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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Clinton Campaign- Incompetent or Desperate?

[Update] Seems that firsthand accounts are coming out showing that the despite those categorical denials from the Clinton campaign...oooops, it is happening.

Two stories stand out today, both about the Clinton campaign and both equally disturbing to the Democratic voters.

We start with The Politico report that claims, via confirmation from a "high-ranking Clinton official on Monday."

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.

Lets look at what a pledged delegate is using the Wikipedia definition as a reference to better explain how delegates are chosen for those unfamiliar with the system used in U.S. politics:

Democratic candidates campaign for the nomination of their party in a series of primary elections and caucus events. The results from these primaries and caucuses determine the number of pledged delegates committed to vote for each candidate at the Democratic National Convention. Pledged delegates are allocated to each of the fifty US states following two main criteria: 1) the proportion of votes each state gave to the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential elections, and (2) the percentage of votes each state has in the Electoral College. In addition, fixed numbers of delegates are allocated to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Democrats Abroad under the party's Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Pledged delegates reflect the preferences of the voters, but are not actually legally bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged for. However, since candidates may remove delegates who they feel may be disloyal, pledged delegates generally vote for the candidate they represent.

This matches the information provided by the Politico, which underlines what I emphasized above.

According to this article a pledged delegate is not really pledged at all and are allowed to switch their candidate they support and the Politico says this has been an "open secret in the party for years," yet is hasn't mattered so much in the past because there has always been a clear frontrunner by the time the convention has convened.

Unlike this race where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seem to be running neck and neck.

It goes on to say that one candidate can go to the convention with a small lead in pledged delegates and the other candidate can promise them the "sun, moon and stars", to make them switch sides.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) says it is simply a "myth" that pledged delegates must vote for a certain delegate.

As per a recent DNC memo "Delegates are NOT bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to at the convention or on the first ballot. A delegate goes to the convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular presidential candidate. At the convention, while it is assumed that the delegate will cast their vote for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required."

We have discussed at length the potential problems with super delegates and the possibility that they might vote against the "popular" choice to win the nomination for the candidate that trails, but this is the first we are seeing reports that Clinton is going after pledged delegates.

Former DNC chairman David Wilhelm calls this strategy "troubling" and states "I would just add that sometimes nominations are not worth having, and one of those times would be when the nomination comes at the cost of ripping the party apart."

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign head adds to that saying "Every day there seems to be a new tactic they’re developing that might allow them to pull a rabbit out of hat and subvert the will of the voters."

The Clinton campaign categorically denies the Politico report.

.....Clinton spokesman Phil Singer sent an email stating, "We have not, are not and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama."

More importantly than the he said she said of campaign bickering is the reaction from among Democratic supporters and voters, which can be found by reading their own words.

The reactions I will show below are only from the left because in this issue, their observations and beliefs will be what determines who they vote for and why and their reactions to the strategies floated, the stories in the press and the methods used by the Clinton campaign should be extremely important to the both the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign.

Kevin Drum from Washington Monthly says this strategy reported by The Politico "reeks of desperation" and the reactions from the left side of the blogosphere go downhill from there.

Matthew Yglesias says that this "scheme to add wooing Barack Obama's pledged delegates to vote for her is a pretty sleazy and absurd addition to their earlier "let's count the states that don't count" gambit."

The NewHoggers, admittedly and proudly liberal, is also showing disgust with this process:

So why bother to go through the charade of holding primaries at all? Why doesn't the DNC just admit the candidate will be chosen in back room deals no matter what the proles prefer? That at least would be honest. We clearly need a new primary system.

Kyle E. Moore, writing for, "Comments from the Left Field", is far more harsh in his criticisms when he says:

"I cannot say that such a tactic is against the rules, but because the rules technically allow someone to do a thing doesn’t necessarily mean that they should do a thing. Because it is within the Clintons’ right to subvert the will of the voters on the most basic level doesn’t mean that it’s still not wrong, vile, thoroughly undemocratic and ultimately unbecoming of a person seeking to be the standard-bearer of the Democratic party."

He does go on to list a number of reasons that the Clinton campaign is angering him.

The Booman Tribune, who carries a banner stating that they are a proud member of the Liberal Blog Network speaks about Clinton supporters also:

Imagine the disillusionment of rank and file Democrats, even Clinton supporters, if they see the Clintons pry the nomination away from Obama by cajoling Obama's pledged delegates away from him. Under what theory of representative democracy would they justify such actions.

Intoxination pretty well sums up the Democratic supporters point of view and should serve as a warning to the Democratic leadership as a whole:

In other words, "screw what the voter wants". I have been speaking to a lot of Democrats lately who are fed up with their party. From the waffling of the leadership in the House and Senate, to this entire delegate mess, they are tired of it. Something has to be done soon or the Independent column in the polls is going to start growing.

Every day it seems that a story about one of the Democratic candidates is coming out, obviously this is a cut throat campaign season to which basically all bets are off between the Democratic candidates and although many predicted at the beginning of this long grueling process that claws would come out, dirty tricks would be the norm and rumor and speculation would run rampant as one candidate tried to destroy the other, that speculation at the beginning was speaking to the Republican vs the Democratic candidates.

I am not sure anyone truly expected the two Democratic candidates to go at each others throats with this level of vitriol, and to worry so much about their individual campaigns that they are not paying any attention at all to their supporters nor seeming to care that they are causing utter destruction within the Democratic party as a whole, because as the two campaigns fight tooth and nail, so are their individual supporters.

The second story mentioned at the beginning of this post shows the Clinton incompetence by not filing a full slate of convention delegate candidates for Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.