Until a few short months ago it was the wet dream of virtually every politics junkie - now, as it is becoming more likely by the day to happen this year, the dream is turning into a nightmare. Below the flip: why a brokered convention is becoming increasingly probable; why this is bad news especially for us Obama supporters; and what can be done to avoid it and win outright.
Why is a brokered convention becoming increasingly likely? - The argument was made first, I believe, by Chris Bowers the day before Super Tuesday (OpenLeft has been all over this issue). Today, Paul Kane at WaPo's online chat plays catch up:
Ohio is not at all where Clinton could wrap things up. We've done a bad job of explaing this, but it is now basically mathematically impossible for either Clinton or Obama to win the nomination through the regular voting process (meaning the super-delegates decide this one, baby!).
Here's the math. There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.
To date, about 55% of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obamb roughly splitting them at about 900 delegates a piece.
That means there are now only about 1,400 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.
So, do the math. If they both have about 900 pledged delegates so far, they need to win more than 1,100 of the remaining 1,400 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.
Ain't gonna happen, barring a stunning scandal or some new crazy revelation. So, they'll keep fighting this thing out, each accumulating their chunk of delegates, one of them holding a slight edge and bothing finishing the voting process with 1,600 or so delegates.
And then the super delegates decide this thing.
1,100 out of 1,400 means one candidate needs to win nearly 80% of all pledged delegates yet to be awarded to clinch it. As Chris points out, Obama will need a hundred more to overcome Clinton's lead in super delegates - meaning he'll need something like 86% of all delegates yet to be pledged. Unlike Kane and others] I won't say that's impossible - but it's, uhm, not bloody likely...
But the Clinton campaign is broke! They won't be able to compete much longer! - Fellow Obamanians and Obamaniacs, let's not kid ourselves! If you can't respect your opponent (which you should in this case), at least be smart enough not to underestimate them. Even if all her fat cat donors were to have maxed out or gotten cold feet, Hillary has millions of devoted supporters who are every bit as devoted to her as we are to our guy (you know the peeps - there are enough right here on this board). They will shell out every last dime to keep the campaign afloat. And even if the Clinton campaign were to go completely dark in all media markets (which isn't going to happen), there may well still be enough people voting for Hillary to deny Obama the nomination (remember - all it takes for Hillary would be 15-20% of the vote in the remaining contests). And if you think the Clintons aren't going to stick this out to the bitter end, have you learned nothing of the
stubbornness of dwarfs tenacity of the Clintons?
But a brokered convention is great! Somebody unbelievably cool (Gore, Edwards, Dean) is going to come in and graciously accept the nomination as honest broker! - That's bull. In this day and age, we like to think of the big-party nominees as elected by public mandate (even though that is strictly speaking not really the case). An outside candidate parachuting into the deadlocked convention to rescue the party is not going to be accepted - would have dramatic legitimacy issues.
Alright, then what is going to happen at a brokered convention? - Two scenarios: (a) The super delegates decide the day for one side - that would most likely be Clinton. Let's face it - we're talking party insiders here! Why would they ever give the mantle to Obama? (Because they view him as more "electable?"? Possible - but likely? I think not.) (Notice in parentheses, though, that some think that pressure from the DNC to avoid a brokered convention would benefit Obama. Which seems to imply, if I read this correctly, that there are a lot of insiders inside (uhm) the DNC who are favorable to Obama. I'm just not sure I'd agree.) (b) Clinton and Obama form a unity ticket.
The problems with a unity ticket? - First, Clinton as veep is plainly inconceivable - it would mean for Obama to accept Bill as co-vice-president and by extension as co-president. And how much say do you think would Vice President Obama have in a Clinton administration? Zero, most likely. Yes, Obama would get to shape the platform at the convention. But how much worth is that? Remember, it's not so much the policy positions that divide these two candidates - it's the world view or political philosophy or ideology or whatever you want to call it. And how do you write a world view into a platform?
Wait, it gets worse! - Once the realization that the veep slot may be the ceiling for Obama sinks into the public's consciousness, it will be a huge drain on Obama's energy. Ask yourself - how much would you be willing to work for an Obama vice presidency under the Clintons? We'd basically be back to Clinton inevitability, I'm afraid. We mustn't let this happen!
OK, what can be done? - First, the obvious and lame stuff: Obama needs to maximize his share in the remaining contests. Reach out to make inroads into "Clinton's" demographics - women and Latinos. And is there a way to turn out more frickin' guys? I'm really not trying to make this diary any more offensive that it already is ;-) but perhaps Hillary's greatest boon has been the fact that 55-60% of Democratic primary voters and caucus goers are consistently women. Next, the two big outstanding endorsements - Gore and Edwards. Obama needs to secure these at absolutely all cost (and Clinton will try to prevent him from getting these endorsements at all cost).
But none of this will change the premise - 80-85% of the remaining delegates is just pie in the sky. So we need the equation changed! The only way to do this is to increase the pool of the yet-to-be-awarded delegates. I'm talking, of course, of the DNC proposal to hold caucuses to award the currently non-seated delegations of Florida and Michigan. Add the 210 original delegates from Florida and 156 from Michigan and the percentage of the remaining delegates either candidate needs to win drops to 65-70%. This is still a tall order, but much more manageable. And caucuses of course have been much more favorable to Obama! That doesn't mean that he would have an easy time beating Clinton (and by a large enough margin) in Florida this time around. But...
Can we do this?