Monday, July 6, 2009

The End of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning

As the final primaries are held tomorrow, where are we and where are we going?

The weekend meeting of the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws folk settled the painful matter of what to do about Florida and Michigan. It was an interesting conundrum, if they listened to the arguments put forward by the members of the group supporting Hillary Clinton. Long ago, when the decision was made to censure the two states for their desire to ensure their relevance in the selection of the nominee of the party, these same Clinton supporters voted for the measure because of the notion that Senator Clinton would lock up this nomination by Super Tuesday. They also realized the precedent that would be set if they allowed to states to change the schedule based upon the political climate at the time. Yet, as the Obama phenomenon began to take off, the campaign realized they needed the votes that Hillary Clinton received in what was sold by all Democrats as merely a beauty contest.

As Senator Obama closes in on the nomination, he was ready to make some compromises and concessions. The Florida results are fair, set an appropriate precedent, and the fact that both names were on the ballot and that John Edwards has come out in support of Senator Obama suggests that he did not lose much in Florida. Michigan however creates a much more interesting problem. Harold Ickes argued that since Senator Clinton's name was on the ballot in Michigan, she deserves the delegates for the votes she received. To award the uncommitted delegates to Senator Obama, who like all other candidates removed his name from the ballot, is unacceptable to them. They hoped to have those delegates be "uncommitted" and possibly add more to Senator Clinton's column.

There are two problems with this thinking. First, the moral, ideological argument that the voters' voices must be heard is a hard one for the Clinton campaign to stand with. Earlier in the race, she virtually ignored some states, discrediting their value in the general election when she was defeated. Her most recent victory came from Puerto Rico which does not have a vote in the general election. Had she shown the same attention to Mississippi and closed the gap there, perhaps this would be a different picture. Mr. Ickes also reserved the candidate's right to take the results of this meeting to the credentials committee, which essentially means to keep the contest going until at least a month before the convention. The other problem is that Hillary Clinton, who was for the move made by the DNC at the beginning of this race, looks very calculated when 12 of the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee are involved actively in her campaign, it is fair to consider that this is a manufactured issue driven more by the needs of the candidate than of the voters in the two respective states.

The tenor of the mass media storyline, still points to Hillary bowing out of the race soon with reports of her cutting staff and moving her rally tomorrow night to her "home state" of New York. Even the former President hinted that his campaign duties would be ending, at least in support of his wife's campaign for the presidential nomination. After the primaries tomorrow, we should know much more about where this campaign is going next. John McCain was at work in Tennessee today and attacking Barack Obama in full general election campaign mode. Senator McCain is not to be underestimated; he was counted out early and has spent less on his entire campaign that the Democrats have spent in one state. The Democratic Party is still its own worst enemy, but it might not be for long.

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