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A brokered convention?
February 6, 2008
Super Tuesday was essentially a draw for Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. According to incomplete results, Clinton won eight states and 471 delegates, while Obama took 12 states and 437 delegates. With close to an even number of total delegates committed to Obama and Clinton, the race for the Democratic nomination could last until the August national convention in Denver, where the 796 so-called superdelegates could hold the balance of power. (AP in Yahoo!) Democrats haven’t had an open, or “brokered,” convention since 1952. (AFP in Gulf Times)
What the commentators said
“The Democrats may be heading for a fine mess,” said Roger Simon in Politico. It has now become a race for delegates, “superdelegates”—elected and unelected “party warhorses”—and the banned Florida and Michigan delegations. If there isn’t a clear winner by the convention, then, you either let “the big-shots pick the winner” or endure a “huge floor flight.” It would be a “mess” for the Democrats, but at least we’d get “something we are not used to: A convention that is more than just a TV show whose ending we know in advance.”
A mess? An open convention could be a “real nightmare” for the Democrats, said Ed Morrissey in his Captain’s Quarters blog. If Clinton beats Obama at the convention through the superdelegates—many of whom owe “a lot to the Clintons”—you’d have “a huge firestorm in Denver that could consume the party’s oxygen for the next several years.” Black voters might bolt the party, and many “rank-and-file” Democrats would seethe at the “smoke-filled-room maneuvering—which is exactly what it would be.”
Enough about the superdelegates, said Dayo Olopade in The New Republic. In the end, “they don’t really matter.” Under party rules, these “party insiders” are officially “unpledged” until the convention. They have never “reversed the verdict of the party’s voters,” and the majority of them “have stayed uncommitted” so far. Clinton holds a “natural advantage” if the nomination comes down to the supervoters, but the odds of such a “dramatic” scenario are “slim.”
The odds of a “brokered” convention may be “quite low,” said Ed Kilgore in TPM Café, but Democrats need to prepare for the possibility. The fight over superdelegates and a possible “credentials fight over the Michigan and Florida delegations” are interesting. But there is a “more mundane” concern: the “putative nominee” usually plans and executes the convention. Without a nominee, who would pick speakers, shape the message, and decide the platform? “Nobody knows.” But if the Democrats don’t decide, their convention could “devolve from excitement to a big, confusing, and divisive waste of precious time.”
of The Week magazine.