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« Hillary and Obama to Supporters: "Don't Vote for McCain." | Main | Siegelman Release "A Big Win in a Very Long War" (Update) »

March 28, 2008

Comments

Adam

The reality, of course, is that these "big dem donors" are Hillary supporters. Just like every other discussion of how superdelegates vote (Pelosi's comments included), these folks are starting with the conclusion they want and working backwards to the argument. They're just adding the threat of yanking big money donations into the mix. Classy...

"What exactly is wrong with waiting two or three months before picking a nominee?"

In theory? Nothing.

In practice? Bruising primary campaigns that extend into the summer tend to screw the nominee. I've heard the stat a couple times in the last few weeks - something like, 7 of the last 10 presidential elections have been won by the party that decided their nominee first. Hillary's most likely remaining path to victory doesn't work in June - it works on ballot #3 at the convention. Unfortunately, that's not how you win an election these days.

That's why Pelosi and other heavy hitters (who have nothing against Hillary, I'm sure) are looking to bring this thing to a quicker close. They know that every day this increasingly ugly campaign drags on is a hit to the probability of the democrat winning, when that should be a slam dunk given the national mood.

It's powerful, and not without meaning, to talk about disenfranchisement of the closing states. But the reality is that the end-of-the-nomination-season states are routinely irrelevant. I don't remember any hue and cry over the disenfranchisement of Texas and Ohio democrats in 2004. It's the same phenomenon as a republican voter in a solid blue state or a democratic voter in a solid red state. Sorry, your vote is irrelevant. It's just how our (deeply flawed) system works.

In that vein, this season is maybe the best argument you could make for having a rear-loaded primary process. No state should have a primary more than a week after 2/3 of the states have already voted. These "straggler" states are (unintentionally) screwing the democratic party.

D. Cupples

Good Morning Adam,

I only this morning saw that the Dem donors had given more money to Hillary (I updated when I found that out). I went to sleep at 8 last night.

Given that more resource-rich media outlets have presented what amounts to a ton of free pro-Obama (or anti-Hillary) advertising since January, I'm glad that resource-rich Dems went to bat for Hillary.

Those Dems simultaneously spoke for millions of other Hillary supporters who are very under-represented by the media and can't afford to buy TV ads.

That and I disagree with Pelosi's argument (not as a Hillary supporter but on principle).

I've said it before: the pledged-delegate count already mirrors itself, so super-delegates don't need to lock-step (though, they can IF they want).

Pledged delegates are THE measure ONLY IF a candidate gets a true majority (not plurality) before the convention. That's how it's been for 20+ years.

Obama's campaign is posing a rather novel argument under the system we have. Many of the younger Obama supporters (I DON'T mean you) don't understand the history of the DNC's flawed system.

Slate and TPM may think Hillary is "dead" because of pledged delegates, but this IS a close race in terms of ordinary voters (2.7% difference in popular vote--and more than a dozen states had caucuses, not primaries).

Many Dems can't help remembering Bush's tactics during the 2000 re-count: "Hey Gore: move on, get over it, let me have an easy win."

That's what I (and some other Hillary supporters) think of when a media outlet or politician tries to shame Hillary into dropping out before most of the next 10 elections.

Newsweek wanted her to do it BEFORE TX and OH.

Think about what the media (and some politicians) are doing. They like one candidate (or dislike another), so they tried to stop a tough contest.

How would you feel if they'd done that to Obama if he were slightly behind in the popular vote?

Remember, Obama could actually win the popular vote AFTER the next 10 elections. If so, that would solidify his candidacy and improve his chances of grabbing more Hillary supporters.

It may NOT be a majority of Dems who feel that way, but I'm not alone.

Even if only 20% of Hillary's supporters would be so mad that they'd vote for McCain or stay home, that's a lot of people for the DNC to marginalize (especially when the R-candidate is broadly mis- perceived as a liberal-R).

I said that weeks ago.

You're right that we shouldn't have straggling states, but we DO. I think the DNC should also make other changes for NEXT time:

1) if they want to pick a nominee before Rs do, they should award delegates as the Rs do: winner take all.

2) Now that I understand caucuses (how very few people vote in them compared to primaries), I don't think the DNC should allow them in the next presidential election.

Given my job (flexible schedule), I COULD go to a caucus -- even if it's at 10 pm or later, like some of TX's caucuses.

Many people are not in such a position and, thus, are essentially EXCLUDED from participating in caucuses.

Here in Fla, we had a couple weeks and several locations where we could vote early. I voted on a Sunday, when meeting friends for brunch near the elections office.

All that said, we're stuck with the system we have for 2008. Thus, the caucus results and the proportional awarding of delegates stand.

One result: we have a closer race than some in the DNC would like.

About the bruising primary: even if this thing is decided in August (as opposed to June), that leaves two months for voters to heal.

With the media NOT covering Hillary v. Obama during that last two (or 4) months, I think the party CAN heal (unless either candidate is perceived as forced out or illegitimate).

That would likely cause a new wave of independents.

Then again, I'm merely speculating: I could be wrong.

Adam

Caucuses happen when the state doesn't want to pay for a primary. They are much cheaper to run, and the party foots the bill. They are different than primaries, for sure, but I don't consider them horribly undemocratic. That said, I'd be up in arms if a state tried to use a caucus to decide a general election. So I do see your point. I would just say that the two major parties have bigger fish to fry (namely, establishing a fair and reasonable schedule for primary voting) than the issues with caucuses.

I agree with everything you say about disagreeing with Pelosi's argument in principle, about how pledged versus PLEO delegates work, et cetera. Again, all arguments on how the S-delegates vote, by both sides, have been self-serving arguments, working backward from the conclusion they want. That's true even of the arguments that are right.

Pelosi's argument is really just a slightly subtle way of saying "please end this thing no later than June, superdelegates, because if this drags all the way to Denver we are screwed." And I think she's right. August vs. June is a big deal. You're welcome to disagree, but the history of modern elections suggests that contested conventions produce losing candidates. Every election cycle is different, and the Democrats have some notable advantages this year (unpopular sitting Republican president, on the right side of public opinion on a war, fatter war chest, weak economies tend to favor Democrats), but that doesn't guarantee anything.

I thought the pretty strongly implied threat of extortion by Robert Johnson, et al, was tacky at best and a an offensive sign of elitist entitlement at worst. They only "spoke for [you]" in the sense that they want the same candidate to win as you do. That they think their deep pockets should buy influence on the process is objectionable, and the idea that they can dictate positions to the duly elected speaker of the house is even more objectionable.

These people are not your allies. They don't think democracy works the way you want it to work. You think people should have influence. They think dollars should have influence. It's nice that they support some of the same political causes you do, but it doesn't make the philosophy behind that letter OK.

I don't dispute that coverage of Hillary in the media has been fairly negative - certainly when compared to McCain. But coverage of Obama has been just as bad since he drew even at super Tuesday. The media attacks the frontrunner. Hillary Clinton is not the exception - John McCain is the exception.

Adam

Oh, and for the record, I think Slate's projected percentage (12%) of Hillary winning is somewhere between accurate and generous. Obama weathered what will probably be his biggest scandal with his numbers only slightly dented. Unless something HUGE happens to him, he's going to be leading in popular votes and way ahead in pledged delegates in June.

We can talk until the cows come home about the independence of superdelegates, there's no compelling reason to think Hillary has a much better shot than Obama in the fall. (Or, if you prefer, there's a dozen arguments on both sides and no real way to know which is right.) As such, it's extremely hard to imagine the uncommitted superdelegates having a collective epiphany and breaking 2 to 1 for Hillary, which is what she would need. Particularly when the superdelegates have been breaking 5 to 1 for Obama over the last month.

So, take a 5% chance of an Obama superscandal, and add a 5% chance of the collective superdelegate epiphany, and you get maybe a 10% chance of winning. I still think thats a little high.

Of course, no candidate in history has dropped out with a 10% chance to win and money in the bank. We won't see Hillary drop out until the numbers are utterly hopeless or she goes broke.

D. Cupples

Adam,

Below is a sampling of 6 states (3 primary, 3 caucus) with similar delegate counts (copied from a post of mine that you commented on 2 weeks ago).

..................................Delegates................#Voters

Wyoming (caucus) ..........12.........................8,753

Georgia (primary).............12..................1,046,485

Hawaii (caucus)................17.......................37,247

Rhode Island (primary).....18.....................184,904

Iowa (caucus)....................45.........................2,501

Oklahoma (primary)..........38.....................401,230

LESS than 49,000 people decided who got those caucus states' 74 delegates.

More than 1.6 million decided who got the primary states' 68 caucus votes.

More than 32 times as many voters decided on the 3 primary states' delegates than the 3 caucus states' I listed above.

That said, you REALLY don't think that caucuses are less democratic than primaries?

Of course, none of that matters, because we HAVE caucuses in 2008, and they count. Period.

I DO understand the self-serving mentality of the deep-pocketed Dems and the money-politics nexus. That's why I wrote this in the comments:

"Those Dems simultaneously spoke for millions of other Hillary supporters who are very under-represented by the media and can't afford to buy TV ads."

The operative word is "simultaneously," meaning that I KNOW that their purpose was not to help ME.

Here's what else I was saying: the media (e.g., NBC and its networks and publications) represent BIG money.

Given the landscape, I don't think it's the least bit "tacky" that some deep-pocketed interests (letter writers) stood up to other deep-pocketed interests (media) on behalf of Hillary.

We ordinary folks can't do that effectively.

What I think has been WORSE than tacky is that major (deep-pocketed) media have so blatantly sought to influence this election.

It reminds me of the cowering media outlets (in fear of losing ad revenue) that repeatedly refrained from questioning Bush before we went into Iraq.

Re: super-delegates: we agree that both sides have presented self-serving arguments.

I DON'T know which ones are right, which is why I DON'T advocate for a particular position.

You know that (unless you've skim-read some of my comments). : )

I do think that Pelosi's argument is wrong.

I think the end of June is fine by me for a time to pick a nominee. That's 3 months away.

So, why are Pelosi (and pro-Obama media outlets) trying to try to shame Hillary into quitting in March (even before and directly after TX/OH)?

I think it's a blatant attempt to convince voters who get only sporadic sound-bytes to perceive Hillary as a loser NOW.

She's not a loser yet. The race is very close. If it weren't it wouldn't be as contentious as it is.

As you (or someone else) pointed out earlier, Pelosi & Dean want Obama to be the nominee because they think he'll 1) bring new members to the party, and 2) provide longer coat-tails for down-ticket candidates in November.

That's a different motive from not wanting to get screwed by dragging it out until August.

If Obama's prominent supporters are sure that he truly has MOST Dems' support, they should welcome the final 10 elections.

If they're not sure that he truly has most Dems and they still want Hillary out, then they're really just trying to end the contest to throw the results his way.

Again, it's Bush during re-count 2000. Deplorable. Not what the election (especially in the Dem party) should be about.

Remember: the true popular vote in the primaries has NOT been calculated: 1) beause 10 states haven't voted, and 2) because we don't know what the turnout will be.

That's why I don't understand people's assigning actual percentages to Hillary's chances of overtaking Obama in the popular vote once all elections have been held.

I'm NOT saying she will win: she might not -- which would only help Obama in terms of Hillary-supporting Dems' seeing him as legit. That, in turn, would help the party.

People can can speculate all they want as to whether Hillary will pull ahead in the popular vote. The only way we'll know is to let those 10 contests proceed.

I am disgusted by some media's and elected officials' attempts to taint that process. And so are a ton of other Hillary supporters (including, thank God, those 20 deep-pocketed Dems).

Adam

You're right that Pelosi has more motivations than the one I implied above - the coattails is another argument. I think Pelosi would do well to just make the coattails argument and the contested convention damage arguments directly - it's not as though the current approach is any less offensive to Hillary backers.

As I've said before, talk of disenfrancisement of the remaining primary voters, while it has some base in reality, is more than a little over the top. By that logic, 2008 will be the first time in decades that the NC/PA/IN/OR/et al Democratic primary votes have NOT been disenfranchised! The culprit is not anyone's campaign or any media outlet or any politician making an endorsement. The culprit is the horribly flawed primary schedule.

"More than 32 times as many voters decided on the 3 primary states' delegates than the 3 caucus states' I listed above.

"That said, you REALLY don't think that caucuses are less democratic than primaries?"

If I may channel our 43rd president, that depends on what "democratic" means. Certainly, less people are voting in the caucuses. That's obvious. The real question in my mind is whether the results of the caucus votes fail to reflect what the results would have been in a primary.

In my opinion, *as it pertains specifically to the 2008 democratic nomination*, there's only one state where that's been true - Texas. Every other caucus state, demographically, seems to line up with Obama's profile of support. Obama won primaries in Utah, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Why should we be surprised that he won the caucus states in between? I expect Obama to win the primaries in MT,SD, and OR, which will further support the idea that these caucuses have reflected broader support.

If CO/ID/KS/MN/WA, et al, had been primaries, I think Obama wins them all. I think his percentage margin in these states, and therefore his overall pledged delegate lead, would be smaller. But I expect his popular vote lead would be larger than its current (realistically unassailable) margin.

It's also worth noting that, while caucuses rather blatantly reduce ballot access, all primaries are not created equal. Besides the obvious open versus closed question, there's all the questions of locations and hours of polling places, voting machines, absentee and mail-in voting, restrictive voter registration laws, and so on, which also crop up in the general election. It's not just a bipolar question of primary versus caucus; rather, it's a spectrum with utter disenfranchisement on one end, and idealized universal access on the other.

D. Cupples

Adam,

What I'm saying is that Pelosi should stay out of it until the next 10 elections are finished. Period. And now, Howard Dean is calling for a July 1 decision from super-delegates.

Fine. That means that form now through July 1, party big-wigs should stop trying to bully Hillary into dropping out. That's all I want.

About disenfranchisement, you're argument seems to be that the DNC's screwy system has disenfranchised many in the past so why not now? Adam, reallllly.

Also, your arguing that it isn't any campaign's fault is evidence that you aren't countering MY arguments but someone's else arguments.

WE AGREED that the DNC should change its system. But it can't do it now, while the game is underway.

Without actually having data on how people in caucus states WOULD have voted had those states had primaries, you're merely speculating that Obama would have won all those states if they'd had primaries.

I'm NOT speculating the opposite. I really don't know. NO ONE does, precisely because those states did not have primaries.

D. Cupples

Adam,

One more thing: whether caucuses are 1) as democratic as primaries or 2) are equally representative of a state's majority are two DIFFERENT questions.

You think they're equally representative, based on speculations. Period.

I don't venture into that sort of speculation, but even modern statisticians seem to feel that larger sample sizes are more likely to reflect the actual population.

Re the question of the "democratic" nature: the very fact (again) that caucuses practically exclude large portions of the population of eligible voters means that they are less democratic (i.e., fewer people's votes go into deciding each delegate).

Adam

I don't dispute that I'm speculating, but I'm pretty confident in my (completely untestable) hypothesis. I find Bill Clinton's whining today ("the caucuses are killing us") to be pretty weak stuff. It's yet another flavor of political posturing aimed at the superdelegates.

I don't think anything Pelosi or Dean has said implies that Hillary should drop out before June. Others have said that, although their bigwig status is disputable. The Obama campaign itself hasn't said that; while they've made it easy to read between the lines that they would LIKE Hillary to drop out, they haven't been actually calling for it, which is, to me, a significant distinction.

For what it's worth, I think Dean has been one of the most rational voices on this issue. (I was a Dean guy in 2004, for what that's worth.)

I agree, of course, that you're not blaming Obama for the existence of caucuses or the crazy primary schedule; I was simply ticking of a littany of things that are not to blame for the effective disenfranchisement of later voters.

"About disenfranchisement, you're argument seems to be that the DNC's screwy system has disenfranchised many in the past so why not now? Adam, reallllly."

That's not my argument. I am NOT pushing for Hillary to drop out. It's a moot point anyway because Hillary's not dropping out before June unless she goes broke.

My argument is that the hue and cry that a Hillary withdrawl would equal disenfranchisement lacks historical context. The people complaining about this, by and large, seem to be missing that the same system has effectively disenfranchised those voters *in every election cycle since 1984*. It's good that this is getting some attention now, though. The current sitation, combined with the Michigan/Florida fight, may actually galvanize the DNC to get its act together for 2012.

D. Cupples

Adam,

We certainly agree that the DNC should get its act together before 2012.

I didn't know about Bill's statement re: caucuses (I've been blogging and discussing things with you today -- it's sort of a day off).

I know you did NOT accuse me of it, but when I do parrot others' talking points, I tend to state that I'm doing it.

Remember Plouffe's email that I blogged about (right after Hillary won Ohio, different from Obama's email, which said "she's attacking you") ?

http://bucknakedpolitics.typepad.com/buck_naked_politics/2008/03/obama-campaign.html

In it, after talking about how Hillary can't catch up on pledged delegates, Plouffe says:

""It's clear, though, that Senator Clinton wants to continue an increasingly DESPERATE, increasingly negative -- and increasingly expensive -- campaign to tear us down."

True, in a court, Plouffe's statement would NOT be viewed as the same as saying that Hillary should drop out.

In the political realm (rife with nuances), Plouffe's words would be interpreted as saying just that.

Anyway, Obama's surrogates don't have to come right out and say it: some of their big supporters (like Leahy) and many bloggers/media personalities are making the argument for them.

While the Obama campaign wants her to drop out, it gets to look clean and above the fray by remaining silent.

Fortunately (from a Hillary supporter's perspective) Al Gore seems to disagree.

I know you're NOT pushing Hillary to drop out.

Still, I can't over-emphasizejust how resentful many Hillary supporters are feeling over politicians and media people trying to marginalize us voter-citizens by trying to bully Hillary into dropping out now (or a month ago).

I blogged about it weeks ago. People like Taylor Marsh and Larry Johnson (who get a lot of reader commentary/feedback) have noticed an increase in the resentment and hardening.

The DNC should factor this into its future statements. Dems can vote for whomever they want in general elections -- without actually being registered dems and without actually donating to the DNC.

Maybe Howard Dean's asking super-delegates to decide in July (instead of now) is an indication that the party knows it's pissing off a ton of its current members.

Adam

"True, in a court, Plouffe's statement would NOT be viewed as the same as saying that Hillary should drop out.

"In the political realm (rife with nuances), Plouffe's words would be interpreted as saying just that."

Wasn't the next line of the memo, "that's her right" or something along those lines?

I don't deny that the Obama campaign has made it clear they would LIKE Hillary to drop out. That's certainly the implication of Plouffe's memo. But they've never claimed that Hillary has a moral or political imperative to do so. I think that's an important distinction. We would all LIKE for things to happen that we know aren't going to happen. Plouffe is just being honest there.

"While the Obama campaign wants her to drop out, it gets to look clean and above the fray by remaining silent."

What are you suggesting they should do? Argue that Hillary should stay in? That would be, well, crazy. Remaining silent while other supporters urge Hillary to drop out is the only thing they can do that is both principled and honest. They have no other proper choice.

On to a more enjoyable debate - Bob Casey: scumbag, or just sort of pathetic?

D. Cupples

Adam,

You just switched from discussing messages sent in the political realm (nuance) and actual text on a page.

The point, as you noted, is that Obama HAS made it clear that he wants H to drop out. Period. No technicalities can mitigate his intent.

Doesn't he think he can keep a popular vote lead? I suspect not, otherwise he wouldn't keep fueling the calls for Hillary to drop out.

I've said it numerous times: let's go until there are no more votes (or until the point when it's CERTAIN that Hillary can't catch up in the popular vote). What's wrong with that?

If there weren't so many Dems supporting Hillary, the race likely would have already been LEGITIMATELY decided.

Actually, it WOULD be a good strategy for him (by making him appear in sync with the image he seeks to project), if Obama would publicly state that people should stop asking Hillary to drop out.

Instead, Obama is making it LOOK like he is afraid that the next 10 states would decrease his chances of winning, so he wants to call the contest now instead of in 3 months.

But then, as you noted, that's what he does want.

I was here in FL during the 2000 recount. Bush wanted to win even if it meant not counting overseas military votes in certain counties -- anything to stop the contest and let him "win."

I keep bringing it up not out of nastiness but as a true comparison. My genuine reaction to Obama's call for the race to end now is the same reaction I had to Bush and his operatives in 2000.

Adam

I don't think the Obama people have a significant fear of actually losing the popular vote. They expect to win NC, MT, SD, OR, and perhaps IN. PA, WV, and KY won't make up for that. Well, to be precise, I'm sure the Obama people WORRY about it, but they don't consider it likely.

They want Hillary to drop out because:

1) Primary campaigns are expensive. Money spent now equals less money for the general.
2) Longer primary campaigns, particularly ones with a negative tone, tend to hurt the eventual winner in the general election.

There's nothing duplicitous about those motivations. It's just the reality, and they have every reason to be honest about it. They're not hiding it, but they're not really piling on either.

That said, I think a carefully crafted statement, acknowledging Hillary's right to stay in the campaign, saying that he respects her choice, and looking forward to contesting the remaining primaries, would probably be a good strategic move. Obama has this thing wrapped up unless he commits a blunder, and Hillary is not going to drop out no matter what he says anyway. So the logical thing to do is to take the high road, and save all the negativity for John McCain.

D. Cupples

You might be right about Obama's motives. Maybe they're not afraid that Hillary will pull ahead in popular vote.

Frankly, I'm preparing myself to say, "Congratulations President McCain."

We've had Bush-II twice, and we're still standing (though a bit wobbly).

Adam

The Bush.44 presidency has been a disaster on a historic level. Record debt, squandering of international goodwill, stonewalling or actual regression on the environment. Two young social conservatives in the SCOTUS. And of course, a disasterous war. Short of a nuclear attack, it could hardly be worse. Based on his statements, it seems increasingly likely that a McCain presidency will be almost as bad as the one we're in right now. Better on the environment, but almost as bad in every other way.

I haven't given a dime to any primary campaign. But when the baloons drop a couple miles from my house this August, I will open my wallet to whoever is standing under them. If you have the means, you should too, and you should do whatever you can to help that candidate.

There's a chance of a McCain presidency irrespective of the Democratic nominee. We've been over the vast uncertainties surrounding who is more suited for the fall matchup; there's no need to re-hash that. The bottom line is, your support should be strong for either Clinton or Obama, because the stakes are equally high regardless of the nominee.

Adam

"I think a carefully crafted statement [by Obama] acknowledging Hillary's right to stay in the campaign, saying that he respects her choice, and looking forward to contesting the remaining primaries, would probably be a good strategic move."

Today Obama made almost exactly that statement in a public appearance. Let's hope that his campaign keeps to the high road on this.

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