates’, and Florida is a contest that offers zero. Whether it is Barack Obama’s record, her position on Social Security, or even the meaning of the Florida Primary, it seems like Hillary Clinton will do or say anything to win an election. When he is the nominee, Barack Obama will campaign vigorously in Florida and Michigan to put them in the Democratic column in 2008.”

Many prominent left-of-center bloggers concur.

Josh Marshall declares, “The Clinton camp really needs to be shut down on this new gambit of theirs to muscle the party and the other candidates into seating the Michigan and Florida delegate slates” and argues that you “don’t change the rules in midstream to favor one candidate or another.” (An argument I seem to recall having heard before some seven-odd years ago.) As Joe Gandelman points out, Clinton made that argument herself months ago.

Matt Yglesias dubs this “Calvinball” and argues, “There was a time and a place to stand up for the Michigan and Florida primaries, but she didn’t do it.” Tim Dickinson proclaims it, “like changing the rules in the middle of a basketball game to count the pre-game layup drills in the final score.”

Ezra Klein warns, “This is the sort of decision that has the potential to tear the party apart.”

She’s doing so right before Florida, to intensify her good press in the state, where Obama is also on the ballot. And since this is a complicated, internal-party matter that sounds weird to those not versed in it (of course Michigan and Florida should count!), she’s adding a public challenge that, if the other Democrats deny, will make them seem anti-Michigan and Florida.

But if this pushes her over the edge, the Obama camp, and their supporters, really will feel that she stole her victory. They didn’t contest those states because they weren’t going to count, not because they were so committed to the DNC’s procedural arguments that they were willing to sacrifice dozens of delegates to support it. It’s as hard as hardball gets, and the end could be unimaginably acrimonious. Imagine if African-American voters feel the rules were changed to prevent Obama’s victory, if young voters feel the delegate counts were shifted to block their candidate.

Marc Ambinder argues that this proclamation, coming just before Tuesday’s vote in Florida, essentially violates her pledge not to campaign in Florida. (Marshall, correctly, makes the same point about her leaving her name on the ballot in Michigan.)

Ron Chusid believes this a continuation of Clinton’s “dirty politics.” Robert Farley proclaims it “pretty appalling” and a “nasty little power grab.” Marcy Wheeler calls it “bullshit.”

Not all of the Netroots feel this way.

Big Tent Liberal observes that, as a technical matter, the party didn’t require the candidates to take their names off the ballots in Michigan and that they couldn’t do so in Florida without dropping out of the race entirely. Further, the rules of the game allow the convention delegates to reinstate these delegates.

This is true, so far as it goes. But there’s a difference between the spirit of the law and its letter. Both of Clinton’s serious opponents honored a pledge to take their name off the Michigan ballot in order to comply with their agreement not to “campaign or participate” in primaries held before the allowed dates.

It’s also true, as many commenters have argued, that we always knew the Florida and Michigan delegates would eventually be seated. But there’s a stark difference between doing it as a gesture of party unity after a nomination is wrapped up versus doing it in the heat of the race as a campaign stunt.

The unmitigated gall at attempting to simultaneously change to rules to her advantage and yet claim to be doing it for the good of the party is so amazingly Clintonian that one has to be at least a bit impressed. For Democrats who believe that they keep losing national elections to Republicans because they’re just not willing to play rough enough, this has to inspire hope.

One has to wonder at the desperation of this move. Ezra is right at the possible damage this could do to the party. Yet, Clinton had to be the favorite to win the nomination, anyway, even without resorting to such tactics, since the Super Delegates are going to go her way, overwhelmingly, unless Obama runs away with the race from here on out. Maybe she knows something we don’t.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CC Rider says:

    And so it begins … All hail the Clinton Machine! All hail the Clinton Machine!

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Tear the party apart? Nonsense. As far as most Democrats are concerned it’s just a procedural issue with no real impact on their lives or votes.

    But, as I’ve been suggesting all along, it does suggest that the Clinton campaign can count. They’ll need every delegate they can field to win.

    I do think there are forces that could, conceivably, drive the party apart e.g. if a real battle emerges between Hispanic Democratic voters and African American Democratic voters. But apart to what? The party just won’t splinter; its members would go somewhere.

    The notion that they’d turn to the Republicans is laughable. The Greens just aren’t a viable alternative at this point.

    However, if the DNC renegs on its rulings about Florida and Michigan, it will demonstrate two things pretty clearly. First, that state parties can do whatever they darned well please as far as primaries go and, second, that the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Clinton organization. Which was apparent anyway (look at the results of the 2006 elections).

    James, you’ve already mentioned one quote from “Mr. Dooley” recently that’s relevant: politics ain’t beanbag. But there’s another one that I think is equally relevant: the Democratic Party is a political party that isn’t on speaking terms with itself. That goes back more than 150 years. And, judging by the “Who Killed the Republican Party” post below, the Republican Party is in about the same boat.

  3. rodney dill says:

    …so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan. I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision. But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention.

    Actually Hillary’s move is doing the opposite of being inclusive as the Florida and Michigan contests were defaulted at the get go. To be inclusive those contests would need to be rerun with a ‘fair’ playing field from the start. Then is inclusiveness argument would correctly apply.

  4. Triumph says:

    Of course she’s trying to steal the nomination. Stealing is hard-wired in her red-bellied genes. Just like she stole money in the Whitewater scam and stole Vince Foster’s life through her murderous deeds, Hillary will stop at nothing to assert her interests over those of America.

  5. Paulsur says:

    You hate the Clintons right now. But once they win the nomination, you will blindly support Boris and Natasha against whatever opposition the republican party nominates. Because after all, it is about first advancing socialist agendas and detroying the capitalist system.

  6. MZ says:

    Sorry, “BDS” or “Bush Derangement Syndrome” has already been coined. You’ll have to come up with something different for the dislike of the Clintons.

  7. If this is how she treats her freinds, just imagine what she’ll do as president to her enemies.

  8. Just watch as the Clinton sleaze machine goes into overdrive attempting to change the rules at the last minute so that Hillary can win. While there are lots of good reasons to discuss the status of Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates at the convention, that discussion should be taking place after the primaries, and Clinton’s reasons for bringing it up now are sickeningly obvious. While she has pledged not to campaign in Florida, she is in fact campaigning to Florida voters. As she has surely calculated, any on the eve of the Florida primary who oppose her would appear to be opposing Florida’s right to participate in the nomination process. A short-term win for Clinton, perhaps, but one that in the long term may be of little benefit to a campaign that is looking dirtier by the day.