Perhaps Barack Obama really is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime candidate who can get away with tossing two large swing states on the scrap heap, and whipping John McCain with one hand tied behind his hopeful back. But should he fail - and I remain petrified that he might - his campaign's decision not to find common ground on legitimate primaries in Michigan and Florida will be rightly seen as one of the great strategic blunders in Presidential political history.
Veteran New York muckraker Wayne Barrett has the definitive piece in HuffPo on machinations that led us to this strange 48-state strategy. Barrett's take: Republicans set it up, Dean and Obama fell for it (in their zeal to run out the clock on the reviled Clinton), and the rest is - or sadly may be - history. Says Wayne:
In all the buzz about the media's pro-Obama tilt, its indifference to his resistance to including these states in the "actual" nominating process is its most disturbing favor, especially since this brand of "conventional politics," as Obama would put it, flies in the face of his contention that "the people" should pick the nominee. Obama's only proposal so far has been to split the delegates evenly, just like he and Michelle parcel out Christmas presents to their two daughters.
Of course, the column inches and moments of air time spent on how and why these two states and their 366 delegates have been banished adds up to less than the attention devoted to, say, the Wyoming caucus, where a 2,066-vote Obama margin gave him a big enough delegate boost to virtually cancel out Hillary Clinton's 329,000-vote margin in the five March races.
What's more, argues Barrett (he of the 30-year career exposing the vast patronage underbelly of New York politics), the Republicans set it all up - while the Hillary-hating media could only chant the idiotic playground song of "rules are the rules." More from Barrett:
Imagining a convention without delegations from these large and politically volatile states has become the nightmare of every thinking Democrat. Polls indicate that a nominee who refuses to count the 1.7 million Floridians who voted in a level-playing field primary, or to find a way for them to vote again, will wind up wasting whatever time and money he or she spends there in the general election campaign. As close as the general election vote in Michigan has been in recent years, even a small margin of voters disgruntled by the state's Democratic lockout could push it into the GOP column. Obama's stonewalling about both states may offer short-term advantages, but two delegations denied seating because of his maneuvers may well be seen as contrary to his populist rationale now -- and crippling to his candidacy in November.
Ed Pozzuoli, the Republican chair of Broward County, recalls the Florida showdown of 2000, when he says Democrats taunted Republicans, insisting that they should "let every vote count." He gloats now: "I guess that's changed in eight years." He's hardly the only one chortling over the likely consequence of what he calls the "draconian" Democratic spiking of his state's delegation.
What started out years ago as Howard Dean's 50-state organizing strategy for the national party now looks like a 48-state electoral one. Michigan and Florida could become the Ralph Nader of 2000, the great regret that delivers the country once again to four years of darkness.
As I've written before, this is a stunning mistake by the Obama campaign; undoubtedly the McCain campaign is working already with the state Republican machines in Michigan and Florida on just the right tone of slogan, just the right video - all of them saying the same thing: the Democrats didn't want your vote. As commenter argent1 adds to Barrett's in-depth reportage:
The long and tedious nuts and bolts doesn't fit well with the "I want it Now" Obamelites. All those retired grandparents may go McCain in FL, and the blue collars of MI as well. The demonstrative snub by Obama and Co. will ruin his chances. Then we'll be hearing boo-hoo-hoo after November 4th trying to blame Clinton for not bowing out in April.