Monday, March 17, 2008

your world in charts

(H/T Erza Klein)

Or, why Hillary Clinton's prospects for winning the nomination are slipping daily.

(graphic by the New York Times)

I am not sure if this chart includes another superdelegate that announced for Obama today, but I am sure it doesn't include the pledged delegate count. This dramatic shift is partly due to Obama's February winning streak, and partly due to the shattering of the "inevitable" talking point, which in turn was shattered by Obama's wins. At this rate, Obama will close the superdelegate gap between him and Clinton, which once stood at over 100, in a matter of weeks.

And with each superdelegate committing, it makes for one less that could go for Clinton. Of course, these people can and do change their minds. Unfortunately for Sen. Clinton, they having been changing their minds from supporting her to supporting Sen. Obama.

The Clinton camp acknowledges that due to the party's pledged delegate allocation rules, she will never be able to make up Obama's lead. And unless Florida and Michigan are somehow counted, she also has no hope of leading in the popular vote. Those two states seem unable to get their act together and decide on what to do.

Some of this, no doubt, is due to Obama supporters (and perhaps even the Obama camp itself) "sabotaging" the decision process in Michigan and Florida. But the legal questions raised by Obama/his supporters are reasonable ones--the Voting Rights Act cannot be taken lightly--and much of the inabilty of these two states is due to the internal conflicts between state party officials, state legislators/legislatures, and state Congressional delegations. Both Obama and Clinton teams seem content in having it both ways. Clinton decries the disenfranchisement of voters while continuing to claim that Michigan's results were fair because Obama chose to take his name off the ballot. Obama says it is up for the states/the DNC to decide how to go forward when both agreed that no plan will happen without the written approval of such a plan by both Obama and Clinton.

If this continues, I doubt a re-do will actually occur in either state and some sort of a compromise regarding delegates will be reached and rubber-stamped by the Rules and Credentials Committees later this summer. If so, advantage Obama, whose people will be in the majority on said committees.

All of this means that Sen. Clinton's path to the nomination requires that Sen. Obama becomes so damages that the party won't want to choose him. And she will have to do the damaging (at best indirectly). How do you think Rev. Wright's months old comments suddenly resurfaced?

And I would like to make one more point about delegates. Of course they are undemocratic, as are caucuses, as is the fact that certain states get to go first. If you go back in the archives, you can see me wailing about the unrepresentiveness of the Iowa Caucuses in 2003 and 2004. But everyone who opted to seek the Democratic nomination for president implicitly agreed to these rules. While it may be politically untenable or really unfair for Michigan and/or Florida voter's choices not to count, the DNC made its ruling and neither Clinton nor Obama's team (nor any other campaign) objected to the DNC's ruling at the time it was made. Nor did anyone at the time protest the way delegates were allocated between and within states, especially the rules in states like Nevada and Texas. It was only the Clinton campaign that complained about these things after-the-fact. And can any Clinton supporter look me in the eyes and honestly tell me that if the roles were reversed she would have made these criticisms? Of course not. Not that Obama wouldn't have tried to make these complaints. But I doubt any of them would have had as much traction coming from him as they have from her.

The rule was, and still is, the first candidate to get 50.1% of the delegates gets the nomination. I welcome any changes to the nomination system that reexamines delegate allocation systems, eleminates caucuses, puts more emphasis on the popular vote, etc. But all of those changes will have to take effect for the 2012 nomination, no matter how terrible the current system is.

Obama's team based their strategy--including getting his name, as well as Edwards' and Biden's, off the Michigan ballot--on those rules. And, let's face it, so did the Clinton's team. And right now, Obama is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. [This, by the way, is the number one reason why the superdelegates are rapidly trending in Obama's favor]

While I hope that the Democratic Party change its nomination rules for the better as a result of this epic Obama-Clinton race, I don't support changing the basis of choosing a nominee at this point in "the game." Not unless someone invents a time machine.

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