I liked it when Howard Dean was named chairman of the Democratic National Committee. With the party in shambles, I thought Dean’s enthusiasm would help bring the party together, and it did. This year, the Democrats fielded some of the best Presidential candidates in recent memory, and it was under Dean’s watch.
But Howard Dean will do what Howard Dean does, and we’re getting quite close to a disaster of his making. If, as he mandates, the Democrats must have a nominee before they reach the Denver convention, it will almost certainly involve delegates from Michigan and Florida, the two states the DNC stripped of their delegations when they moved their primaries up to January. With Hillary – who “won” the two states — and Obama running neck-and-neck, these phantom delegates could very well decide the next President of the United States. Figuring out what to do here, especially because there’s a Clinton involved, could make Florida 2000 look like a tea party. At least Bush vs. Gore was an ideological fight. This would be Democratic cannibalism. It cannot happen. And here’s why it might.
On Meet the Press this morning, they laid out these possible scenarios:
a) Not seating the delegations;
b) Re-voting/caucusing on the DNC’s dime;
c) Splitting the votes proportionally along the national popular vote lines;
d) Seating the delegates for Clinton.
Now, “d” would seem to be the most implausible, given that it would go against what would seem to have been the rules, and “a” seems increasingly unlikely given the closeness of the race. That leaves “b” and “c”, but those choices are flawed-slashed-doomed as well. Given Obama’s strength in every Democratic caucus, including today’s Maine caucus, the Clinton camp will fight “b” tooth and nail. And given the increasingly likely possibility that superdelegates, who seem to tip in Clinton’s favor, could make up Hillary’s margin of victory, “c” might be doomed. If Obama wins the popular vote ever so slightly, and hence has a small lead in pledged delegates, option “c” would hand the race to Hillary while handing Florida to Obama. That would look pretty bad. All of which brings us back to “d”, a fundamentally unfair solution that would seem to solve two smaller Democratic problems: Hillary would win Florida, win the delegates that otherwise put her over the top so that the superdelegates would then be confirming the results of the national popular vote. Of course, this would create the unbelievable, cataclysmic problem of having an illegitimate nominee, which would probably doom Hillary in the general election. But here’s my fear: Howard Dean, not knowing how to manage this, will be bendable by the Clinton machine. And actually, this looks increasingly like the only way Hillary’s going to win this thing. And if the Clintons know how they can win, they’re going to try.