Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Which Numbers Matter?

Because of the delegates, Hillary can't win.

But, perhaps those aren't
the only numbers that matter.

The comparison to the 2000 election may go beyond just the importance of Florida. It could be the party version of Electoral College vs. popular vote:

If Clinton pulls ahead of Obama in this count, she could make a compelling moral claim. I think her argument would consist of a positive and a negative component. First, she can assert that, as the popular vote winner, she is the rightful nominee of the party. She can remind super delegates that the last Democrat who won the nomination without a popular mandate was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. The debacle that followed convinced Democrats to open their process to the public. Nominating Obama would thus be inconsistent with the party's forty-year commitment to openness and inclusiveness.

Second, she can run against the nomination process itself. As I noted last week, this is a procedure that few politicos have paid attention to. So, there is little emotional investment in it, which makes it easier to attack. Imagine a split in the popular vote and the Electoral College - only this time the Electoral College does not have the Constitution conferring upon it moral legitimacy. Which count will people prefer? Similarly, Clinton can argue that Obama indeed won a plurality of pledged delegates - but that is merely a testament to the fact that the party's process is not as open as they thought. They shouldn't let the vagaries of the party's antiquated, undemocratic system determine the nominee.
Cost doesn't bring up this point, but there's certainly no reason why this set of circumstances couldn't spur an Obama v. Clinton sequel to Bush v. Gore. The Supreme Court pointedly said that the 2000 case shouldn't serve as any sort of precedent. Considering that a political party nominating contest doesn't have the constitutional implications that are attached to a presidential election, one could conclude that the Supremes wouldn't get involved. But a legal battle between Obama and Clinton would inevitably raise civil rights and Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment issues given the overwhelming number of African-American voters participating in Democratic primaries and caucuses. It would be almost impossible for the Court not to get involved.

Hmmm...sounds like some real fun.

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