Monday, March 3, 2008

Lead-up to Tomorrow's Primaries...

The latest flock of polls show that Obama's slim lead in Texas has vanished, leaving the candidates perfectly tied. They also show Clinton's lead, in the last day or two, growing again in Ohio. Check for more details.

These polls generally show the same reasons for this last-minute Clinton revival:

* Clinton has succeeded on one issue- health care. More people place health care as their top concern than did a week ago, and Clinton holds a huge lead among such people.

* Clinton and Obama split independents in these polls. Before Obama was winning independents from 60-40 up to 75-25.

* Clinton and Obama split crossover-voting Republicans. Before Obama, well, see previous.

It's looking like a good night tomorrow for Clinton and a disappointing one for Obama, but that's not enough for Hillary- if the Dallas Morning News is to be believed.

Christy Hoppe reports:

In training materials being handed out by the Clinton campaign, it is clear that they want to control those caucus sessions.
The materials say in part, "DO NOT allow the supporter of another candidate to serve in leadership roles."
It goes on to say, "If our supporters are outnumbered, ask the Temporary Chair if one of our supporters can serves as the Secretary, in the interest of fairness.
"The control of the sign-in sheets and the announcement of the delegates allotted to each candidate are the critical functions of the Chair and Secretary. This is why it is so important that Hillary supporters hold these positions."

This was discussed up and down the blogosphere yesterday, and I'm here late, but let me lay down the basics for those who didn't read the arguments.

First- Christy Hoppe does not produce the Clinton campaign materials themselves, and no one else has reported on them that I can discover, so there's no verification of what can only be considered a brazen attempt to fix the Texas caucuses.

Second- this article has revived talk that the Clinton campaign used similar tactics to shut Obama voters out of the caucuses in Nevada, rigging the results in Las Vegas.

Third- some people have argued that these precautions are merely to ensure a fair vote. My response: why do you need to make sure that ALL officials in the caucus are Hillary supporters to ensure a fair vote? Surely fairness would require equal participation? And the determination to control the sign-in sheets and vote records above all else- that's not necessary for a fair vote. For a fair vote, all you need is access to make sure the records are correct.

You only need to control the paperwork above all else if you intend to rig the paperwork.

Clinton is quite willing to destroy the Democratic Party, if need be, to get the nomination. Her every action seems to demonstrate this- right up to her announcement today that, even if she loses all four primaries tomorrow, she won't quit until the convention in Denver. She's still counting Florida and Michigan. She's still counting on superdelegates- although MSNBC reported an estimated count yesterday that showed her leading by less than fifty superdelegates, 256 to Obama's 209.

It's worth noting that, although Rasmussen today shows Clinton with a one-point national lead in their tracking poll (Clinton's first lead in three weeks), yesterday's Gallup daily tracking poll showed Obama up by eight points, 50-42. My read: Clinton's tactics are alienating those who have already voted for her, who no longer have a say in the process. While campaigning, though, she's succeeding in casting enough doubt on Obama to hold on to narrow majorities. She's not attracting people to herself: she's driving people away from Obama.

It's a strategy that only has a longshot chance at gaining her the nomination at this point, but it's definitely a strategy that will fail in November. Unlike Obama, McCain cannot be attacked as untested. He could be attacked as untrustworthy and untruthful- his "straight talk" is anything but- but so far the media hasn't picked up on it. Furthermore, Clinton has the highest negatives of any candidate in the race, and has had that distinction since she entered the race. She can't win unless she demonstrates a reason to support her, rather than to oppose someone else.

My suspicion: Clinton wins both Ohio and Texas popular vote. Obama at least ties, possibly wins outright, the pledged delegate count in those two primaries. Obama wins the Texas caucuses handily, but by a lesser margin than other caucuses. Obama wins Vermont overwhelmingly; Clinton wins Rhode Island by ten points or more.

The race goes on to Wyoming on Saturday, Mississippi a week from tomorrow, and then Pennsylvania in six weeks. Bill Richardson may come out for Obama- who will definitely lead in delegates after tomorrow- but there will be no great intervention by Democratic leaders such as Gore, Carter, Pelosi, Reid or Edwards. The Clinton campaign will wobble unsteadily on, looking for any and all sneaky tricks possible to undermine Obama's appeal, with no thought whatever for what happens if Obama wins the nomination.

And the Obama camp sits down and re-evaluates its strategy, I hope.

But tomorrow I'll be at my local polling place, handing out flyers and making a last-minute push to get out the vote. And I'll caucus, for whatever good it does: I won't be able to make the county convention due to my business, which means that if the campaign continues after tomorrow my caucus vote gets lost.

Here's hoping I'm wrong.

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