The Lost Interview, Pt. 1: Dem Rules Meeting

I was scheduled to be on Jim Braude's NECN show tonight (with one of my favorite Republicans, Todd Domke), but have been bumped because of the T-crash story. I was supposed to opine on this weekend's meeting of the DNC rules committee, and on Scott McClellan's new book. I'd hate to deprive you of my insights, so I will interview myself on the topics for your edification. First, let's cover the DNC.

Q: So, what will the DNC rules committee do this weekend about the delegates for Florida and Michigan, which both held early contests in violation of party rules and thus are supposed to have no vote at the convention?

A: It's easier to say what they won't do, which is take a nomination contest that one person won under the existing rules, and change the rules so that someone else wins. Ain't gonna happen. Most likely, they will give each state half of their allotted delegates, awarding slightly more than half to Hillary Clinton -- in other words, a solution that's better than the states and Clinton would get now, but not enough to impact the ultimate nomination result.

Q: You're saying that Barack Obama has won? He doesn't yet have the numbers, does he?

A: A significant number of undeclared superdelegates are waiting until after the final voting contests this coming Tuesday -- in South Dakota, Montana, and Puerto Rico -- to declare their intentions to support Obama. That will put him over the 50% mark and make him the presumptive nominee.

Q: Regardless, doesn't Clinton have the moral high ground, with her argument that the DNC is depriving citizens of suffrage and civil rights?

A: No, the comparisons she has raised are bogus and offensive. (Of course, Obama is equally guilty of playing politics with this -- both states could have re-voted had he been willing to allow it.) I doubt that even Clinton and her team believe the civil-rights argument -- remember, they fully agreed with the sanctions, and a boycott of those contests, until she needed them to win. They are using this argument to whip their supporters into action, and as a bargaining tool to get what they really want from the rules committee.

Q: And what do they really want?

A: As high a number of total delegates, and as high a proportion going to her, as they can possibly get through pressure and negotiation.

Q: Why does that matter, if Obama is going to pass the 50% mark next week anyway?

A: Because Obama will only be the presumptive nominee, based on superdelegates' intentions to vote for him three months from now at the Democratic National Convention.

Q: Are you suggesting that Clinton still thinks she can win the nomination?

A: If things don't go well for Obama this summer, and polls show him falling behind McCain nationally and in key swing states, a "grassroots" "groundswell" movement will begin to put pressure on superdelegates to switch to Clinton -- in the immortal words of Vanilla Ice, to "drop the zero, and get with the hero" -- to save the party's chances. (And their own -- remember, many of these superdelegates are also running for re-election and will be helped or hurt by the strength of the candidate at the top of the ballot.) The rules committee decision on Michigan and Florida could mean the difference between needing to persuade 100 or them, versus needing 200 of them. That's a big difference.

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