3.12.2008

Obama campaign puts obstacles on path to revotes

It is a sign of how favored the Obama campaign is that they are now willing to openly throw hurdles to the organization of do-over votes in Florida and Michigan. I wrote this morning that Obama cannot afford to openly sabotage those given the risk to his general election campaign and the opening it could give Clinton to appeal to superdelegates; but I added that, "Obama will certainly not do too much to help the re-dos get organized... and he can't be too unhappy about this latest roadblock."

Now, it looks like Obama might be more active in confusing the situation than I had thought he would be. Tupac Hunter, his Michigan campaign co-chair, was quoted today as saying that "The Obama campaign position, as I stated, is we don’t like the mail-in option." He also insisted that the campaign wants a 50-50 split in delegates from both states. In the Detroit News he explained in more detail why the campaign doesn't like mail-in votes "one bit: "It disenfranchises people who need to participate and there are many questions with regard to security." The same article quotes David Axelrod worrying that there isn't enough time for a mail-in to go well: "We're going to turn this process over to parties within the states to run on with a matter of weeks to prepare."

TPM is now quoting an Obama spokesperson who is backtracking a bit and saying that Hunter does not represent the position of the campaign on this one, and that they will abide by whatever the rules say. And let me note that a mail-in vote does probably pose significant challenges and it will probably see a lesser turnout than a normal primary would. Also, the Clinton campaign would likely prefer a full vote rather than a mail-in given that the demographics vote that would participate in the latter would probably be more favorable to Obama. But Clinton is not the one making this argument, probably realizing that mail-in might be one of the best options she has at this point to open up the pool of delegates of FL and MI, whereas Obama has no qualms about starting to question the legitimacy of the votes and creating more confusion around them.

And another surprising obstacle on the way to re-votes, via Marc Ambinder. The Justice Department might have to approve any new primary plans in Florida and Michigan. Some counties in both states are under DoJ supervision to make sure their voting rules do not disenfranchise minorities. Not only would this require time, but imagine the chaos if some denounce mail-in as unfair because it disenfranchises certain groups and create uneven turnout patterns and if the authority that clears the primary as fair is Bush's Department of Justice that has attracted so many complaints from civil-rights groups over the past few years. Ultimately, Obama would love anything like this that could cast a doubt on the legitimacy of do-overs.

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5 Comments:

  • Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment that the Obama camp is "openly throwing hurdles" in the process here. The bottom line is simple: if a re-vote cannot be conducted in a fair and secure manner, then it should not be held. Period. It took Oregon years to get its mail-in system in order; MI and FL have no experience with this, and cannot possibly set it up in the space of a month. Allowing the thing to go forward without vetting all of the problems isn't responsible. So, the "hurdles" in question are the result of the situation, not any grand plan on the part of the Obama campaign.

    By Blogger Dan, At 12 March, 2008 22:18  

  • I agree with Dan. This is a most interesting development with the Dept of Justice getting involved. I just watched a Florida county electional official on MSNBC saying that mail-in ballots are expressley prohibited by law as far as the state election law is concerned. That means if the state of Fla. can't do it, who can? And what if ballots are challenged. This is just going to make a bad situation worse.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 13 March, 2008 00:42  

  • "It disenfranchises people who need to participate...

    How, exactly, would a mail-in primary disenfranchise voters more than a caucus, which the Obama camp loves? This just doesn't pass the smell test.

    By Blogger Terence, At 13 March, 2008 03:48  

  • If Obama doesn't like a revote then the delegates will be seated as they are. He better get it together or he's losing. He had no obligation to remove his name from the Mich. ballot, so he's got no legitimate objection.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 08:15  

  • Anonymous of 8:15 - Obama along with every candidate other than Clinton and Kuchinck (excuse spelling) took their names off because the DNC said no campaigning and the vote wouldn`t count. A quote from Clinton less than 2 months ago :
    "It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, on New Hampshire Public Radio, dismissing the Jan. 15 Michigan presidential primary


    This does feed into the narrative of Clinton saying and doing anything to get the nomination. You say Michigan doesn`t count, then when you "win" it against uncommitted you then claim months later that it was a great victory.
    At best there should be a revote and half of the delgates seated, like the GOP. That would allow MI and FL to be heard but would still penalise them for knowingly breaking the rules.
    They are going to be battleground states in November so it isn`t like nobody is going to show them the love this year (unlike most states that are taken for granted).

    By Anonymous Guy, At 13 March, 2008 08:44  

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