Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clinton Campaign Once Again Shows They Don't Understand The Delegate Process

If one needed any further proof that one campaign understands what it means to be in a race for delegates and another campaign thinks they can win the nomination without the support of the majority of the delegates, there is no better example than what happened last night in Iowa.

While the country, and the Clinton campaign, is focused on the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, the Obama campaign focused their attention on Iowa. While Iowa was the first state to hold a primary or caucus this year, the fight for delegates in Iowa did not end with Obama's victory on election night back in January (wow, does that seem like a long time ago). That's because while Iowa did apportion delegates on that night, those delegates were for county conventions. At the county conventions (which took place yesterday) delegates to the state convention were selected. And at the state convention, then delegates to the national Democratic convention will be elected. If it sounds confusing, don't worry, it's obvious the Clinton campaign doesn't understand the process either.

Here's where it gets interesting (at least for political geeks and junkies like myself, and where it should get interesting for anyone following the fight for delegates). In January, John Edwards finished in second place ahead of Hillary Clinton and was awarded 14 delegates. Well, since Edwards has now dropped out of the race, at the county convention, those 14 delegates were up for grabs. And while some Edwards supporters continued to vote for their candidate, and six of Edwards fourteen delegates remain with him, eight were lost. All eight went to Barack Obama. And elsewhere in the voting, one Hillary Clinton delegate defected to Obama's camp, giving Barack Obama, when practically nobody was looking, a net gain of 10 delegates last night.

So while Hillary Clinton netted 9 delegates out of Ohio, Obama netted more from last night's Iowa county conventions. That's remarkable, especially because Hillary likely won't gain more than 10 or 15 delegates from Pennsylvania in late April. How behind can the Clinton campaign continue to fall while still having a legitimate argument they should be the Democratic nominee? Every delegate is crucial right now, and the Obama campaign, despite being ahead over 150 pledged delegates, understands that, and takes no delegate for granted. The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, puts down the caucus system, which as NBC's Chuck Todd rightly points out is going to haunt Hillary through these county conventions and they continue to lose massive amounts of delegates making it impossible for them to overcome the pledged delegate lead Obama has.

And unless the Clinton campaign realizes how important actually gaining delegates is, instead of meaningless "momentum" or "talking points," they will continue to fall further and further behind Obama, even if their rhetoric tries to convince the world (and, most importantly, the remaining unpledged Super Delegates) the opposite is really true.

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