March 31, 2008

Superdelegate Edge

Überfrau Hillary Clinton has always had the advantage of what I've periodically called the "inside game" -- the lists of fundraising sources grown since 1989 when Bill took over the Democratic Leadership Conference; the myriad of favors personally owed to the Clintons left over after eight years of controlling the White House and seven more of raising funds and making personal appearances for pols in tight races; and the number of people whose jobs, whether elected or not, were owed due to the Clintons pulling strings for people.

As a result, it's been no surprise to a lot of people that Hillary Clinton would have the advantage earning the support of the nearly 800 "superdelegates" -- the (not quite) one-fifth of delegates scheduled to sit and vote at the Democratic National Convention who get the right to attend and vote not because they were chosen by their state's caucuses or primaries, but because they hold, or have held, high political office, or are high-level officers of their state party organizations, or because they have exercised substantial influence in major campaigns and fundraising efforts of the party. These are the elites of the Democratic Party, and the conventional wisdom has always been that they prefer Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

Or do they now? According to the Wall Street Journal's tally, Since Super-Duper Tuesday in February, seventy-three superdelegates have issued endorsements, and sixty-four of them have been for Obama. Clinton has 250 superdelegate endorsements, and Obama has 217. And Obama is about to get seven more. (Since I know it's going to happen, I'm adding them to my delegate count right now, as well as Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey's endorsement, which may mitigate Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania somewhat.)

As I've noted before (and by now, many others have too), being ahead in the delegate count at the end of the primary season ought to be enough to eventually go over the top, even without the nomination clinched at the close of the primaries. Some politicians have called Obama's nomination "inevitable" and over the weekend, Sen. Patrick Leahy called for Sen. Clinton to withdraw from the race for the sake of party unity. There have actually been calls for Clinton to pursue the Governorship of New York. New Yorkers themselves are so far cool to the idea, although their new Governor has not turned out to be everything they might have hoped for.

Gratefully, no one in a position to actually do anything of consequence has joined that call. Senator Clinton, of course, has not withdrawn from the race and instead announced that she's in it all the way -- she's going to the convention with her delegates voting for her, damnit. Senator Obama has said that as far as he's concerned, she can run as long as she wants. DNC Chairman Howard Dean has been putting his head together with several other honchos like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, but has not and will not call for an end to the elections.

Nor do I want him to. Taking the convention to a floor fight will weaken the Democratic Party's unity come November. As intriguing and beguiling as Barack Obama might be, I just don't like his platform as much as John McCain's take on the same old GOP stuff we all know and have lived with for the past eight years. McCain is moderately better on civil rights than Bush, a damn sight better on foreign policy, he's a budget hawk, he's for free trade, he's for generally realistic and beneficial immigration reform, and with luck he'll have a Veep and some advisors who can tell him what to do about the economy and taxes. Health care, Iraq, Social Security reform -- these are all things that fall into the range of "least bad" policies rather than actual solutions anyway.

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