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Playing Not To Lose

Michigan has joined Florida in failing to reach an agreement on a re-vote. It’s obvious why: the Obama camp has no interest in any solution which could give Hillary Clinton more states and delegates. Clinton is in full outrage mode, declaring during a campaign stop in Indiana:

I do not see how two of our largest and most significant states can be disenfranchised and left out of the process of picking our nominee without raising serious questions about the legitimacy of that nominee. So again, I would call on Senator Obama to join me in supporting the rights of the people of Michigan and Florida to have their voices and their votes counted. I have, as the Democratic National Committee has, come out in favor of an effort for a re-vote in Michigan. I do not understand what Senator Obama is afraid of, but it is going to hurt our party and our chances in November and so I would call on him, once again, to join me in giving the people of Florida and Michigan the chance to be counted as we move forward in this nominating process.

She is right that Obama is taking a risk, in essence betting that the superdelegates and regular voters won’t perceive this as a sign of tremendous anxiety about his electability. He is also betting that neither state’s voters will care when the general election rolls around. If the logjam is not resolved Clinton will no doubt continue to press her case to the DNC. If she succeeds in knocking down Obama’s pledged delegate lead by a few dozen, she will then contend that the critical superdelegates should no longer consider Obama “ahead.” The argument will go: they cannot “follow the people’s votes” if all the people aren’t voting. In short, she will try to convince the superdelegates that Obama’s pledged delegate lead is artificial and illegitimate. Will they buy it? It depends on how many states she wins between now and then and how far he sinks in the polls, I think.

Will Florida and Michigan hold a grudge in November if Obama is the nominee? Given that Michigan insists on re-electing Democrats, no matter how incompetent and adverse to their economic interests, it is unlikely it will make much of a difference there. Florida is another story: McCain–who already has a foothold among Hispanics, seniors, and military voters–would, I suspect, like nothing better that to campaign against a candidate who snubbed the state.


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