Showing posts with label Credentials Committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Credentials Committee. Show all posts

Sunday, August 3, 2008

About Those Rules: What Obama's New Florida/Michigan Stance Means for 2012 and Beyond

Now, the Credentials Committee will have some say in this, but...

Obama's decision to call for a full seating of the delegates from Florida and Michigan has opened up a Pandora's box. Yes, it was clever of his campaign to come out with this now, after Hillary Clinton had been out of the spotlight for nearly two months. For delegates to go against two months of effort on behalf of Obama as the presumptive nominee and opt for Clinton, would be tantamount to ceding the election to McCain. Timing-wise then, it was a good move to make the call now (if he was going to do it at all). At this point, the intra-party tension has been sufficiently minimized, so that it is only likely to elicit a response from the most vocal Clinton supporters/Obama detractors.

To me though, that isn't real issue here. And, as is often the case with the Democratic Party, rule changes lead to some discernible differences, but also leave them vulnerable to any number of unforeseen, unintended consequences. If the Credentials Committee gives the green light to Obama's wishes for full voting rights for Florida and Michigan at the convention later this month, then states wanting to challenge Iowa and New Hampshire's first in the nation caucus and primary status in 2012 are going to be given a real morale boost.

Said one fictitious state legisltor:
"Delegates, schmelagates. If the sanctions don't mean anything anyway, let's move our primary way up so that we at least have some influence over who the presidential nominee is. The convention is only a PR extravaganza anyway. The delegates there only rubber stamp the decision made in the primaries; the early primaries."

And that's the catch here. This opens the door to any number of challenges to Iowa and New Hampshire. The Credentials Committee, then, can seat those delegates with full (not half) votes, but they had better hope that the Rules and Bylaws Committee does something at the convention to address 2012 and beyond (and they will. We just don't have any idea of to what extent they'll do something.). Either that, or rely on the GOP to debate the Ohio Plan at their convention or hope the federal government intervenes. Otherwise, states are going to move into the down-time between cycles -- when the frontloading decisions are made -- with an ability to move with impunity.

If Obama wins in November, this is a moot point.

...until 2016.
...unless things go badly and he is challenged in the primaries in 2012 (Could Clinton/Obama II be like Carter and Kennedy in 1980?).

If McCain wins, 2012 could be ugly for the Democratic Party in terms of how it will deal with states which will be tempted more than ever to hold a primary of caucus ahead of the earliest point that the party will allow (currently the first Tuesday in February).

So sure, Florida and Michigan matter to the Democrats' fortunes in 2008, but are they thinking ahead to 2012 and beyond? And while we're on the subject, is unity between those two states and the Democratic nominee a real problem now? Michigan is tight in the poll, but still favors Obama. And Florida is trending in the direction of the Illinois senator. What is gained from giving these delegates their full voice and is that really going to turn the tide in either state? Yes, I realize there is a sense of fairness and democracy here, but I'm talking about this in terms of how this affects the party's nominee in the election. Does that gain outweigh the potential headache 2012 frontloaders are going to provide? That is the question. Apparently it does.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

The Rules and Bylaws Committee vs. The Credentials Committee

Let's assume for a moment that Clinton and Obama split Indiana and North Carolina, respectively, tomorrow. That outcome is the status quo outcome in the race for the Democratic nomination. Obama is "supposed" to win North Carolina, and the way polls are trending in Indiana, Clinton is "supposed" to win there. We've argued in campaign discussion group here at UGA that this race will continue until one candidate wins somewhere where they aren't "supposed" to win. If the above scenario plays out tomorrow (and remember few things have gone as expected during the 2008 cycle, though predicting the outcomes has become easier as certain demographic groups have line up behind each of the candidates), then that's two fewer contests that can decide the outcome; leaving only six contests (WV, KY, OR, PR, SD and MT) between Wednesday and the end of the primary phase of the election year 2008. And what that means is that the two most-often mentioned contests of this cycle will once again be thrust back into the spotlight.

What will the Democrats do with Florida and Michigan and their delegates? That is the question. If neither Clinton nor Obama wins one on their rival's turf, then the DNC's decision on Florida and Michigan's delegates becomes crucial to deciding the margins in both the delegate and popular vote counts. And that decision comes down to something of a battle between the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the Credentials Committee.

Who are the members of these committees and who/what do they support? As of now, the Rules and Bylaws Committee has jurisdiction over this issue. The folks on that committee appear to favor Clinton over Obama (in terms of superdelegates supporting each). And while that potentially bodes well for Clinton, the members of the committee have several other things to consider outside of their own personal preferences.

  • First of all, as Thomas Edsall mentions in his Huffington Post piece, the Rules and Bylaws Committee members would have to deal with the perception that they have overturned the will of the people if they were to rule that Florida and Michigan should be counted.
  • Secondly, they have to deal with the inevitable challenge of the decision by the Obama campaign to the Credentials Committee.
  • Finally, and perhaps this should be first, the members of the R&B would have to confront the idea of going back on a penalty that they initiated.
Yes, it was the Rules and Bylaws Committee that levied the "lose all your delegates" penalty against both Florida and Michigan in the first place. Something tells me that the members of the committee may not be interested in completely emasculating the national party when it comes to the matter of the timing of future delegate selection events. If they reverse their own decision from last August, then they risk the DNC losing what little power it does have to deal with the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses. This consideration, and this one alone, is why I keep arguing that the DNC will go back to the original penalty (half the delegates from each state) and justify the move by saying that the complete stripping of delegates was too severe a penalty. This is the least talked about aspect of this decision but it may be the most important when it comes to the perceived strength of the DNC in relation to both the candidates and the state parties, but also in relation to its counterpart on the Republican side, the RNC.

[Of course, nothing regarding Florida or Michigan will be decided without intense consultation between the two candidates and the party. Obama won't budge if the plan means he loses the delegate or popular vote lead. And Clinton won't move from her position that they should be counted in some way. If there is a way to avoid this being a zero-sum game, neither the party nor the candidates have come up with it yet.]

What happens if we run the gauntlet on this decision, though? ...if the Rules and Bylaws Committee opts to count Florida and Michigan and as a result hands the nomination over to Clinton, for the time being? Well, if the R&B fails to act prior to the end of June, the jurisdiction on the matter goes over to the Credentials Committee anyway. But let's assume that R&B does, in fact, act to fully include Florida and Michigan. The decision on the nomination then goes from one committee to the next. And the Credentials Committee seems to lean in Obama's direction (based on the results of the 2008 primaries and caucuses so far and the Dean 25--those members appointed by the current DNC chair, Howard Dean.).

Does the appeal then reverse the reversal? Possibly. But that probably wouldn't be the final word. That's right, the floor fight we all envisioned last year as the least likely contingency plan for the nomination decision, could come to pass. And in that event, all the divisiveness, doomsday scenarios laid out by Howard Dean, Joe Andrew and some of the other party elites would come into play. All the while John McCain gets to practice saying his name with President in front of it.

It should be an interesting and well-covered meeting of the R&B on May 31.

...if Indiana and North Carolina go the way of the current polls.

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