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.)
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.