|Does Barack Obama have the Nomination Locked Up?
Posted 08/22/2008 ET
Does Barack Obama have the nomination locked up? You would think by now that the Democratic choice for President is most assuredly in concrete, sealed and delivered. After all, the convention starts next Monday, on August 25th in Denver, Colorado. The Democrats could not show up so disorganized as to blow the scene in the home stretch. Anybody thinking differently would have to be seen as being at least out-to-lunch. However, I am willing to risk that moniker and say that this nomination really has not yet been decided and that it is possible America is in for a big surprise.
Look at the latest numbers: As of August 19, The New York Times reports the Democratic delegate count as follows:
Barack Obama has 1661 pledged delegates, along with the presumption of 103 more from nonbinding contests, for a total of 1764. In surveying the Super-delegates, the count is another 394.5 for a grand total of 2158.5.
How is a half-vote possible? Democratic delegates from overseas apparently get only half a vote each. Go figure that, but whatever, it is the fact.
Hillary Clinton has 1592 pledged delegates along with the presumption of 48 more from nonbinding contests, for a total of 1640. She can also claim 280 Super-delegates for a total of 1920.
Needed for nomination are 2,118 delegates. Thus, at the moment, the projection is for Senator Obama, certainly, but only by 40 votes and the fact is that the Super-delegates can make up their minds, or change them, at any time, right up to the time to vote on nomination night. The big dance thus centers on the Super-delegates and what they decide may still be in question. Indeed, a change of thinking amongst 40 Super-delegates would be enough to throw Obama’s nomination in doubt and a wholesale defection of
298 of the Supers would change the dynamics to such an extent that Senator Clinton would receive the nomination.
Just a month or so ago, this kind of thinking would be totally off the wall, but a lot has changed in a month and a lot more could switch within another week. Ever since Barack returned from his mid-East “rock concert,” his image has been shrinking. Figure for a moment that Obama is now seen in the popular vote as in virtually a statistical dead heat with John McCain.
All indications and past indicators would favor the presumed Democratic nominee being well ahead in the popular polls right now. Figure that the Saddleback conversations were most unhelpful to Obama where John McCain is widely perceived to have clobbered him, and which were viewed by a large mass audience. Figure that the Clintons have been quietly working away to have major presence at the Convention and have insisted that Hillary’s name be placed in nomination. Supposedly, she will then tell all her supporters to vote for Obama…maybe.
Figure, too, in what may be seen as deep paranoia or simple crassness, that the Arkansas Democratic state party chairman who switched from Hillary to Obama after Hillary “dropped out” has now “dropped dead” in a very bizarre murder. Is the count now down to 39 up for Obama? No, let us assume for simple decency that the count is still standing at 40. However, the Clintons are professional and experienced politicians: 40 Super-delegate votes out of a total of approximately 740 equals 5.4%. That is not such a big switch. An experienced Senator and/or an experienced former President know how to run an effective campaign quietly behind the scenes to change the minds of just a little over 5% of the players.
And in this case the campaign has not been so quiet. The seeds of distrust and disenchantment have been effectively thrown and not the least of which has been by the presumed candidate Barrack Obama himself. At the moment he is not playing very well on the American stage and a lot of the Democratic powers-that- be know it. While they are putting on a good face and spinning the inevitable spin, the facts are that there is a lot of worry amongst the Democrats as to whether Obama can win in November. Hillary is ambitious and seems to be gaining momentum as a possible alternative.
Late as the ballgame is, it ain’t over as we know until the fat lady sings and in this case…well, you get the idea. Of course, a locked convention could bring another Democratic darling to center stage because an Obama-Clinton war might be understood by many to be too strong for either to survive. Yes, Al Gore very much waits in the wings and with all the saintly eco-credentials and as a proven vote-getter who won the 2000 Presidential election’s popular vote to boot.
Impossible you say? Well, other conventions in our history have gone the “locked” route. Don’t forget Jefferson-Burr of 1800; in that contest, the election went to the House of Representatives, which over the course of the next six days cast a total of 35 ballots, with Thomas Jefferson receiving the votes of 8 state delegations each time—one short of the necessary majority of nine. Indeed, During the heated debate, Alexander Hamiliton, who didn’t like either Jefferson or Burr said he supported Jefferson because he was "by far not so dangerous a man" as Burr.
In the end, a group of Deleware Federalists led by James A. Bayard reasoned that a peaceful transfer of power would require the majority to choose Jefferson and just 15 days before the Constitutional date of the inauguration—Thomas Jefferson was elected President on the 36th ballot. Ten state delegations voted for Jefferson and 4 voted for Burr, while two state delegations remained deadlocked.
Eighty years later, the Republican convention had its twists and turns: In 1880 James G. Blaine was a candidate for nomination to the presidency. His nomination and election would have meant the transfer of patronage to new party leaders. A strong movement was organized by Senators Conkling, Cameron, and Logan, to head off Blaine's nomination by bringing Ex-President Grant forward for a third term. Garfield was an anti-Grant leader in the Chicago Convention, but was not himself a candidate. However, on the thirty sixth ballot, Blaine's supporters combined with the field against the Grant forces, and nominated Garfield. So there is indeed precedence for such changes, however late in the game it may appear to be.
Well, let us all hope very much that it does not happen and that Obama’s perceived 40 vote margin does indeed hold up, because it would appear now that John McCain will have a much easier time running and winning against a weakening Senator Obama rather than a resurgent Hillary Clinton or Al Gore. America awaits the opening gavel in Denver and Republicans everywhere should be holding their breath.
|Mr. Weinberger is the son of the late U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. A 1968 graduate of Harvard College, Weinberger is a writer and lecturer on world events. A former television writer, producer and director for NBC affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco, he served in both California Gov. and President Ronald Reagan's administrations. He now resides in Maine.|