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The End Game that Wins for Obama

Don Rose 31 March 2008 No Comment

Now here’s my plan:

The Michigan and Florida delegations will be seated at the convention and Barack Obama wins the nomination. It’s all settled a month or more before the Democratic National convention in August.

Everybody’s happy except the Clintons. (You’re extra happy if you revel in a bit of schadenfreude over the Clintons.)

How do we reach this happy conclusion? A deal is likely to be struck with the superdelegates, who will in good conscience be following the will of da peepul.

I will outline the contours of the deal, but first let me take a moment to defend the concept of superdelegates.

There will be a total of 4,049 delegates to the convention who will vote to nominate the next Democratic candidate. Of these, 3,253 will have been elected in the caucuses and primaries that began in Iowa and end in Puerto Rico in June. The latter were elected as “pledged” to one or the other candidate although technically they can vote as they please, but it is extremely unlikely any will violate their pledge.

This does not include the delegations from Michigan and Florida because those states violated Democratic party rules by holding early primaries and eventually refused to hold re-votes. Hillary Clinton won both these states—though Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan.

In addition to the delegates elected in caucus or primary, there are 796 superdelegates who are appointed ex officio—they are governors, senators, congresspersons and other party officials. They are pledged to no one and can vote as they please.

Remember, almost all of these are elected officials who represent constituencies as well as their personal political interests and who have a legitimate voice in the nomination process—the only real question is whether they should represent as much as 20 percent of the total vote.

Many have committed already to Clinton or Obama—though they can switch—but some 252 at this point are still uncommitted. Informal surveys suggest they are almost evenly split in sympathies. However, they are going to make their final decision on who is the more electable candidate, because they are concerned about all kinds of offices lower down on the ballot. Often it is their own office.

Without Michigan and Florida, it will take 2,025 votes to nominate. At the moment Obama has about 1410 pledged or elected delegates and 215 committed superdelegates. (Those numbers are an average of the delegate estimates made by five different news organizations, all of which are within 5-10 of each other.)

Obama also currently holds a margin of more than 700,000 popular votes over Hillary Clinton.

Beginning April 22 in Pennsylvania, the final 10 states or territories will elect the remaining 581 pledged delegates. Barring a runaway victory by Clinton in Pennsylvania or if she upsets Obama in North Carolina, the net delegate count from these races will split fairly evenly, though Obama’s margin of popular votes might shrink by 150,000.

OK: add 1410 pledged now plus 290 or so from the coming primaries plus 215 currently committed superdelegates and you get 1915 convention votes. Now add the approximately 130 uncommited superdelegates who admit privately to be leaning toward Obama and he is over the top with 2045 votes.

Now comes the Florida-Michigan problem.

Clinton wants to carry the fight to seat them to the convention floor, which would be a bit disruptive, but both Clintons seem to putting their own interests above the party’s.

She has 105 Florida delegates, Obama has 67; she has 73 from Michigan while 55 delegates were elected as officially “uncommitted.”

If Florida and Michigan are seated as is, the number needed for nomination changes to 2208.

How do we settle this thing early?

Sometime in June or even earlier, the party “elders” such as Al Gore, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and even Chairman Howard Dean have a heart-to-heart with the remaining 130 superdelegates and the 55 uncommitted elected delegates from Michigan.

“It’s gotta be Obama without nukeing the entire party,” they say.

So most of the remaining supers—at least 100 of them—go with Obama, as do the Michigan 55 along with the 67 Obama actually won in Florida. His number is now 2267, more than enough to win with the two outlaw states finally seated at the convention and the Dems are all one big happy family again.

Except for you-know-whom.


Don Rose, a veteran liberal strategist, is a regular political columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer.

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