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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Second Thoughts?

In Epic Journey (pp. 121-122), we note an irony of the Democratic nomination process: Hillary Clinton actually won a plurality of the delegates in primary states. Barack Obama got the nomination because of his showings in the caucuses and among the superdelegates. At CNN, Paul Sracic of Youngstown University writes:
In response to this fact, and having an edge in the early caucus states due to superior grass-roots organizing, the Obama campaign subtly changed the understanding of the rules. It acted as if the nomination would be determined by the delegate count after the caucuses and primaries, regardless of whether an absolute majority had been achieved. What this did was to lower the overall number by more than 800 votes (the superdelegates), and consequently change the threshold of victory.

Since most Americans are unfamiliar with how the nominating process works, this was a fairly easy story to sell. The press for the most part cooperated. Once this fiction was accepted, any other result would be seen as undemocratic. Indeed, Clinton's complaints about this unofficial after-the-fact rules change were portrayed as a divisive form of sour grapes. After all, following Sen. Obama's post-Super Tuesday February romp through 10 states, it became obvious that Sen. Clinton would not be able to win under this new threshold.

Ultimately, and most importantly, the elected and unelected leaders of the Democratic Party accepted the Obama campaign's spin. This was crucial to Obama's success, since a real victory at the convention depended on these superdelegates ignoring the fact that Clinton was the stronger general election candidate in swing states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. In the end, it was the endorsement of these superdelegates -- again, party leaders and elected officials -- that forced Clinton to concede the nomination.
But now, he writes, those elites have buyer's remorse, worrying that the president will drag the whole party down to defeat next November.