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Clinton Campaign Denies Plans To Woo Obama-Pledged Delegates

It takes 2025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president. Of the pledged delegates awarded in primaries and caucuses thus far, Barack Obama has won 1134 to Hillary Clinton's 996. With only 1078 delegates left to be awarded, Obama … Read More

By / February 19, 2008

It takes 2025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president. Of the pledged delegates awarded in primaries and caucuses thus far, Barack Obama has won 1134 to Hillary Clinton's 996. With only 1078 delegates left to be awarded, Obama would have to win 83 percent and Clinton would have to win 95 percent of the remaining delegate pool to secure the nomination through elections alone, an impossible task given the Democrats' proportional allocation rules. Hence, the winning candidate will have to be put over the top by some of the 795 "super delegates" — elected officials and party functionaries who are given an automatic vote at the convention, and are unbound to any candidate.

Or so it would seem at first blush. As we explained last week, there is no actual rule governing how pledged delegates may vote on the convention floor, and like superdelegates, they are free to vote for whomever they choose. In light of that fact, the Clinton campaign saw a potential inroad, as Roger Simon writes in the Politico:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.

This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.

In the general election in the fall, one candidate will almost certainly win a majority in the electoral college. Presidential electors are real people who meet about a month after the election to ratify the results, and they are technically free to vote for anyone. Now suppose that the losing candidate were to convince enough electors to flip their ballots to overturn the election. The term for a scheme like this is a coup. And it is precisely what the Clinton campaign intends to do to win the nomination.

Apart from contempt for democracy in general and for Democratic primary voters in particular, the most salient feature of the Clinton scheme is its mind-boggling stupidity. As long as Obama remains a viable candidate, the odds that any of his pledged delegates could be convinced to flip are vanishingly small:

The people who end up as pledged delegates for Obama will be among his most rabid and trusted supporters. Most of his pledged delegates will be local elected officials, party leaders, members of groups that endorsed him and fundraisers. These people will be among the least likely people in America to switch their allegiance from Obama to Clinton.

But most importantly of all, the first rule of stealing an election is, you don't talk to the press about your plans to steal the election.

From attaching asterisks to every state they lose fair and square, to claiming that African-American votes don't count, to denigrating Democratic voters who live outside New York and California, to floating plans to overturn the popular vote with superdelegates, to suggesting that primary and caucus results should have no bearing on deciding the nominee, to openly plotting to overturn completed primaries and caucuses, the chance that Hillary Clinton will make a dignified exit from the stage grow dimmer by the hour.

Related: The Clinton campaign denies the accusation; Simon stands by his story. 

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