For some time, the Democrats have been facing a possible nightmare scenario for November: a narrow victory by Hillary Clinton at or shortly before the convention, with her margin supplied by super-delegates following a bitter campaign between her and Barack Obama. Today, Michael Barone suggests that in the wake of Hillary’s recent victories, that very scenario is becoming more likely:
Clinton is still about 100 delegates behind, and the Democrats’ proportional representation rules make it impossible for her to close the gap in the remaining primaries. Her only plausible path to the nomination is to win a majority of super-delegates (party and public officials) and, perhaps, to reverse the party’s decision disqualifying the Michigan and Florida delegations — i.e., overruling the voters in one case and changing the rules after the game has been played in the other.
This might pass muster if the national polls show an unambiguous and substantial move toward Clinton. Otherwise, in more likely and ambiguous circumstances, a Clinton nomination will seem illegitimate to many who have been swooning over Obama and streaming into polling booths because he alone offers hope.
The March 4 exit polls show increasing percentages of Democratic primary voters unwilling to accept the rejection of their candidate. Both candidates have an incentive to attack on grounds that will weaken the other in the general election, as Clinton has already started to do with her “red phone” ad.
We can hope. But, as Barone also says, it won’t be enough to count on the Democrats self-destructing. Their overwhelming financial advantage and increasing voter ID, fueled in part by publicity surrounding the Clinton-Obama primary contest, will be tough to overcome.
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