Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Clinton's really dumb argument

I have to admit that I'm starting to get used to CNN's panel discussions on election nights -- I'm even beginning to enjoy it. And I really, really want John King's giant computer display. But the main thing I'm enjoying about it is hearing the spin from candidates' supporters. It is quite inspiring to see Clinton's supporters attaching themselves to the most tenuous of reeds, some no thicker than a human hair.

But Lanny Davis, a stalwart Clinton backer, pushed it a bit too far last night. First, he basically said that these contests don't matter at this point, and that Hillary should get the nomination because she's currently polling better against McCain in some of the key swing states. David Gergen nicely slapped Davis down for that one:

When you have two candidates who have fought with each other the way they have, and one candidate, at the end of the day, comes out 600,000 votes ahead of the other candidate, and comes out substantially ahead in pledged delegates, are we then to sort of throw that out, and say, well, that's irrelevant; the only thing that is relevant is the latest Gallup poll? I mean, is that the -- is that the standard by which the parties play?

Or, as another panelist asked, what's the point of having primaries at all?

But then Davis came back with a more reprehensible argument: that the only reason Obama is ahead in delegates is because he's keeping Michigan and Florida from voting:

Michigan and Florida are in play because Senator Obama prevented the revote. That is a fact. There would have been a mail or a firehouse primary in Michigan or in Florida if the Obama campaign had gone arm and arm with the Clinton campaign, which invited them to do so, raised the money, and let Florida and Michigan vote again, if they had any objections to having them be seated in Florida.... The Clinton campaign was willing to have a revote in Florida and Michigan.

This is an irresponsible argument for a number of reasons. First of all, as Gergen noted, it's wrong:

I think it's been unfair to Hillary Clinton that Florida and Michigan did not vote properly. I think that she would have done well, and I think we might be sitting here tonight with her ahead in actual vote tallied. I think there's a very good argument to that effect. But it's Michigan and Florida who screwed this up, not Barack Obama. And I do not understand why he would now -- and I hope this is -- if the Clinton people now plan to run a campaign saying Barack Obama is responsible for the fact that you're not having a chance to vote in Michigan and Florida, they are going to make this a much, much rougher campaign.

Second, as Gergen suggested, Obama has all but sewn this thing up. If Clinton goes down claiming that she only lost because Obama prevented Michigan and Florida -- two key general election states -- from voting, that's a good way of saying, "If I can't win, no Democrat can." She's trying to demoralize Michigan and Florida Democrats and turn them against the very likely nominee. It's one thing to advocate for your candidate; it's quite another to try to turn the general electorate against the other candidate in your party.

Finally, by making these arguments about how Clinton would be the nominee if Michigan and Florida counted, if Democratic contests were winner-take-all, if we were basing this on popular vote or springtime matchup polls, etc., her team keeps pointing out how they completely failed to win under the current nominating system. Or, as Jamal Simmons said last night, "Well, you know what? If my aunt had a male appendage, she would be my uncle."

These arguments just evoke an image of Hillary Clinton giving a press conference on November 5th saying, "If we had the Canadian system of electing leaders, I'd be the president-elect today, instead of John McCain."

The Democratic rules for nominating presidential candidates have been public and transparent for decades. You blew it, Hillary. Face it.


AnnM said...

Aww, you're just sore because Obama said Indiana would be the tiebreaker, but he can't seem to sew this thing up. [Poke]


Anonymous said...

Denying Florida it's Hillary delegates just makes Obama look weak right now. Give her the delegates (not MI) and he's still ahead. Take as much air as you can out of her trial balloons.