Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nomination Mess

Since this year's primary races are much more competitive and interesting than any I can remember, I've been paying a bit more attention to the process than I ever have, and I'm starting to wonder whether there will be a clear winner, or whether the whole process is headed for a train-wreck. For starters, we've got Michigan on Tuesday, who is holding a primary which may or may not count for anything, and in which Hillary Clinton's only significant competition is "uncommitted". Michigan, along with Florida, got in a pissing match with the Democratic National Committee about which states were allowed to have early primaries. Officially, it's only supposed to be Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Michigan and Florida defied the national committee, and moved their primary dates up early anyway. The DNC announced that it was going to refuse to seat the delegations from those states (i.e., not count their votes). Obama and Edwards, deferring to the national committee, withdrew their names from the ballot. Clinton, however, did not, although she has pledged not to campaign in Michigan. Thus, it appears she is headed for a clear victory in Michigan, although there seems to be some grassroots efforts to encourage people to vote for "uncommitted", which is an option on the ballot. Uncommitted means that Michigan's delegates are free to make up their own mind on the spot at the convention. Also, Michigan has an open primary, so that frustrated Democrats can always cross over and vote the Republican primary. (And vice versa.) Of course, none of that will mean anything, if the DNC follows through on their threat and refuses to seat the Michigan delegates. But that's a big if. Many suspect that the DNC will buckle. If they do, that would give a bunch of not-really-earned votes to Clinton from a sizeable state. Then there's the "superdelegates". Only about 80% of the votes at the convention come from "pledged" delegates, who are pledged to vote according to their state election or caucus results. The other 20% come from "superdelegates", who comprise Democratic party leaders (e.g., Democratic governors, senators, and congressmembers). At least at the moment, the majority of those are breaking for Clinton. It seems to be a given among the beltway cognoscenti that Clinton is the choice of the Democratic party machine. Though given that the primary/caucus and convention process is supposed to be the decision-making process for the party, I'm not sure how the machine is supposed to have a "choice" in the primary process. But apparently they do. On the other hand, the superdelegates are "unpledged", which means that even though they may have given indications or promises as to how they will vote at the convention, they can ultimately change their minds at the convention. So it seems to me that if no single candidate has a lead greater than 20%, then we may not know until the convention in late August who the candidate is. That would be a first in my voting lifetime.

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