Campaign Comment: Twists and Turns

Sorting out the complex U.S. presidential election can be tough. Accordingly, AmCham Denmark offers its members Campaign Comment, a continuing series of articles taking a look at the 2008 race as it unfolds.

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination this year already has had more twists and turns than a NASCAR road course.

The odds for nomination still appear to be with Barack Obama, but the late movement by voters in Texas and Ohio toward Hillary Clinton has added yet another twist to this race as the candidates gear up for the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

In another turn, Obama’s operatives seem to be lowering expectations about their candidate’s chances in Pennsylvania. Instead, Obama’s campaign is focusing on more primary wins in smaller states – North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska and Indiana are all in May. As a result, Clinton appears to be revving up the engine only to have her intended competitor racing on another course. Obama’s plan has been to rely on the party’s rule for the proportional award of delegates to win his share in the big states, while building bigger margins in the smaller states. He is ahead, but by a narrow margin.

Michigan and Florida

The close race is making the fate of Michigan and Florida all the more crucial for both candidates. The situation is one of the most baffling twists of the race so far. As mentioned here before, both states lost their delegates by moving up the dates of their primaries. Clinton won both, but no candidates competed in the states and Obama’s name was not even on the ballot in Michigan. Now, the party and both candidates are trying to find an equitable way to seat these delegates. Some kind of do-over election is likely, probably by mail. More about the situation in forthcoming Campaign Comments. In any case, there is not much time for a solution: the stop-watch is ticking as the campaigns streak toward the Democratic convention in Denver this summer.


This latest turn is triggering many other questions. Neither candidate is likely to come through the primaries with the 2,025 pledged delegates required for the nomination. So the eventual nominee will need the support of the party’s superdelegates – these are hundreds of members of Congress and others who themselves decide whom to support. If the race stays really close, on what basis will they decide? Will they automatically support the candidate who won the most primaries – Obama? Or the candidate won the primaries in the largest states – Clinton? The candidate who won the most battleground states? The candidate who is polling best in the key battleground (purple) states? Or the candidate who is polling best against McCain nationwide? Geez. And what if either Democrat seems to be faring the same against the Republican nominee? That could add weight to the Clintons’ decades of networking among the elected officials who make up much of the superdelegate pool. But if Clinton, or Obama for that matter, is nominated in any way that seems unfair to the loser, it could split the party for 2008 and perhaps longer.


Given all these twists and turns, there is likely to be more and more conjecture about the possible scenarios in coming days, particularly during a six-week lull coming up before Pennsylvania. The media will have more time to speculate.

One of the inevitable questions: Will there be a deadlocked Democratic convention in Denver? No national convention has gone more than one ballot since 1952, when it took the Democrats three to nominate Adlai Stevenson over Estes Kefauver. If the Democratic convention this year is deadlocked – that is, if neither Obama nor Clinton are able to win a majority of delegates after repeated ballots – would a compromise candidate emerge? That would be a screeching turn in this race: could it be to Al Gore? Gore as a conceivable compromise candidate already has been floated in the media, but the likelihood of Gore, or anyone other than Obama or Clinton, being the nominee is very remote. Remote but not impossible. It is most likely that a candidate will be nominated on the first ballot in Denver, but that will not stop coming speculation about a compromise nominee.

There’s one certainty in all this uncertainty: there will be many more twists and turns in this race before the checkered flag waves.


Scott Berman is AmCham Denmark's journalist. Scott started following American politics and the presidency in 1976, before he was old enough to vote. He canvassed instead. Scott has worked with Democratic and Republican colleagues in public relations and trade association work in Washington, D.C. He now writes for a range of publications and businesses. www.sjbwriting.com

Reprinting is not allowed without a prior written agreement with AmCham Denmark.

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