Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama ahead on all cards

After winning yesterday’s Mississippi primary, Barack Obama is ahead no matter how you count.

(A) CNN shows Barack leading by 131 delegates in total delegates, 1611 to 1480.
(B) Barack would still lead by 3 delegates if the 128 net disputed delegates in Florida and Michigan were added to Hillary’s total.
(C) Barack leads by 161 delegates, 1404 to 1243, if super delegates are ignored and only delegates won in primaries and caucuses are counted.

But Barack needs 2025 delegates to clinch, and it is 6 weeks to the next primary in Pennsylvania on April 22. That’s a long time in politics. So what can we expect?

More "dream ticket" talk
Hillary’s campaign has been suggesting a joint Clinton-Obama ticket -- with Obama in the VP slot. Former President Clinton put it out last Saturday that a Clinton-Obama ticket would be "unstoppable." "He would win the urban areas and the upscale voters. She would win the rural areas that we lost when President Reagan was president. If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force." (I hate to resort to the cliché of parsing Bill Clinton, but what does he mean by “almost?”)

Barack has tried to shake off that talk: "I'm not running for vice president. I'm running for president of the United States of America…. I don't know how somebody who's in second place is offering vice presidency to the person who's in first place.” And he also took a little swing at the Clinton campaign theme that he is not ready to be President: “I don't understand. If I'm not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?"

I suspect the Clinton campaign is playing a double or triple game here. They know Barack has no reason to settle for VP when he is ahead, and they are really angling for Hillary to get the VP slot on an Obama-Clinton ticket. Their mantra will be that if you want Hillary on the ticket (as VP), you will have to vote for her – you won’t be voting against Barack you’ll be voting for the dream ticket. But if they get enough people to vote for Hillary under that pretext, maybe she wins and gets to lead the ticket. And if she loses and is “forced” to take the VP slot, the Obama people can feel happy they beat her down to VP.

But that’s not the only game in town. Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, said back on February 5, “I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April. But if we don’t, then we’re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement.” Howard Dean has to remain officially neutral, but you know in his heart he has to favor anti-war Obama. Maybe he’ll pull a Cheney and we’ll get Obama-Dean. Or maybe he’ll settle for UN Ambassador Dean.

More talk of reruns
Now they are talking about redoing the Florida and Michigan primaries using mail-in ballots. That sounds great on paper but if the new results come out too different from the original it will only compound the fiasco. Today Hillary came out swinging, "The results of those primaries were fair and they should be honored." And she is taking the stand “honor the results or hold new primary elections” knowing no one wants to pay for new primary elections. If the Obama people are clever, they may start suggesting that if the rules are changed to count Florida and Michigan, they should also be changed to eliminate super delegates. After all, these super delegates are the party officials that are supposed to prevent problems like this from happening.

Remember those caucus states like Iowa that Barack won? Well, the caucus meeting is usually just the first of two or three steps to choose the final delegates. Often the precinct causes are followed by a county convention and/or state convention where the final delegates get picked. 248 delegates in 10 states are in play. One expects the Obama organization to be prepared to win the later rounds, but you never know. I can say from my personal experience that, back in 1980, George Bush won on caucus night in January, but Reagan won the county convention in March.

More silly stuff
Remember the ad Hillary ran in Texas: “When the call comes at 3 a.m. in the White House, who do you want answering the phone?” Well, it turns out first of all that this was essentially a copy of an ad Walter Mondale ran in 1984. And, second of all, stock footage was used for the little 8-year-old girl sleeping in bed. It turns out she is now a high school senior who will be old enough to vote and an Obama volunteer. And third, there is some great video of Bill Clinton campaigning for John Kerry in 2004: “Now one of Clinton’s laws of politics is this. If one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to get you to think, if one candidate is appealing to your fears, and the other one is appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.”

Geraldine Ferrara, VP nominee for Mondale in 1984, got accused of racism this week after saying “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position.” Her response was, "Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white.” Hillary has taken the now ritual step of kicking her off the campaign and apologizing.

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