Threatening the Texas Primary/Caucus
by Glenn Smith, Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:42:02 AM EST
There is method to the Clinton campaign's mad preemptive sword rattling over the Texas primary/caucus. They want to delay and disrupt the reporting of the delegate count. They hope that if they win the popular vote, they can avoid, at least for one news cycle, news reports that even if they do so they will very likely lose the delegate fight in Texas and fall further behind Obama in the national delegate contest.
This is not speculation. This has been the subject under discussion. While I have not been part of that discussion, plenty of sources last night and this morning confirmed this as the core of the dispute.
It is widely assumed that Obama's organizational advantage will achieve in the caucus portion of the Texas election just what it has achieved in earlier caucuses: a significant victory in delegates. There are 67 delegates at stake in those caucuses. The Clinton campaign would like to delay the reporting of the caucus results, and that is why they have continually "reserved the right to challenge" Texas law and Democratic party procedures.
Throw the Texas delegate results in dispute, and win or lose the popular vote, they will have advanced their case that the contest remains close and should go all the way to the convention if necessary.
The campaign in Texas is close. Delegates selected by popular vote out of the 31 Senate districts will probably be split more or less evenly. This is due in large part to the fact that 15 of those districts have 4 delegates to award. A candidate would have to get more than 62.5 percent of the vote in those districts to win a 3-to-1 split. The most likely outcome is a 2-2 split. In addition, Obama may have a slight advantage in that the districts with the largest number of delegates, Austin and inner city Houston and Dallas, are viewed as Obama strongholds. Still, just about every model shows an even split of primary vote delegates, no matter who wins or loses the popular vote. This is just because the vote will be close.
The Clinton campaign strategy is to justify taking the fight beyond Texas even if they fall further behind Obama in the national delegate count. To do that, they must cast doubt over the fate of the 67 delegates that will be chosen at the caucus level. Hence, their tough positioning in phone calls with Texas Democratic Party officials and others involved in the primary here.
The Texas rules have been in effect for decades. Bill Clinton ran twice under these rules. They are no surprise to anyone, and both campaigns know they have to play by the same rules. There is little point to raising concerns before the election -- except one campaign finds itself running a very unique kind of effort. To remain viable, the results of the caucus in Texas must be thrown into doubt. Almost any legal challenge will do. The Clinton narrative can be maintained-- but only if their falling further behind in delegates is not reported or is at the least cast into doubt for a news cycle, or two or three news cycles.
Texas' hybrid primary/caucus would not be questioned were it not that one candidate appears to have an advantage in caucus settings. Or that in a close race, the popular vote in senate districts will probably translate into an even split of delegates. Consequently, the Clinton campaign finds Texas to be a poor place to build a firewall or mount a comeback. That's an historical accident. Attacking the state party here would be irresponsible and damaging to Democratic prospects here in both the near and long term.
The overwhelming numbers of Texas who have voted early in the Texas primary is symptomatic of the changing political tide here. Much work has been done rebuilding the progressive movement in the Lone Star State. Attempts to taint the primary, and consequently the primary and caucus decisions of Texas voters, will set this effort back.Cross-posted at BurntOrangeReport.