Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama Continues to Outfox Clinton

If the race for the Democratic nomination could be summed up in a single event, it may be the Nevada Caucuses. Nevada was the kind of state Clinton should have taken in a walk. Few blacks, lots of Hispanics for starters. Instead, back in January she squeaked out a popular vote win in the caucuses and lost in terms of the all important delegate count. Why? Clinton doesn't know how to caucus. She lost caucus state after caucus state by resounding margins. Nevada was one of the few states where she actually was competitive. Well, her failure to caucus successfully was thrown back in her face this weekend when Barack Obama took an extra delegate at the state convention.

The American primary system is horribly complex and most states (I can only think of West Virginia Republicans as a possible exception) have one or two stages in actually choosing delegates long after the CNN camera crews have left. Nevada is no exception. In Nevada the caucuses where Joe and Jane Q. Public voted in January were step one. Joe and Jane Q. Public were actually voting for delegate spots to the state convention this past weekend. Those spots were assigned proportionally based on the votes received at the caucuses by each candidate. The delegates to that convention then have the job of choosing Nevada's delegation to the Democratic National Convention in August. Thus, while the delegates are pretty much picked on voting day, if one candidate fails to get delegates to the convention and the other does, things can change a bit. This is what happened over the weekend.

In typical Clinton fashion, Hillary sent Bill out assuming that he would take care of business. The Obama campaign actually made sure his delegates to the state convention, you know, went to the state convention and came away one delegate richer. American politics are often about big ads and big money. However, in Nevada and elsewhere in this nomination fight its been about strong on the ground organization and attention to detail. Clinton has done well in the air (why do you think she's lobbying for a 1001st debate?), but has been close to incompetent on the ground. That's the lesson going forward. If you want to win, win on the ground.

Side Note: Barack Obama received the endorsement of a former KKK member today. Robert Byrd has long since disavowed his membership in that organization (a true seeing of the light by all accounts) and has become a pillar of the US Senate, currently serving as President Pro Tempore (the guy third in the line of succession). It is telling about the progress made in the United States in the last sixty years that a former klansman is endorsing an African-American to be president of the United States. It is also a fitting symbol of the evolution of Robert Byrd as a politician. One of the things that pundits predicted would tell us when this race was over was when party elders started to pick sides. You don't get any more elderly than Robert Byrd.

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