Legitimizing The Nominee
By Big Tent Democrat
For all the wailing and moaning from NBC, especially Punchline Olbermann, host of the Obama News Hour, and some of the Left blogs about Hillary Clinton staying in the race, one has to wonder what they think of Barack Obama's failure to win either Ohio or Texas. The desperate ones have now learned the virtue of closed primaries, arguing the Rush Limbaugh tipped Republicans to Clinton in Texas. Todd Beeton points out, apparently Limbaugh holds great sway over Independents as well, who also moved strongly to Clinton. Of course they won't like my solution, let's have closed primaries.
I have said this since Super Tuesday - Barack Obama needs to demonstrate he can win a big contested state important in the general election. He has won his home state. He has won heavily African American Georgia. That's it. It is true he won Wisconsin convincingly and seems to have electoral advantages in Colorado, Nevada (which he lost) and New Mexico. But this election will be won or lost in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. If Obama can not perform well in these states, it will be extremely difficult for him in November. Luckily, 3 of these 4 states may have contests to allow Obama to prove his mettle and put a stamp of legitimacy on his potential nomination. I'll explain what I mean by legitimacy on the flip.
Do you know when the pledged delegate count became the single criteria by which a nominee could be crowned? When Obama's spin about it, which started in Nevada, was swallowed wholesale. Look at this post by Chris Bowers:
On at least three occasions, Clinton had a chance to finish Obama off: Iowa, South Carolina and Super Tuesday. Every time, the voters decided otherwise. On two occasions, Obama had a chance to finish Clinton off: New Hampshire and March 4th. Once again, the voters said "not yet." On every occasion, the frontrunner failed to finish the job, and the nomination campaign lurched forward
I mostly agree with Chris but I think he misses the fact that Obama had the chance to knock out Clinton on Super Tuesday too. But he lost Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.
But consider what Chris is saying - it would not be because the pledged delegate count that either Clinton or Obama would have knocked the other out - my gawd, they were basically tied after New Hampshire no matter what. It would have been because of the legitimacy winning both Iowa and New Hampshire would have conferred on Obama after Clinton came into the campaign as the perceived fsvorite.
Similarly, a decisive win on Super Tuesday by either Obama or Clinton would have knocked one or the other out because it would have conferred all the legitimacy on a big winner of the contests that day. Would the pledged delegate counts have reflected that it was over? Of course not.
Indeed, what is conclusive that the pledged delegate count has never been viewed as the decisive factor is the utter lack of care for democracy that is employed in the delegate allotment and selection system. Some defend the system as part building boons. But the defense itself undermines the system as a critical nomination criteria. You would not undermine the democratic elements of the selection process just for party building purposes if you REALLY believed it was the decisive factor in choosing the nominee. The nominee selection is too important for that. Think about it. Under the Democratic system, because of the fact that Super Delegates make up 25% of all delegates, it is virtually impossible for a nominee to go over the top with just pledged delegates. If the delegate count was the decisive criteria it is now painted as, how could we possibly have accepted having so many super delegates?
No, it is clear that the process is set up with the idea that the ACTUAL pledged delegate count is sort of a lagging indicator that catches up ONCE THE NOMINEE IS SELECTED! Consider every pledged delegate count in every Democratic nomination contest, well, ever. The pledged delegate counts did not determine when the race was over. The nominee was selected by gaining legitimacy by other means. The other mean was winning states. Key states.
This year the flawed delegate selection system has run into a very close race with two very viable candidates with plenty of money. The usual process by which we select our nominee has been utterly shortcircuited. So we are presented with a brave new world for determining who our nominee will be and how that nominee achieves legitimacy.
After Super Tuesday, I identified Barack Obama's key failing for gaining legitimacy as his failure to win key large contested states. On March 4, that failing became magnified.
Obama has at least another chance to legitimize himself as the nominee - Pennsylvania. But he can also have two other chances - if he, Clinton and Howard Dean have a lick of sense - revote Florida and Michigan. That this will also have a very beneficial effect for the Democrats in November is no small issue.
As for Clinton, right now the only way she has of legitimizing herself as the nominee is to win all the big states, perform well in other states not perceived as favorable to her AND select Barack Obama as her running mate.
Let's be clear, Obama has the easier road and is more likely to emerge as a legitimate nominee than Clinton. But both have paths to do it. There is work to be done and decisions to be made. Ending the campaign now would be disastrous.
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