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Thursday, February 7, 2008

More Washington Superdelegate Intrigue

posted by on February 7 at 9:15 AM

Well, well, well. The Obama campaign “inadvertently” leaked to Bloomberg News a copy of a spreadsheet in which it predicts the delegate tallies in upcoming states, and check out what it suggests about two of my favorite topics right now, superdelegates and the Washington caucuses:

The document suggests something that’s increasingly becoming clear: It’s become virtually impossible to win this contest through the quasi-democratic processes that produce pledged delegates, and that the even murkier process of wooing superdelegates is going to play a central, and growing, role.

The scenario considered in the Bloomberg story forsees the widely anticipated Obama roll through the Potomac Primary, and Clinton victories in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Crucially, it doesn’t forecast any blowouts with huge delegate margins; Washington State’s caucus, by this projection, offers Obama his widest margin, 20 delegates.

We’ll see soon enough whether that Obama delegate projection is correct for Washington State. But those lines about the importance of superdelegates reaffirm something I’ve been saying repeatedly as I try to figure out where two of our state’s still-unpledged superdelegates, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Rep. Jim McDermott, are going to land. On that front:

Yesterday, my column in this week’s Stranger produced a constituent call to McDermott’s office that produced an unclear statement on McDermott’s status, which led me to email McDermott’s spokesman for the definitive word, which definitive word was:

This is the people’s time to speak. The time will come when Jim casts his vote. For now he is concerned about young people participating passionately for whomever their candidate is, whichever party.

I emailed back:

Will Jim commit to following the will of the people of Washington as expressed in their caucus votes on Saturday? (Other superdelegates in other states have done this.)

And this morning I received the following non-answer:

Jim remains uncommitted. When that changes I will, of course, let you know.

Meanwhile, some tea leaves on Gregoire: She’s said she will announce her endorsement before the caucuses on Saturday. Hillary Clinton, who was not previously scheduled to come to Washington, changed her schedule at the last minute yesterday and is now showing up for a rally on the Seattle waterfront this evening. I had the same reaction as Slog commenter Justin:

Hmm, our female governor who has promised to endorse a candidate ahead of Saturday’s caucus still hasn’t said a word. And, at the last minute, Hillary Clinton decides that something is important enough to bring her all the way to Seattle (where she knows she’s going to lose) for a whole hour on a Thursday night.

Is anybody else connecting the dots here?

I’m no political expert, but I’ll bet that Gregoire is going to endorse Clinton at Pier 30 on Thursday night.

And I would add to the tea leave mix: My email in-box tells me that Gregoire was in Seattle this morning for a meeting with the Downtown Seattle Association. Maybe she’s here for the day, and heading to Pier 30 this evening?

RSS icon Comments


the fact that mcdermott hasn't endorsed hillary outright (as repayment to the clinton mafia) is perhaps the most damning story of this entire race right now. obviously, if he didn't owe his left leg to the clintons, he'd be all over obama. not endorsing anyone right now says how reluctantly he is going to (eventually) have to endorse hillary. this does not speak well to hillary, and people should pick up on that more. he may end up endorsing her, but man, he sure has done everything he can to protest it and show that he really is doing so very much against his will... (those are my tea leaves)

Posted by kinkos | February 7, 2008 9:23 AM

Romney is suspending his campaign!

Wow... maybe there IS a God...

Posted by bma | February 7, 2008 9:29 AM

Hillary running neck and neck with Obama is pretty similar to Gregoire's story here in WA. As we all remember, she had her own close call against Rossi with people being pretty evenly divided between the two.
Not that she couldn't identify with Obama instead, but as a strong female leader, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a Clinton endorsement from her. Guess I'll find out tonight at Pier 30...

Posted by defman23 | February 7, 2008 9:31 AM

Maybe another favorite topic of yours should be how far HRC will go to get Michigan's and Florida's delegates seated at the convention and will she ruin the Democratic party in the process?

Posted by heywhatsit | February 7, 2008 9:39 AM

Gregoire and McDermott will both endorse Hillary. It doesn't affect me. And, according to the LA Times, endorsements don't mean a lot to the average voter. Their endorsements will affect the super delegate count, which will matter.

Posted by My 2 cents | February 7, 2008 9:41 AM

I've never heard Gregoire called a strong leader before. The words I usually think of are circumspect, or triangulating... Noncommittal. Doesn't she tend to stay in the background and work behind the scenes to see where the chips will fall, and then quietly slide up to the winner? Like with the pharmacists, or the viaduct?

I think if people had been in the mode of getting behind her on the viaduct or transit, then her endorsement would count for something. As it is, who would be influenced by what she thinks?

Posted by elenchos | February 7, 2008 9:43 AM

Wow, and apparently Clinton and Obama are competing for the Texas Hispanic vote:

Funny, I thought they were competing for all the votes. Shows what I know.

Posted by Levislade | February 7, 2008 9:43 AM

I'm so glad we don't live in a system like those old Soviet bloc nations had, where they held elections that didn't make any difference and a few hundred party elites chose the leader.

Posted by tsm | February 7, 2008 9:45 AM

it's also very telling of the clinton campaign - the site chosen for tonight's rally is pretty hard if not impossible to get to by public transit.

Posted by kinkos | February 7, 2008 9:47 AM

It's a fair and logical argument ("principle no. 1") to make that someone like Gregoire should "follow her voters" and endorse who we go for in the caucus. IT's a fair and oogical principle that amounts to "winner take all" among superdelegates. fine.

But then -- you are saying all the superdelegates from CA NJ MA NY etc. should line up for Hillary. Because that's who those voters lined up for.

Since she wins in the big states, if you are for Obama, following principle no. 1 may hurt your chosen campaign.

Also, pointing to following the voters would lead one to believe that this principle should be floowed consistently as in ...MI and FL.

Otherwise youa re saying this:
1. superdelegates -- you are a bad insider establishment party relic -- so fixit by following your voters.
2. Unlkess, of course, your voters were for Clinton! Then, we want you to ignore your voters.
3. Don't let's have NAY delegates from the 1.5 million voters in Fl and MI. Because in this case, the insider party establishment rules need to be followed, though they disenfranchise voters.

Still waiting for the superdelegates to be switching willy nilly as several said they would. Wouldn't NOW be a kind of good time to do it? When everything is so even and on the cusp?

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 9:49 AM

McDermott just wants to feel important for a change, so he's holding out.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 9:49 AM

Dem leaders are floating the idea of holding caucuses in Michigan and Florida.

Posted by FYI | February 7, 2008 9:56 AM

If she wanted to repair her damaged reputation in Seattle, she'd be showing up on Friday at Key Arena for Sen Obama.

Just saying.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 7, 2008 9:56 AM

Once superdelegates have "committed", are there any party rules that force them to support their candidate at the convention?

Could, say, Obama get Cantwell to switch her vote in exchange for some kind of legislative support or something? (I almost said a cabinet post, but there aren't enough of those to go around for all the superdelegates Clinton has over Obama.)

Posted by S. Ben Melhuish | February 7, 2008 10:13 AM

The craftily "leaked" document is a ply to set expectations low.

It "projects" Obama at just 58% in DC, for example. ROFL.

Meanwhile, those caucuses in Fl. are probably to choose the actual delegates who would then show up at the convention and ask to be seated.

It will be an interesting dilemma for Obama: try to stop the grass roots process? or participate in it?

How would you like it if you were a Florida voter and someone said "your caucuses are illegal because the national party Central Committe rules say so"?
Can you spell CC CCCP anyone?

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 10:14 AM

No there are no such rules.

However, it has been claimed here on slog that the verbally pledged superdelegates switch willy nilly, without any evidence of that being provided. I believe the history is totally to the contrary, the verbally pledged superdelegates do not switch easily, if at all (at least not until their candidate tanks, or it is the 3d ballot at a deadlocked convention).

The reason is the same one operating among politicos generally: your word is usually your bond. so if McCain tells Pelosi "no, I wo't put a hold on that bill when it comes to the Senate" those pledges are generally kept.


You're a slimeball forever if it gets out that you break your word. This makes you lose power as you can never offer a quid pro quo because no one will believe you will keep your word.

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 10:26 AM

They're going to have to address the issue of Florida and Michigan somehow. Those states are too big and too important to just throw away, however stupid their party officials may be. And it's looking like those votes are going to be needed to get one candidate over the bar.

Unless Obama can put her away in the next week. WA looks like a big lead; NE caucuses should be +10 for Obama; LA is heavily black, which in theory means +15 or more for Obama; ME caucuses should be Obama's; and the Potomac primaries next Tuesday are too, and are expected to be big for Obama. After that, HI caucuses and WI primary, both of which could be his. If he comes away +100 or more from the nine votes, which is very reasonable, Clinton's in a bad way before she gets to the big ones she's expected to win, like TX and OH. 1/4 of TX's delegates come out of caucuses, not the primary, too. After that, there are no more big chunks for Clinton until PA April 22.

There's no way Obama can clinch it before then, but if he's significantly ahead even including the superdelegates, it's going to be hard to stop him.

We could go to the convention with three blocs of spoilers: the 26 Edwards delegates, the 386 superdelegates, which could be about +100 for Clinton, and the unseated MI and FL delegates, currently about +120 for Clinton, but with a huge "uncommitted" group in MI that eats about a third of that.

Jeez, maybe Oregon decides it in May! Or, wonder of wonders, the very last one, Puerto Rico's caucus for 55 delegates on June 3!

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 10:29 AM
They're going to have to address the issue of Florida and Michigan somehow.

They should run last-minute caucuses. It sucks, but that's the least unfair approach at this point.

Posted by tsm | February 7, 2008 10:31 AM

@15 I agree. It sucks for Fla and Mich voters but the rules were laid out plainly for each campaign. And don't think she would do it for some altruistic reason. It will come down to the fact that she won both states (beating "uncommitted" in Michigan) and wants the delegates. This is not about civil rights. It's about Billary doing whatever it takes to win the nomination. Even at the expense of the Democratic party. Ha! Florida....AGAIN!!!

Posted by heywhatsit | February 7, 2008 10:33 AM

You're missing the point. They may HAVE to do something with FL and MI to get a candidate over the bar. They could be sitting there with both Obama and Clinton short of the minimum, with 366 screaming FL and MI delegates -- almost 10% of the total -- right outside the door.

The total required for a nomination didn't go down when they were barred.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 10:38 AM

PS -- the singular of leaves is leaf, not leave. Chalk up another big loss for spellcheckers.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 10:42 AM

@17, @18, @19

1. I believe the total of 2025 DOES go down if fewer delegates are seated.

Some delegates always don't show up. I believe the rules are you win with a majority of those seated.

2. The caucuses in FL are not going to be held in order to re-do the primary vote. Though, not a bad idea. They are going to be held to select the actual people who will be delegates.

3. Fnarf I believe there are 796 superdelegates total.

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 10:47 AM

@21, actually the total required for the nomination did go down when they were barred. I'll find the link for you.

Posted by arduous | February 7, 2008 10:49 AM

Viva puerto rico! Vamos a controlar el desitno de los EEUU!

Si po-de-mos! Si po-de-mos! Si po-de-mos!!

[se ree revanchistamente....]

Posted by Jorge | February 7, 2008 10:51 AM

What unPC said, @16.

The talk about getting superdelegates to switch is ignorant talk.

Want to affect the outcome? Work on the intermediate-stage delegates in multi-stage caucus states like WA (and in some cases, primary states where delegate attendance at district/state convention is controlling as to national delegate seating). Much more open to persuasion and/or non-attendance.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | February 7, 2008 10:53 AM

Augh, Fnarf, I can't find that link from yesterday. I'll keep searching, but here's an interesting article about Florida and Michigan:

Posted by arduous | February 7, 2008 10:57 AM

Crap, I'm wrong, twice. Never mind.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 11:03 AM

interesting article but wrong.

She could get MI/FL seated if she has a majority of those voting on that issue alone -- which she could have even if no one has a majority of the no. of delegates needed to win the nomination (yet).

Maybe some won't vote on the seating issue. Or uncommitted superdelegates will vote to seat the disputed delegates. And you could have a few "defector" delegates who support Obama but will diverge on this issue.
(There's always a few perverse souls who will old-style political arm twisting, and insist on thinking for themselves, dammit!)

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 11:10 AM

[warning: nonironic post follows]

Such words are not oft read here. Given the rarity of such candor, we should all have 10 minutes of respectful silence and thanks for Fnarf.

Posted by unPC | February 7, 2008 11:17 AM

Also, Rep. McDermott very rarely endorses, period. No conclusion should be drawn from the lack of an endorsement.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | February 7, 2008 11:25 AM

Ten minutes, unPC? Fuck, man, gimme an hour at least. LOOK WHAT I SACRIFICED FOR YOU.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2008 11:51 AM

They are not going to be holding caucuses in Florida or Michigan. It is up to the state democratic parties, both of whom have been consistent that they are not holding any other primary or caucus. The DNC has been trying to get the state parties to budge, but they won't do it.

There is no history of caucusing in Florida, it is a primary state, and the state party doesn't want to pay for the cost of a caucus.

I don't blame them. The caucus push is being led by Obama, because he effectively wants a "do over", even though Florida Democrats were exposed to his ad campaigns through his "national" ad buys.

Posted by Leslie | February 7, 2008 1:54 PM

In response to Leslie,

I don't believe Obama is pushing for a caucus in FL. But let's be honest Senator Clinton went against the party's recommendation and covered her pant-suited derriere by staying on the ballot in MI and campaigning in FL. She was hedging her bets in case of a close race. That's the kind of "experience" she offers America. Win at all cost politics.

If the Democratic Party allows MI an Fl to stand, this may truly be the time for a third party.

Posted by Mr. Bob | February 7, 2008 2:15 PM

Mr. Bob - Thanks for reminding us that where ever Hillary goes, she is judged on how she dresses. Nice to see sexism still alive in our presidential campaigns.

But back to the substantive, Hillary didn't campaign there. She didn't do any advertising, unlike Obama who did (which was a specific violation of the "pledge" signed by the parties). She did fundraise there, however, that was exempted from being a violation of the pledge. So, you might want to do some research before you make unsubstantiated assertions about Hillary violating the "pledge."

Actually, Obama has said that he would be supportive of another or caucus or primary held in Florida in the coming months. He has stated that very specifically. I am sure from his point of view, a caucus would be more favorable to him.

If the Democrats don't seat the delegates from Florida, then they just have to be prepared for a backlash from Michigan and Florida voters in November. No one likes being disenfranchised and not having their votes count.

Posted by Leslie | February 7, 2008 2:37 PM

All the chatter is interesting about who or if the Gov will announce her support for one candidate over the other. I expect though that our Gov like many of us, could be happy with whichever of the two (Clinton or Obama) ends up being President.
Now I'm supporting Obama and I hope the Gov is as well. More important to the Gov than who she endorses though, is who ends up being our parties nominee. We know McCane will be the GOP nominee and Obama will crush him here while Clinton will struggle for a majority opposite Obama in our state. So because I want our Gov re elected, I strongly hope Obama ends up our party's nominee.

Posted by Particle Man | February 7, 2008 3:01 PM

I've never seen an Obama ad in Florida, and I watch a fair amount of TV.

Actually, I don't think I saw any ads for Hillary either.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | February 7, 2008 3:10 PM

Obama did a national ad buy for CNN and MSNBC, and that included airing ads in Florida prior to the Florida primary. Those were the only two channels that they were on.

I have friends and family in Florida who saw them on CNN and MSNBC.

Posted by Leslie | February 7, 2008 3:18 PM

Sorry about the pant-suit line. I've been watching too much Letterman.

But come on, Clinton's five timely fundraiser's used a loophole to get around the call for no campaigning. It's like asking for the definition of "is" all over again. And her victory speech bordered on desperation.

"It's not immoral. It's not improper, per se," Dave Nagle, the former Iowa Democratic chairman, told the Sioux City Journal in Iowa. "But it does raise the suspicion of how sincere they were when they said they wouldn't campaign in those states."

Obama got slapped on the wrist for having a press conference after a fund raiser of his own. And I don't know how many other fundraisers he had so he's not beyond criticism himself.

But I stand by the fact that if Clinton pushes to have MI and FLA counted, it's win at all cost politics. You can't change the rules in the middle of the game. That's what Republicans do. And if Howard Dean and the rest of the Democratic National Committee let it happen, they'll be disenfranchising far more Democrats than there are in MI and FLA.

Posted by Mr. Bob | February 7, 2008 4:37 PM

I don't understand. How is counting people's votes disenfranchising others?

Thanks for clarifying the rest, though.

Posted by Leslie | February 7, 2008 4:51 PM


I believe the Democratic party made a HUGE mistake by telling MI and FL their delegates would not count if they moved their primaries up. But and this is a huge but, by saying those delegates didn't count they effected the outcome of those elections. No campaigning, one name on the ballot. And what about the disenfranchised that stayed away because they were told their vote didn't count or because their candidate wasn't on the ballot? They should have let the elections go on as usual and punish the states in another way (monetarily?) at another time. They didn't. And you know full well, if Obama won those states, Senator Clinton would not be crying for those delegates to count (Obama would.)

This is what's wrong with party politics. Why punish a state for moving up its primary in the first place? What kind of power play is that? We decide which states vote when. It'll diminish "Super Tuesday." Who cares?

But like it or not the Democratic National Committee effected those elections. They are tainted. I'd be ticked if I was a MI or FL voter, too. But be ticked at the State Dem leaders who stood up to the Party or the National Dems who said they didn't count BEFORE they voted. It's not like the Bush election when they said they didn't count AFTER they voted. That's disenfranchising.

Posted by Mr. Bob | February 7, 2008 5:37 PM

Don't you feel your ramblings are just that -- ramblings? Now that Gregoire has come out in support of Obama? Her endorsement today, and the timing, just about makes me want to vote for Dino, and I'm no Republican.

Posted by fedupwithW | February 8, 2008 3:40 PM

Clinton also doesn't like caucauses, because their not to her advantage. If she doesn't have her way, she doesn't like it. She behaves as if it's owed to her. I used to like them, voted billy twice. I will never vote for a clinton again. The party and the clintons shot themselves in the foot, because Miss Entitled thought she would blow everyone else out of the water. Obama is a juggernaut! He's nobody's patsy.

Posted by g.j. | February 8, 2008 11:52 PM

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