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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


The road to Puerto Rico

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, February 07, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
Only one conclusion can be drawn from Super Tuesday, as far as the Democratic nomination goes: it was super-inconclusive. Obama and Hillary did not win decisively, but rather are now in a true horserace. Clinton's strategy was to go for the big prizes like California and Texas, whereas Obama's was more to aim for the smaller caucuses and primaries, competing everywhere. The parallel to the dispute between party establishment Clintonites like Rahm Emanuel and DNC Chairman Howard Dean over the 50-state strategy is not accidental. There's a deep rift inside the Democratic Party and Clinton stands firmly on one side, Obama (and Dean, and Al Gore) on the other. In fact the nomination process itself is a proxy battle for this civil war; consider the factors that will determine the outcome:

on all of these issues, the fundamental rift is whether the Party is a top-down or a bottom-up construct. Until now, the former has held sway, and while the challenge began with Howard Dean's campaign and matured under his tenure as DNC Chair, it is Obama who has finally capitalized on it successfully. Look at how far people-power has come since 2004!

So what will the outcome be? It's possible that the contest will ultimately be solely in the hands of the superdelegates, who are not bound by the outcomes of the primary process as per present DNC rules. However, this is a worst-case scenario (with respect to winning the general election), since it would draw the nomination out until late august and leave only three months for the candidate to fight McCain. The same problem applies to a fight over delegates from MI and FL. This is Hillary's preferred strategy, for obvious reasons (and again, it puts her in opposition to Obama and Dean).

However, there's one way for Obama to avoid that route, and that is to amass a lead greater than 100 delegates over Clinton (which will nullify the FL/MI issue and give him leverage over the superdelegates). How can Obama achieve this? One is to court - and court aggressively - the endorsements of John Edwards and Al Gore. The former has 25 delegates, and the latter would probably tilt a air number of delegates from the Clinton column (though the exact number is impossible to estimate). But the most important piece of the puzzle? 55 delegates from Puerto Rico. PR has a caucus on June 7th, which is still pretty late but leaves the summer open.

Hillary has a disadvantage in caucus states, but she polls better with the Hispanic vote. It isn't winner-take-all, so Obama will have his work cut out for him. If he can't seal the deal in PR, then it's brokered convention time.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.