There was no Florida Democratic primary. Although the high turnout in a non-primary was heartening for Democratic prospects in November, the results are wholly meaningless as there was no campaign and no delegates at stake. Changing the rules ex post facto and claiming delegates for a specific candidate would be unambiguous electoral fraud. And whether the disenfranchisement of Florida Democrats for violating party rules was justified or not, it was agreed to in advance by every Democratic campaign — including the one now trying to pretend that a real election was held. Seating delegates for a particular candidate would not enfranchise Florida Democrats, since they still would not have had the opportunity to vote in a real contested election with actual stakes. The only actual remedy for the party’s decision would be to hold a real competitive primary at a later date, period.
… UPDATE BY ROB: This is the Clinton campaign manager reacting to the initial decision to exclude the Florida and Michigan delegates: “We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.” So no, this isn’t about the Clinton campaign fighting the DNC to empower the benighted masses in Michigan and Florida; the campaign supported the DNC’s decision up to the point it became in their interest to want to change the rules. Also see Ezra.
I thought this passage from the Times story about Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama was interesting:
In a 20-minute address, Mr. Kennedy hailed Mr. Obama’s ability to transcend racial divisions. Mr. Kennedy, who associates said had become furious by the tone of the Democratic campaign, including the words and actions of former President Bill Clinton, said Mr. Obama would usher in a new era of politics.
The strongest case to be made for Clinton is that her willingness to fight hard if not dirty will make her the strongest candidate against the GOP in the fall. And I don’t think this is a frivolous argument by any means. Although Obama has shown some ability to fight back (cf. his reply to John Howard, and he did a good job of replying-to-without-naming the Clintons on Saturday) at times he can seem unnecessarily defensive in response to even mild attacks. On the other hand, while I like the idea of having a street fighter as a candidate in the abstract I think one also has to question whether the specific tough tactics being used by Clinton have actually been effective. Given the complete blowout in South Carolina and the recent rash of Obama endorsements, it’s hard to make the case that Bill Clinton going on the offensive has been particularly helpful to Clinton’s campaign. The odious Jesse Jackson invocation was additionally dismaying because it seemed to reflect a very dim view of 2008 Democratic primary voters, and it’s one that I don’t think is terribly well justified. I think Clinton does have some very real political skills, and she may well be the strongest candidate in the general election, but her primary campaign hasn’t been terribly effective given the large advantages she started the race with.
And one can say the same thing about some of her policy panders. I can maybe see it in the immediate aftermath of Texas v. Johnson when such silliness briefly became a salient issue, but at this late date does anyone think that sponsoring Constitution flag-burning legislation is going to convince anyone to vote for her? I actually am inclined to think that her vote on the war represents a sincere conviction that the war was right, but for those who think that it was political positioning her judgment has quite clearly been erroneous — her position on the war bot would deprive her of a crucial issue in the general but also could quite possibly cost her the Democratic nomination. I’m all for politics being the art of the possible, but Clinton’s political instincts don’t always seem especially sound to me.
Or, to put it another way, not only does Mark Penn make me worry a little bit about the policy direction of a Clinton administration (compared to the other major Dems), I see little reason to believe that he’s any great shakes as a political tactician either.
Hillary Clinton, who has supported the war from the beginning, applauds the surge. Maybe this doesn’t disqualify her from the Democratic nomination, but being consistently wrong on the most important issue of the Bush era has to create a presumption against your candidacy when you’re running against two credible, electable progressive candidates. In the cheap pandering category, she uses claims that she will deport illegal aliens accused of crimes with “no legal process.”
Another example of tough rhetoric from street-fightin’ Hillary Clinton. Admittedly, it involved using some of Dick Cheney’s most specious arguments to defend Dick Cheney’s very worst policy, but hey, tough is tough!
But I’m sure many of the people thrilled about the good old-fashioned bare-knuckled politics she showed in seeking ex post facto electoral rule changes to steal a substantial block of delegates will also admire her campaign’s race-baiting — hey, at least she’ll be our Machiavellian bastard, right? (Note: Machiavellian street-fighting guarantee void during GOP foreign policy catastrophes, although they will reappear if necessary to distort the records of people who actually got the war right.) And when she amends her flag-burning legislation to require every state Capitol in the country to display the Confederate flag, hey, that may be worth a few votes in Florida, right? And when Mark Penn, Union Buster (TM) drafts a constitutional amendment to overturn the Wagner Act…
This is the sort of decision that has the potential to tear the party apart. In an attempt to retain some control over the process and keep the various states from accelerating their primaries into last summer, the Democratic National Committee warned Michigan and Florida that if they insisted on advancing their primary debates, their delegates wouldn’t be seated and the campaigns would be asked not to participate in their primaries. This was agreed to by all parties (save, of course, the states themselves).
With no one campaigning, Clinton, of course, won Michigan — she was the only Democrat to only both to get on the ballot, as I understand it — and will likely win Florida. And because the race for delegates is likely to be close, she wants those wins to count. So she’s fighting the DNC’s decision, and asking her delegates — those she’s akready won — to overturn it at the convention. And since this is a complicated, internal-party matter that sounds weird to those not versed in it (of course Michigan and Florida should count!), she’s adding a public challenge that, if the other Democrats deny, will make them seem anti-Michigan and Florida.
It’s dirty business on the part of the Clinton campaign, no question. And cloaking the nasty little power grab with the language of democratic inclusion irritates me even more. I can’t say that I’m completely surprised, but I would have preferred if Hillary had demonstrated more appreciation for party unity than this; it amounts to an effort to steal delegates.
I don’t know who on this planet has the stature to go face-to-face with Bill Clinton and look him in the eye and tell him he behaved in a discreditable fashion. His wife? His buddy Vernon Jordan? Whoever it is, someone had better stop him. He campaigned against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich. The Clinton campaign may conclude that, numerically and on balance, Bill helped. But, trust me, to the thousands of committed progressives who supported him when he really needed it, who went to the mat for him at his moment of (largely self-inflicted) crisis but who now happen to be supporting someone other than his wife, he’s done himself a tremendous amount of damage.
The political realities in the 1990s were much different than the political realities today, and there’s much, much less chance that people like Mike Tomasky will countenance the Ricky Ray Rectoring, welfare-reforming, Obama-smearing [and DOMA signing, habeas corpus-gutting, etc. --ed.] side of Bill Clinton now, when such behavior isn’t really construable as an unfortunate side-effect of the historical moment.
I mostly concur with Rob’s analysis of the Democratic race; I wouldn’t say it’s over but Clinton has to be considered a heavy favorite. With the GOP, I guess it depends what the definiton of “wide open” is, but that’s not the adjective I’d use. Obviously, it’s a two-man race — if Huckabee can’t win there he has no chance, Thompson’s campaign was stillborn, and Rudy9 Giuliani11′s campaign is a historic farce with 4 fewer delegates than Ron Paul and 1 more than Duncan Hunter. And while it’s not close to over I think at this point McCain probably to be considered the favorite. Certainly, I violently disagree with the claim that Romney wins however S.C. comes out. A Huckabee win and he would have been in pretty good shape. But to beat McCain straight up, you have to think that the majority of Thompson and Giuliani votes would go to Romney, and that doesn’t seem like a good bet. And while I’ve said this before, while I have little doubt that the GOP establishment would thwart McCain if it had a plain-vanilla Southern conservative to work with, this is irrelevant to the current race. (And some GOP elites have to be smart enough to understand that McCain 1)has a more conservative record than Romney and 2)would have a far better chance in the general.) There’s also a serious proof-is-in-the-pudding issue; if the Republican Establishment was determined to (and had the power to) stop McCain it’s not clear why they didn’t just do it in South Carolina.
As everyone who reads this site knows, Clinton/McCain is my least favorite matchup among the viable ones, but I’ll have to learn to live with it.
Hilzoy makes the case against Clinton. I substantially agree, both on policies and politics, but I’m not certain about this:
In this context, I think that nominating Hillary Clinton would be a disastrous mistake. Of all the people whom we are at all likely to nominate, she is the one whom people would be most inclined to believe the worst of. Some of those people — the ones who thought the Clintons had Vince Foster killed and hung crack pipes on their Christmas trees — are presumably unreachable by Democrats. But others — the ones who don’t pay close attention to these things, and came away from the 1990s with a vague sense that the Clintons were just plain sleazy — are people we can reach.
If we nominate Hillary Clinton, then I assume that the Republicans will go after her, and that they will not restrict themselves to attacking her policies and her record. When they do, then all those people who are already inclined to think the worst of Hillary Clinton will, for that reason, be prepared to find those attacks believable. Stories about her sleaziness, her underhandedness, her cold and calculating nature, etc., will be a lot less likely to strike them as implausible, overreaching, mean-spirited, malicious, or vile. And that means that the chances that people will see standard Republican attacks for what they are are dramatically reduced.
Here’s the thing; while we can always say that “it could be worse” I’m not convinced that, in the case of Hillary Clinton, the attacks actually can get worse than those that have already been leveled against her. The Republicans have literally (and I mean literally to read “literally” rather than figuratively) accused her of every crime that it is possible for one person to commit, and she still polls well against the strongest Republican candidates.
There are two potential pro-Clinton narratives to draw from this argument:
Further attacks against Clinton will yield diminishing returns for the Republicans. As she has already been accused of everything (and, as she’s the most identifiable politician in America, I’m unconvinced that any potential voters haven’t been exposed to such attacks) more attacks are unlikely to convince anyone not yet convinced that Clinton is bad, and may in fact produce a backlash; once you’ve said that someone is a drug dealing murdering man-hating lesbian, attacking her health care policy is rather pointless.
Obama has not yet been subjected to this level of attack, and is not likely to be immune to it; whether true or not, the Republican noise machine will cook up some vile line of attack that it likely to see some success, suggesting that Obama’s better poll performance won’t stand the scrutiny of a general election.
This is why I remain reluctant to concede that Clinton is less electable than Obama. In the first place, I think that electability is a very difficult trait to assess, and in the second I can see some specific reasons why current polling of the two prominent Democrats may wrongly assess the situation. That said, Scott and Hilzoy are right to point out that Hillary’s reputation is farther left than her policies, which is a bad thing, and that Hillary may mobilize a huge component of the Republican electorate.
All that said, the vote against the war is important to me, and I expect to vote Obama. But I can’t say that a Clinton victory will disappoint me.
Publius, while accepting the validity of grievances against the frequently sexist coverage of her campaign, tries to make it. To me, #1 remains the most persuasive. I think Obama might have a marginally more progressive domestic policy, but the differences are narrow enough that this could be mistaken. But it’s hard for me to get around the fact that Clinton completely botched the most important issue of the Bush era. (Moreover, I’m not willing to assume that her vote for the war was an “insincere political gamble;” that’s possible, but I think we have to accept the possibility that she voted for the war because she supported the war.) See also Ann Friedman on this issue.
And her pro-war vote is not merely problematic on the merits; it’s also bad politics. On the “Clinton electability” issue, as Ygelsias says Drum is narrowly right but takes on only the weakest version of the argument. I have never argued that Clinton is “unelectable,” and it’s likely that the structural conditions in November will make any Democratic candidate a favorite over any Republican. But this doesn’t mean that Clinton/McCain isn’t the worst plausible matchup for the Democrats. And even assuming that head-to-head polls aren’t useful at this point, the fact that Clinton took the Republican position on the most important issue and hence will be unable to exploit an issue that should favor the Dems will surely be a problem. And there are a variety of other areas in which Obama has more upside. Obama has the ability to mobilize voters who generally turn out in relatively smaller numbers, while Clinton’s core constituency (older women) already votes at disproportionately high levels. And while we don’t know for certain that Obama’s lower negatives and favorable media coverage will hold up, the worst that can happen is dropping to Clinton’s levels, and it’s more likely that he would be a better candidate than Clinton in those areas. (And I’m not arguing that conservatives won’t attack Obama; the question is how much right-wing critiques will penetrate the mainstream media and swing voters.)
Now, if you want to argue that given a candidate than can win a primary “electability” is just too unpredictable a factor to be meaningful, that’s fair enough; but I don’t really see a good progressive case for Clinton on the merits either.
Rebecca Traister explains her one-day support for Clinton in response to her sexist trashing by the media. Violet Socks describes it in fiction form.
While it’s hard to establish definitively, it does seem likely that the egregious sexism of the media played at least some role in Clinton’s win.
…relatedly, a blogger at Swampland (via) is inventing a mythical catfight between Pelosi and Clinton because…another (male) member of Congress endorsed Obama. I’m serious. Expect her on the Times op-ed page — if it’s still in business — within the decade unless they decide to give it to Althouse or Camille Paglia instead. The first commenter: “Someday political historians will write books on the damage done to political journalism by the legacy of Maureen Dowd. This will be good for at least a footnote for somebody.” Indeed.