Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Another fine piece from the politco:
Clinton targets pledged delegates
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.
This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.
What? Isn’t that impossible? A pledged delegate is pledged to a particular candidate and cannot switch, right?
Pledged delegates are not really pledged at all, not even on the first ballot. This has been an open secret in the party for years, but it has never really mattered because there has almost always been a clear victor by the time the convention convened.
But not this time. This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides.
“I swear it is not happening now, but as we get closer to the convention, if it is a stalemate, everybody will be going after everybody’s delegates,” a senior Clinton official told me Monday afternoon. “All the rules will be going out the window.”
Rules of good behavior, maybe. But, in fact, the actual rules of the party allow for such switching. The notion that pledged delegates must vote for a certain candidate is, according to the Democratic National Committee, a “myth.”
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“Delegates are NOT bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to at the convention or on the first ballot,” a recent DNC memo states. “A delegate goes to the convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular presidential candidate. At the convention, while it is assumed that the delegate will cast their vote for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required.”
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer told me Monday he assumes the Obama campaign is going after delegates pledged to Clinton, though a senior Obama aide told me he knew of no such strategy.
But one neutral Democratic operative said to me: “If you are Hillary Clinton, you know you can’t get the nomination just with superdelegates without splitting the party. You have to go after the pledged delegates.”
Winning with superdelegates is potentially party-splitting because it could mean throwing out the choice of the elected delegates and substituting the choice of 795 party big shots.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned against it. “I think there is a concern when the public speaks and there is a counter-decision made to that,” she said. “It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided.”
Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000 and is a member of the DNC, said recently: “If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit [the DNC]. I feel very strongly about this.”
On Sunday, Doug Wilder, the mayor of Richmond and a former governor of Virginia, went even further, predicting riots in the streets if the Clinton campaign were to overturn an Obama lead through the use of superdelegates.
“There will be chaos at the convention,” Wilder told Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.”
“If you think 1968 was bad, you watch: In 2008, it will be worse.”
But would getting pledged delegates to switch sides be any less controversial? Perhaps not. They were chosen by voters, but they were chosen to back a particular candidate.
And it is unlikely that many people, including the pledged delegates themselves, know that pledged delegates actually can switch.
Nor would it be easy to get them to switch.
If, however, after the April 22 Pennsylvania primary the pledged delegate count looks very close, the Clinton official said, “[both] sides will start working all delegates.”
In other words, Clinton and Obama will have to go after every delegate who is alive and breathing.
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