Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton wins make for a supreme irony for Florida, Michigan

Well, it is obvious that the battle for the nomination will go down to the wire with Hillary Clinton's wins tonight in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas. I am of course an Obama supporter, but clearly Clinton is a fighter, and she's going to make sure that Obama has to earn it if he is the nominee.

She is clearly a winner tonight (as is John McCain, who finally mathematically clinched the Republican nomination, prompting Mike Huckabee to drop out.) Barack Obama is not a big loser, however. He won Vermont and will apparently clearly win the caucus portion of the Texas vote though narrowly losing the popular vote in the primary (meaning he may still win more delegates in Texas than Clinton will.)

But this makes it clear that there are two huge losers in this primary season, at least on the Democratic side: the states of Michigan and Florida. And even more than the fact that they are losers, is how they got there-- a supreme irony, that.

In 1999, Baylor had the football and a 24-21 lead in a football game against UNLV. With the clock running down, UNLV out of timeouts and Baylor inside the UNLV ten yard line, the Bears only had to kneel down and let the clock run out. Instead coach Kevin Steele threw sportsmanship to the winds and tried to run up the score, calling for a play to try and punch the ball into the endzone.

Only it didn't work out that way. In one of the most spectacular instances of comeuppance in sports history, the ball was fumbled on the goal line and the fumble was scooped up and returned 100 yards for a touchdown with no time remaining and a 27-24 UNLV victory. By trying to run up the score instead of walking off the field and into the pressroom with a hard-fought victory, Steele instead had to explain an inexplicable loss.

That serves as an introduction to what happened to Michigan and Florida. They violated party rules and 'jumped the gun' by scheduling their primaries in January, in violation of party rules which spelled out which states had early primaries. Their thinking was that if they held the primaries earlier, they'd 1) get the candidates to come there and campaign, 2) get more national media attention and the attendant dollars that an active campaign would bring into the state, 3) have the candidates focus on issues of importance to them (such as the auto industry in Michigan and senior issues in Florida) and 4) have a real say in choosing the nominee (instead of having the race already decided by the time it was their turn to vote.)

By so doing, they badly miscalculated, at least on the Democratic side (Republicans competed in both states, and in fact Florida turned out to be the key win for McCain, juicing his campaign and deflating Mitt Romney's just in time for Super-Duper Tuesday.) But on the Democratic side, the DNC stripped both states of their delegates (rendering both contests devoid of real meaning,) had the candidates sign pledges not to compete (in fact Obama and most of the other candidates even took their names off of the ballot in Michigan) and even is refusing to seat super delegates from the states (such as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who pushed for and signed the early primary law into effect.)

And the irony is that both states, especially Michigan are reaping what they sowed (Florida can at least take some solace in the hard fought Republican campaign there and the role the state played in making McCain the nominee. Michigan in contrast, didn't even have much of a Republican contest, with Mitt Romney getting his biggest win of the primary season, which wasn't really all that big.)

In the most competitive Democratic race in decades, it is likely that Democratic voters in EVERY OTHER state EXCEPT Florida and Michigan will get to cast votes that mean something. In short, to note the above four points, 1) the candidates didn't campaign in either one, 2) they aren't getting all the national attention that we've seen lavished this week on, for example, Ohio and Texas, 3) watched the candidates talk about other issues, but not much about the auto industry or-- surprisingly-- senior issues, and 4) not only will the voters not have a say, but even their elected officials-- superdelegates otherwise, will not be seated at the convention. I doubt when Governor Granholm signed the bill she knew she was even signing away her own vote at the convention.

On top of that, recently Florida Governor Charlie Crist proposed scheduling another Democratic primary later this year. Crist, a supporter of John McCain, wants to do so because if Florida's delegates were added back in to the total, it would likely just push the finish line back farther and drag things out longer (you can see the crocodile tears he is shedding over the Florida Democratic party.)

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