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Why Clinton Doesn't Want a Revote.

(Cross-posted from TAPPED.)

There aren't many windows into a strongly pro-Clinton/anti-Obama view in the blogosphere, making TalkLeft invaluable, where "Big Tent Democrat" (the former Armando of DailyKos) has been focused like a laser on the issue of how to deal with the Michigan and Florida Democratic delegations. The claim made there, and on some of the other pro-Clinton blogs like Taylor Marsh, has been that it is Obama who is blocking re-votes in Michigan and Florida, raising legalisms or obstructing agreement, but that the Clinton campaign should be more aggressive in pushing for revotes. Big Tent Democrat puts it in the context of the argument about the popular vote:

[T]he problem with the Clinton campaign's refusal to fight for revotes in Florida and Michigan [is that] to be perceived as the popular vote winner, Clinton needs revote wins in Florida and Michigan. I do not understand the Clinton campaign strategy at all on Florida and Michigan.

But it's actually easy to understand. What would happen if an agreement were announced today that there would be re-votes in Florida and Michigan? Immediately, the previous primaries in those states would become dead letters. Instead of being 200,000 votes down in the popular vote (by her campaign's count), or 500,000 down (by my count, which gives Clinton her Florida votes), Clinton would be down in the popular vote by almost 1 million. And 193 delegates that they are currently counting would suddenly disappear.

And at that point, the magnitude of Clinton's deficit would be too obvious to spin away. Yes, there would be two additional large-state contests in which to win back the million popular votes and hundreds of delegates. But unless she did significantly better in both states than she did in the illegal primaries, she would lose, not gain, ground, by her own calculations. Since she was on the ballot alone in Michigan before, it's highly unlikely that she will do better there. It's very possible that she could do better than the 50 percent she won in Florida in January, but since it would now be a two-person race, it's a dead certainty that Obama would do significantly better than the 32 percent he got in January, thus adding to his total popular vote margin and delegate count even if he lost again, and so it would be a net loss for Clinton. Re-votes cannot help Clinton be "perceived" as the winner of the popular vote.

Contrary to the gullible media's belief that "time" is a "powerful ally" on Clinton's side, in fact, Clinton's only ally is uncertainty. The minute it becomes clear what will happen with Michigan and Florida -- re-vote them, refuse to seat them, or split them 50-50 or with half-votes, as some have proposed -- is the minute that Clinton's last "path to the nomination" closes. The only way to keep spin alive is to keep uncertainty alive -- maybe there will be a revote, maybe they'll seat the illegal Michigan/Florida delegations, maybe, maybe, maybe. In the fog of uncertainty, Penn can claim that there is a path to the nomination, but under any possible actual resolution of the uncertainty, there is not.

So far, Obama is playing this situation well -- agreeing to abide by any rules the party establishes, but not pushing to embrace any particular solution other than the existing rules. But soon it will make more sense to call the question: Move toward some certain resolution of Michigan and Florida. I think my seat Florida/re-vote Michigan scheme makes sense and now seems a likely outcome, but the specific resolution doesn't matter, because whatever it is, it will introduce certainty and finiteness, and without the comfort of ambiguity, the Clinton spin-campaign cannot survive. The Clinton campaign began -- unwisely -- by spinning inevitability; it ends, equally unwisely, by spinning cosmic uncertainty. In between the two spin campaigns, they apparently forgot to give people enough of a positive reason to actually vote for Senator Clinton.

UPDATE: Commenter weboy [at TAPPED] complained that I should have sought out more pro-Clinton blogs, and recommends a few, so I will link to Tom Watson's recent post, "The Few, the Proud, the Pro-Clinton Bloggers," and to riverdaughter, as well as his own.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on March 14, 2008 | Permalink