Patterico's Pontifications


Hillary’s Prospects: Dim, But Not Dead

Filed under: 2008 Election,General — Patterico @ 8:45 pm

One day after her big victory, Hillary’s prospects are looking dim, as her only chance at seating delegations from Michigan and Florida appears to rest on an unlikely do-over in one or both states.

Howard Dean will not bend the party rules to grandfather in the disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida, the Democratic party chairman said in a statement today.

Instead, he put the state parties on notice: either they can wait and allow the credentials committee to decide whether to seat their delegates, or submit to a re-vote sanctioned under DNC rules. “We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time,” he said in the statement.

“Everyone seems to be asking what the DNC will do,” a Democrat close to Dean said. “But the question is: what will the state parties do.”

Dean’s statement implies that he has no intention of changing the rules to accommodate any solution proposed by the candidates or the state parties. There has been some suggestion that the two remaining presidential candidates might try to broker a deal among themselves. His line in the sand narrows the options for Hillary Clinton’s campaign because it is unlikely that a credentials committee would endorse a delegation congenial to her mathematical interests.

So Hillary’s only realistic chance to seat Michigan and/or Florida delegations is a do-over in those states. And the prospect of a do-over in Florida looks rather dim:

Karen Thurman, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, issued a statement late Wednesday that seemed to discount the possibility of a second primary.


Without the Florida or Michigan delegations, Hillary’s best bet is convincing superdelegates that she is the most electable candidate. It’s a tough argument to make; after all, a lot of us out here are slavering for a Hillary victory precisely because we think she’d be easier to beat. And the possibility of superdelegates erasing an Obama lead is ripe for long-lasting resentment — a prospect that makes us conservatives drool with anticipation.

For my money, the best argument she has is expressed here by Demosophist at Winds of Change:

Just for the sake of argument, if we . . . looked at only those states that award their delegates on the basis of a popular vote primary (ignoring caucus states for the moment) and employ a winner-take-all rule, such as the number of electoral college delegates that represent those states in a general election, Clinton has won over three times as many electors as Obama! This is the case even though Obama actually has more votes. . . . By my count, and excluding MI and FL, that’s 71 electors for Obama and 224 for Clinton!

If Hillary can convince superdelegates that she has an edge, given the winner-take-all rules that will apply in a general election, she could just pull this off.

But the uphill battle she faces on the Florida and Michigan delegations is a hard blow.

16 Responses to “Hillary’s Prospects: Dim, But Not Dead”

  1. Good post.

    At this point, it seems that Hillary will have to:

    — Make Howard Dean and the DNC back down, and there’s no love lost there. Plus, no future candidate will obey DNC rules if the FL and MI decisions get thrown out the window.

    — Rebut the Democratic Bible from Bush-Gore 2000 that what really matters is which candidate won the popular vote.

    DRJ (d8934e)

  2. Can you or Patterico expand on whole “Hillary will be easier to beat than Obama” thing? I know that 48% unfavorable ratings are hard to overcome, but I can’t see that Obama is any less liberal than McGovern, and McGovern did not carry that many states in the general election. In the absence of Wallace, would those voters have supported McGovern in droves or stayed home?

    Rick Curto (72cfc2)

  3. There the Democrats go again, changing the rules in the middle of the game. In 2000, the Democrats asked the Florida Supreme Court to rewrite the rules on behalf of Al Gore after the voting in the presidential election was over, and the Florida justices said, “No problem, just count the dimples and the chads and divine the voter’s intentions” to which the US Supreme Court said, “Oh no you don’t.” This time the SCOTUS is unlikely to step in to save the Democrats from themselves. Imagine that, another do-over in poor Flori-duh. They just can’t seem to get it right. Isn’t it time for the Democrats to show that they know how to play fair, to stick by the rules that they themselves set, and just Move-On? Besides, if Florida and Michigan get a second try, why not redo the primaries in some of the other states where the outcome of the vote was not to the liking of, say, Dennis Kucinich? If you redo one or two of them, why not do them ALL? That would be great fun.

    Iapetus (ea6f31)

  4. I think she is in a lot better shape than simple mathematics would suggest. Novak’s column today has a terrific explanation of why that is the case.

    The fact is that all her negatives are known, but Obama’s are not. The Dimo superdelegates got a glimpse behind the curtain at Obama this week when he was put under scrutiny and he didn’t hold up well. Its the first time the veil has been pierced in the primary. But it was a minor skirmish compared to what he will suffer through in the general.

    He stoned the press after 8 questions and walked out on them. He then failed to speak to them at all on the next campaign flight, remaining in the front of the plane.

    Clinton’s got 7 weeks now BEFORE Penn to drive home the point that Obama remains a big unknown, and therefore an outsized risk compared to her.

    Then she’ll win Penn, meaning she will have won every large state except Obama’s home state of Illinois. She’ll win Penn because its a closed primary — registered Dems only. No cross-overs or independents for Obama. He’s lost every such contest. And Western Penn looks exactly like Ohio demographically.

    After Penn, she will have 4 months to reinforce the message of risk. If Obama has more episodes like he did this week when he comes under scrutiny, the rats might scurry back aboard the Clinton ship.

    wls (e9f058)

  5. Obama is hardly an unknown. What a bogus claim to make! But it comes as no surprise being one in a long list of bogus claims being made by the Clinton campaign. Take this latest bigger state argument. Try factoring in that Clinton Dems get behind Obama far easier than Obama Dems/GOPs/Indies support Clinton in that “big state versus small state” general election projection… if you’re going to bother being honest about this. Again, the Clinton campaign hopes voters are too dumb to figure out they play a shell game. Any wonder why the educated vote ABC… Anyone But Clinton?

    S.E. Croft (93924c)

  6. are slavering for a Hillary victory precisely because we think she’d be easier to beat.

    I think a lot of us are rooting for Hillary more because, a) it thwarts the “popular” vote which is anathema to Dems, and b) makes Hill a huge hypocrite (remember her stupid Electoral College rant), which is double-secret anathema to Dems. It isn’t the external beating, so much as the internal beating, that we anticipate.

    rhodeymark (923596)

  7. I don’t see that Hillary is far behind Obama in the delegate count. CNN’s Democratic Delegate Counter Game lets you guess who will win how many delegates in PA, NC, and the other upcoming contests. What’s clear is that neither will secure the nomination in Denver without a majority of the 358 Superdelegates. The supers can pledge to their heart’s content, but their votes aren’t final until they’re cast.

    The Dems have created strange rules for their game (Repubs–differently strange rules). Hard to view the continuing weaseling on either candidate’s part as some endorsement for Change!. Charming.

    AMac (c822c9)

  8. I’m not sure we do prefer to have Hillary as the nominee.

    Potential Outcomes:
    1 – Obama clinches nomination now, sails through to convention
    2 – Hillary stays alive until convention, has ugly fight with Obama the whole way through, and loses
    3 – like #2, but Hillary wins

    Between outcomes 1 and 2, #2 is clearly superior for Republicans. But between 2 and 3, it is not clear, because we don’t yet know who would be better in the general.

    Democrats should remember that the general election won’t be a caucus. They can’t browbeat people into supporting their candidate. Caucuses are contrary to democracy and should be rejected by all states. The only reason there are any caucuses is because insiders have undue influence over them, and insiders are the ones who decide whether to have a caucus or not.

    My fearless prediction: if Obama gets the nomination, and then loses the general, at least three states will get rid of their caucuses for the Dem nomination.

    Daryl Herbert (4ecd4c)

  9. AMac — that’s exactly my point. The Superdelegates don’t have to chose until late August. Hillary has 6 months to put stink on Obama now that they see signs he is somewhat thin-skinned and doesn’t like to be scrutinized.

    As for S.E. Croft — Obama is a HUGE UNKNOWN to about 60% of the general election population. With nearly all the big vote primaries done, Hillary and Obama have collected about 27 million votes. John Kerry received about 59 million votes in 2004 while George Bush received 62 million votes.

    So, about 1/6 of the number of voters have gone to the polls in the Dimo primary compared to the last general election.

    Further, Obama has a 15-20 year history of involvement in civic affairs in Chicago. Only 3 years of his political life have been spent on the national stage in the Senate. His Chicago history is yet to be completely explored.

    Remember, no one had ever heard about Whitewater and Madison Guarantee Savings & Loan until Jeff Gerth of the NYT ran it all down and put it on the front page of the paper.

    There is no way Obama spent 15 years at the side of sleazes like Tony Rezco without getting some slime under his fingernails. They’ve kept it well contained for now, but his Dim opponents have always been reluctant to take him on in that regard. The GOP will have not such reluctance.

    WLS (68fd1f)

  10. Shouldn’t the only delegate count that really matters be 50 percent +1 ? Neither candidate will be at that figure prior to the superdelegates voting, and given the millions of votes cast, they are in a virtual dead heat, especially if you count Florida and Michigan. I will sit back and watch the fireworks over the Dems trying to deny the franchise to the voters in those states.

    JD (d5bd6e)

  11. Unsmiling Hillary to Superdelegate:
    “It’s better to vote in Dixville Notch than Knoxville Ditch – you know what I mean?”

    rhodeymark (923596)

  12. in the spirit of a superdelegate, i proclaim myself the internet’s first supercommenter, unpredictable, driven by capricious whimsy and beholden to no one.

    assistant devil's advocate (c5455c)

  13. One question I’ve not seen anyone pursue is, what would happen if Florida and Michigan actually DID have a do-over primary? It would be a huge hurdle to overcome, but so far everyone I’ve read seems to assume that it would be an advantage to Hillary if they did. I’m not so sure. Living in the Ann Arbor area, my perspective may not be representative, but I saw a LOT of campaigning for “Uncommitted.” What if they had a do-over, and Obama came out on top?

    Don (bbdd4b)

  14. There they go again! This from today (quote w/o comment – none needed):

    “Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, taking the campaign a bit meta on a conference call today, attacked Obama for attacking Clinton, and compared him to a notorious Clinton foe.

    ‘When Sen. Obama was confronted with questions over whether he was ready to be commander in chief and steward of the economy, he chose not to address those questions, but to attack Sen. Clinton,’ Wolfson said. ‘I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president.’

    Politico full column link

    JayHub (0a6237)

  15. They said that by electing a Republican (Crist) governor in FL that many, especially Democratic voters, would be disenfranchised. They were right!

    It is absolutely delicious that the GOP leader in FL said he is happy to spend the money on a do-over but that the Democratic Party refuses.

    Where is David Boies when you need him?!

    Ed (8166cd)

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