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I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

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Hillary: caucus delegates not "elected"

In an interview with Newsweek, Hillary Clinton trots out a new bit of spin, offhandedly asserting that there are three types of delegates: "elected delegates, caucus delegates and superdelegates."

Unpacking that statement, I notice two things. Firstly, what happened to calling superdelegates "automatic delegates"? I guess that bit of Clinton spin has officially bitten the dust -- replaced with the equally silly notion that only delegates allocated by primaries are "elected," while delegates allocated by caucuses are not. That one doesn't pass the laugh test, but terminology aside, I think the Clinton campaign might be on to something here.

I assume the campaign's ultimate goal is to encourage the media to delineate the primary and caucus delegates in separate counts. Regardless of its merits or lack thereof (an arguable point, IMHO), I think this tack just might work. The Obama campaign had considerable success in arguing early last month that the media should stop conflating the pledged-delegate and superdelegate counts, and in light of her recent success "working the refs," I think Clinton may now be able to convince the media that a tripartite count is appropriate.

If she can accomplish that, she will then presumably try to argue that she is a legitimate option for the nomination if she's ahead, or within striking distance, among the primary (or "elected") delegates by the end of the primaries in June. I haven't done the math on it, but I imagine that's a much more realistic goal than coming within striking distance in the overall pledged-delegate count, and possibly even more realistic than winning the "popular vote."

(I hasten to add that, whatever the merits of a tripartite delegate count, a legitimacy argument based solely on primary delegates would be totally, well, illegitimate. It's one thing to argue that primaries and caucuses are different and should be treated as such, and that primaries should matter more. It's another thing to completely ignore the caucuses altogether, thus effectively disenfranchising all the voters in those states.)

Less likely to work, IMHO, is Clinton's attempt to re-raise an argument that her campaign floated and then quickly rejected last month: "Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to." If she starts making a public effort to "poach" pledged delegates, I think there will be a massive backlash.

One last point: her statement that "[t]his is a very carefully constructed process that goes back years, and we're going to follow the process" could very well come back to haunt her, if anyone remembers it (not that blatantly self-contradictory comments have stopped her before). Several of her spin tactics -- including the denigration of caucuses -- are in direct opposition to the notion of respecting this "very carefully constructed process that goes back years."

In other news, the New York Times Caucus Blog has the latest on Michigan and Florida. A pair of "do-overs" appear increasingly likely.

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Comments

Great. Florida and Michigan will be punished for their insubordinance by picking the nominee. Some punishment.

Well, it is true that elected and caucus delegates are free to change their loyalty. However it is generally considered bad form to do so before the fourth or fifth ballot at the convention, or the direction of the candidate they were chosen to represent.

JD:

I'm with you. I think the DNC should stick to their guns and absolutely refuse to seat any delegates from either Florida or Michigan. Rules are rules.

The fact that this would make it much harder for the democrats to win these states in November has absolutely nothing to do with my position.

{uncrosses fingers}

But gahrie, that wouldn't be "sticking to their guns," that would be putting away their pistols and replacing them with semi-automatic machine guns. The DNC has always explicitly said that Michigan and Florida could have their delegates seated if they submit an acceptable delegate-selection plan based on a vote between March 5 and June 10. Those have been the rules all along. You might think it's unfair, but as you say: "Rules are rules."

States chose how to allocate their delegates. I think it's ridiculous for anyone to assign larger weight to one method or another at this point.

While I agree with the assertion that a caucus is inherently less democratic than a primary vote, it doesn't matter. This is how those states chose to allocate their delegates. If Hillary doesn't like that, I'll expect to see her petitioning the DNC after the primary to get the caucus system banned.

I won't hold my breath though.

I don't seriously expect the DNC to refuse to seat the delegates Brendan. I think the Democratic Party has the absolute right to set their rules and enforce them.

That means as far as I am concerned they can do any of three things:

1) Ban any delegation from Florida or Michigan

2) Seat the currently elected Florida and Michigan delegates

3) Allow Florida and Michigan to elect new delegates.

I was merely attempting to humorously convey my sense that the current situation is damaging to the Democrats and a desire for that to continue.

I also agree with JD about the irony of the situation.

First by moving their primaries up this year, Florida and Michigan actually managed to decrease their influence on the process compared to if they had simply done nothing.

However, even more ironic, by attempting to punish Florida and Michigan for moving up their primaries, the DNC has actually created the conditions that will almost certainly make the Florida and Michigan do-overs the most important primaries of this election cycle.

And don't forget that if Michigan and Florida hold their new caucuses or primaries after May 1, they will each get a 30% increase in the number of pledged delegates. So their influence in the campaign will be much greater even than if the original primaries counted. (That is an extra 90+ delegates combined.) I wonder if Obama might not want to take the current allocation of delegates from these states rather than risk an even greater margin for Clinton?

Call to 2008 Democratic Convention


Jim - as I have said many times before, and still do, Democracy is 4 Wolves and 1 Lamb voting for what to have for lunch ...
a bit hard on the Lamb, but *very* Democratic ...

(4 Hillaries and 1 Obama voting on how to elect delegates ?)

That was a perceptive catch, Brendan-- I haven't seen any main or even secondary media that caught this. You really have to be on a particular wavelength to read Clintonian parsing. There is a political meaning behind every word they say, and especially when words elvolve you have to pay attention.

Let me go you one further here. You noted that "automatic delegates" just changed back to "super delegates," but why? There is always a reason.

I think the reason is that the Clinton camp now sees that there is no way in the end they are going to keep the super lead, because supers breaking for Obama is the only way the party doesn't immediately self-destruct. So whereas they wanted earlier to give them more credibility, they now need to jump to the other side. Clinton will in fact probably end with a lead in one and only one "category," and that is the one she just created.

That's not going to get her the nod, and this shows she knows that. The only explanation for this behavior to me is that she's playing to undermine BO in the general so she can come back in 2012. This distinction is simply designed to say that the entire process of selecting Obama was undemocratic and unfair, that she won "elected delegates" and he only won one or another kind of tainted delegate.

This kind of maneuver seems consistent with her new ads that basically contemn Obama as simply not being fit to be president, and her specific statements that McCain has better POTUS credentials. Without formally and explicitly giving up on 08, I think she's going as far as she can to position for 2012.

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee (which I don't believe will happen) she will have to win or lose WITHOUT my vote

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