The speculation that follows may well be nuts, but, then, I’m a blogger: I’m supposed to be a little nuts (and very unserious). So here goes:
For whatever it’s worth, I’ve become increasingly convinced that Hillary Clinton’s most likely chance for some sort of a “victory,” in the sense of changing the outcome of the nomination fight, doesn’t involve her walking away with the nomination. It’s in the role of a spoiler.
While I personally think this very unlikely, it’s certainly conceivable that Hillary could beat up Obama badly enough through negative campaigning to cost him the nomination. About the only way this could realistically happen, given the arithmetic, would be for enough super delegates to lose faith in Obama’s ability to beat John McCain to deny him the nomination.
The goal of the Clinton plan — or perhaps we should call it the Clinton Hail Mary — of course, is that when this happens the super delegates will give the nomination to Hillary, even though she’ll almost certainly be trailing in pledged delegates (the ones actually elected by humanoid voters).
Not so fast.
The obvious problem with this sort of scorched earth approach is that if it works, a solid half of the Democratic Party’s rank and file will hate her guts. Mark my words: they won’t oppose her; they’ll hate her guts, or at least a lot of them will — hardly the ideal way to begin a general election campaign. (This isn’t a threat by me, since I’ll almost certainly vote for the nominee, but it’s the reality of the situation.)
What I’ve said so far has, of course, been utterly unoriginal. Every blogger in America (and probably half of their dogs and cats) has already written a post about the potential for a brokered convention to tear the party apart. So do I have anything even slightly new to say?
Only this: my point isn’t that Hillary can’t win against McCain under these circumstances (although she probably can’t): no, my point is that a lot of the super delegates are going to conclude that she can’t win against McCain under these circumstances. They are also going to realize that if they vote for Hillary, when Obama is ahead in pledged delegates, they’ll have holy hell to face back home.
Remember that a lot of these super delegates are elected officials. The last thing they want to do is offend a large segment of their base.
So why, as a group, would they decide to give the nomination to Hillary under these circumstances? Are they into political suicide?
I may be wrong, but I don’t think they’d do it.
Here’s what I think: in the very unlikely event that Hillary Clinton were to successfully destroy Obama as a candidate (which I don’t expect), Clinton herself wouldn’t be the most likely nominee: Al Gore would.
He would be the super delegates’ ticket out of the trap.
Two months ago I would have put the chance of a deadlocked convention turning to Gore as virtually nonexistent. As of today, it’s just damn unlikely.