Friday, July 25, 2008

Faithless Delegates - or how PUMA wins the battle and loses the election

Guest post by Patrick Mckinnion

So, the primaries are over. At this time Sen. Obama is the presumed nominee, based on pledged delegates and pledged super delegates. Let's look at the figures, as provided by Real Clear Politics

Sen. Obama got 1766.5 pledged delegates out of 3434, and Sen. Clinton got 1639.5. Sen. Obama got 463 super-delegates out of 823, and Sen. Clinton got 257. This means Sen. Obama got 333 total delegates (127 pledged delegates and 206 super-delegates) more than Sen. Clinton. As such, under normal circumstances, he is the de-facto nominee for the Democratic party, which means the party infrastructure is working to support him as is normal for a de-facto nominee.

The only three ways this changes are:

1) The unthinkable happening, i.e. the assassination of Sen. Obama
2) Sen. Obama withdrawing from the race due to medical or personal reasons.
3) A "faithless delegate" situation in which the will of the voters is questioned or overthrown.

The third choice is what "The Denver Group" and some of the PUMA-types are hoping for. In some of their boards, they're already claiming many delegates have done just that and "flipped" to Sen. Clinton. So, let's say, for the sake of argument, that they flip 334 or more delegates, switching the presumptive nominee from Sen. Obama to Sen. Clinton. PUMA and the Denver Group get their wish. They cheer, believing their faith and the rightness of their cause have led the day, and that the Democratic party will now unify behind the chosen nominee, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

And the convention explodes. Such a thing would be political suicide for ANYONE who got the nomination. I strongly doubt Sen. Clinton would even WANT to touch a nomination tainted in such a way. And I think Sen. Clinton knows this. I don't think she would accept the nomination under such circumstances, and it's becoming obvious she doesn't support such efforts. She is doing her part to help unify the party behind Sen. Obama, and deserves both honor and respect for that.

But assuming the delegates get flipped, and Sen. Clinton was convinced to accept the nomination per PUMA's demands. What then?


Right off the back, you have the very real anger of Sen. Obama's supporters, the vast majority of whom would have supported Sen. Clinton if she had won the primaries. This would smell of back room deals, and most of them would rightfully feel the nomination was stolen from Sen. Obama. Charges of racism would rear their ugly heads.

In effect, you would have a backlash that would be everything PUMA claims to be - a huge amount of very angry voters that would feel the election was stolen from them.

Let's look at the numbers. This is from a PEW research report from 10 July 2008 about support for the nominees.

In that report, PEW said:
69% of former Clinton supporters say they now back Obama.
17% said they would vote for McCain.
2% for someone else.
12% are undecided.

So that's up to 81% if Sen. Obama wins over the undecideds. If Sen. Clinton had won the primary, I suspect one would see similar or higher numbers. So that's campaign support for the nominee under the circumstances of a primary win.

But in a faithless delegate environment, toss those numbers out the window - 50% might be too high due to complete destruction of party unity and the perception that the primaries were overturned. And the effects on down-ticket races would be devastating - literally any elected official who switched their vote could find their chances of re-election impossible at best. A large number of voters would stay home in November, convinced their votes don't count. And they would be right in feeling that way. But it would ruin down-stream races.

"Party Unity My Ass" indeed. The party that would be unified would be the GOP.

So right off the back, the nominee would deal with a split party far, far worse than post-primaries.

Then would be a number of Sen. Clinton's voters in the primary that would reconsider their support. Remember, the PUMA types count for less than 10% of Sen. Clinton's voting block, Sen. Clinton would be looking at a situation that she wouldn't have the full number of people who voted for her in the primaries. And that's the loss from supporters. You know how PUMA likes to claim "17 - 18 million voters"?? Well, between 17-18 million voted for Sen. Obama. The majority of them who that would feel his nomination was stolen at the convention and withhold their votes. It's doubtful she could pull together enough independent and crossover votes to make up that loss. Remember, these are people that WOULD have voted for her if she won the primaries. And the loss of the Operation Chaos dittoheads, who would have never voted for Sen. Clinton in the General Election anyway.

So, loss of some initial supporter votes + loss of many Obama supporter votes.

Logistically, there would be no time for the new nominee to try and unify the party, behind the new nominee. There would be no time for fundraising, no time to put anything back together. DNC infrastructure that has been assembled since the primary would be disrupted and torn apart. It would not be surprising for any Obama supporter that helped pay down Sen. Clinton's campaign debt to ask for their money back, as well as asking the DNC for any donations back. The well of small dollar supporters would dry up, and it would take time they don't have to develop new funding sources. Many of her elected supporters will also pull away for fear it would bring them down as well.

Logically and financially, the Democratic party would be less than three months from election day, and be in complete and utter chaos. Not to mention financially broken.

Meanwhile, the GOP would be having a field day with stories about Democratic chaos, and stolen elections. The corporate and right-wing media would be dusting off and using the narrative that the Clintons will "lie, cheat and steal" to win. The GOP base would be energized, and many who would have sat out the race would come in to vote against Sen. Clinton. To a lot of independents, this would prove the GOP narrative that the Democratic party is without ethics or principals. The GOP would play the race card even more to try and paint the Democratic party as racist. Expect lines like "See, the voters chose an African-American to be their nominee, and it was stolen from him! Can any minority trust them now?" See many of the PUMA backers in the GOP create a PUMA-like movement to woo furious Obama supporters away from the Democratic party.

So, to recap, presidential race in disarray, with a strong negative effect on down-stream races. Major loss of voters, loss of finances, loss of logistical strength, and little to now time to recoup. You would not only hand the White House to McCain on a silver platter, the chances are very good you would hand the house and senate to the GOP as well.

Sen. Clinton isn't good enough to pull up from that disaster.

NOBODY is good enough to pull up from that disaster.

2008 would be a complete and total write-off for the Democratic party. Sen. Clinton's political career would be over, as would the careers of any elected official who flipped their delegate votes to her. It would take years for the DNC and the Democratic party to come back from such destruction, and you could write off key voting blocks for a long time to come. The GOP would be the winner and the country the loser.

PUMA has a large number of people who claim to be supporters of Sen. Clinton. The problem is they have such a blind, unreasoning hatred of Sen. Obama that they would rather destroy the Democratic party, the political future of the woman they claim to support, AND the country, if it means denying Sen. Obama the nomination - or the White House.

Originally Posted at Yes To Democracy all rights (and most wrongs) reserved.

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