Newspaper Blogs

November 05, 2003

BROKERED CONVENTION?....Tom Spencer reprinted a Gene Lyons column today that contained an interesting factoid about how the Democratic primaries are going to work:

What hasn't yet sunk in among journalists covering the race is the likely impact of the amazingly complicated rule changes the party has imposed on itself for 2004 in the interest of "fairness." Massive confusion appears likelier. There are no winner-take-all primaries. Instead, delegates will be awarded proportionally to all candidates receiving more than 15 percent of the vote in each congressional district, from sea to shining sea.

Now, this is old news to political animals, I'm sure, but it's new news to me, and what it means is that every single congressional district is a separate race. Even if you poll a mere 1% of the vote in a given state, if you poll 15% in a couple of districts you'll get a few delegates. This means that minor candidates are likely to get a few percent of the delegates even if they never manage to break the 15% barrier in a single state.

As Lyons points out, the reason this matters is that it makes a brokered convention more likely. I've been discounting this possibility myself, but mostly based on the lazy reasoning that it hasn't happened for 50 years, so it's probably not going to happen this year either.

But this rule change, combined with a shortened primary season that prevents candidates from building momentum slowly and then dominating the big final primaries, might very well produce a convention where no one has a majority of the delegates going in. After all, within a mere six weeks of New Hampshire we have the massive March 2 "Super Tuesday" that includes New York, California, Massachussetts, Georgia, and Ohio. Virtually the entire game will be played out in those six weeks.

I think I still have to bet against this scenario, but understanding this rule change makes me a little less sure of myself. And that brings up an interesting question that no one has been asking so far: in a brokered convention, which candidate would be in the best position? Endorsements and party insider support are traditionally just window dressing that don't translate into votes, but they might very well translate into convention support. And my first guess is that this would favor John Kerry.

Gotta think about this a bit more.

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 5, 2003 11:01 PM | TrackBack


My guess is that the ticket comes about when two of the top three get together, and the one with fewer delegates agrees to swing his support to the other for the VP seat.

This could very well result in a Clark/Dean or Dean/Clark ticket.

That would probably be a very good thing.

Posted by: JoeF at November 5, 2003 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

When thinking just doesn't do it for me, I consult The Magic Eight-Ball. Like right now [shake shake shake]...

It says, "You can drive yourself crazy considering every plausible option, or you can go with the money." [granted, it's a precocious 8-Ball]

Hey! I opened a fortune cookie last weekend that said the same darned thing! Whatdoyaknow?

Posted by: Very very very evil at November 5, 2003 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

maybe this is what Clark & Dean discussed a while back when there were (brief) reports of them getting together & talking about "things"

wouldn`t surprise me to find out that they had already outlined an "arrangement" in case this sort of thing comes about

"...If everybody voted, the Republicans would lose every time..." - Jim McDermott (D-WA)

Posted by: daCascadian at November 5, 2003 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered about a brokered convention myself. If the status of the nominee is still up in the air past April it is deeply, deeply bad news. There would be too much sniping and not enough unifying against the enemy. I hope this doesn't come to pass.

Posted by: eugene at November 5, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean is doomed in a brokered convention because of the superdelegates. Ruy Teixeira at DonkeyRising points out that there are about 800 of these guys and they, by definition, are the party establishment. If they voted as a block for the an establishment candidate -- and my money would be on Kerry at this point -- any other candidate would have to pull 60% of all other delegates. These superdelegates are what will force another first ballot decision and avoid the debacle of a brokered convention.

Here's the link to the Teixeira article:

Posted by: Ed Thibodeau at November 5, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is bad news for my guy John Edwards. My feeling is Edwards will be offered the VP or a choice cabinet slot.

Posted by: Drew at November 5, 2003 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Why Kerry? I don't get your reasoning.

Posted by: Julia Grey at November 5, 2003 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Not to put words in Kevin's mouth, but Kerry's been around the Senate a long time, he's a war vet, and he's a known quantity without the "once voted for Republican X" baggage that Clark has. Dean's a governor with the anti-war baggage that delegates who want to win won't like. Lieberman is old-shoe and didn't help Al garner too many votes last time. Gephardt? Well, maybe. Edwards might be thought of as too unseasoned. Who've I left out?

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 5, 2003 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Brokered convention = Hillary.

Posted by: Kevin Murphy at November 5, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Murphy = Needs to stop reading Newsmax, and the Free Rubpublic.

Posted by: Drew at November 6, 2003 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

I like Kerry. I think he's got a good mix of smarts and likeability and (and some other word like gravitas, but not, because that's annoying).

I don't think of Dukakis when I look at him either, despite the northeastern bushy eyebrow look.

But in reality, I haven't been following the primaries at all. Lacking a TV, I just found out, for instance, that Dean is not tall. That's what I'm told, at least.

Posted by: andrew at November 6, 2003 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Uh... what the hell is a brokered convention?

Posted by: Realish at November 6, 2003 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Only in your fever dreams, Kevin.

Posted by: NBarnes at November 6, 2003 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

In this scenario, I'd expect the Dems to turn to Gore. The classy way he finally conceded in 2000 provides him with a bit of a honeymoon with the electorate. His non-entrance into the race thus far would make him the "reluctant prince" showing heart and doing the right thing by the party, rather than the robot with the lifelong ambition (his portrayal in 2000). Compared to the existing slate the guy looks like JFK for crissake. If the Dems get to a brokered convention, it will indicate an even more damaged party with likely relatively less financial resources than usual and Hillary's gonna pass. Gore covers several bases. His presence would inspire those who feel he was robbed and is Clinton's rightful heir, he was around during the terrorism's rise in the 90's and can speak to that credibly, choosing someone outside the nine will alienate everybody else's supporters to a lesser degree, since nobody they've been campaigning against is being chosen over them and he's expendable if the Dems believe they are gonna get slaughtered and are looking for a Mondale. Pair him with Clarke or Dean to give them national campaign experience/exposure (which both would do to be prepared for '08, and makes Hillary work hard to stay even for '08) and tell Edwards, Sharpton and Braun that if they want their calls returned they'd better campaign hard for him. Tell Kerry and Gep that cabinet appointments depend on them working hard too, Lieberman naturally falls into line. Bury Kucinich out back behind the old oak tree and the Dems come out of the gate after Labor Day not so bad.

Posted by: spc67 at November 6, 2003 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

One question though. By the time of the convention who is/are playing Kingmaker? Who are the grand old men/women to whom the party turns? Presumably, given the last month's results and those of 2002, McCauliffe, Pelosi and Daschle aren't credible as party leaders anymore. Bill Clinton presumably is viewed as partisan to Hillary and what's best for who are the people of influence outside the candidates? Feinstein? Chris Dodd? Who?

Posted by: spc67 at November 6, 2003 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

No way are the superdelegates going to go for Kerry. His fundraising is drying up and his staff are leaving him for the Clark campaign. Also no way on Gore. He's the past and he's baggage; it's not fair but there it is. My bet is that the establishment guys will go for Clark, but they'll give Dean something to recognize the staggering number of people and level of organization he's bringing to the plate. I don't think Dean would work as VP (I say this as a Dean supporter). Maybe HHS with assignment to create a healthcare plan that will get passed?

Shit, make Dean the DNC chairman and Trippi the DNC tech guru. Move the entire Dean staff into the DNC offices and take over. We'd see some changes then.

Posted by: Theresa in Oakland at November 6, 2003 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton presumably is viewed as partisan to Hillary and what's best for her

SP67 - forget that. Bill and Hillary have already thrown significant support to Clark, and Hillary simply will not run this year.

Posted by: Rick B at November 6, 2003 01:01 AM | PERMALINK

They won't pick anybody who isn't running and who doesn't already have a significant number of delegates. Otherwise, it's hard to put together a majority coalition. So no Al or Hillary. A brokered convention works to Dean's disadvantage, and maybe to the advantage of Kerry or Clark.

I've read some Dean supporters on some of these message boards claiming that if Dean gets more delegates than anybody else, the party will have to name him or they'll start griping about a subversion of democracy.

But this is sort of like a multiparty parliamentary election, where the party with the most votes has an advantage but is not guaranteed to be even be in the ruling coalition. It's up to the individual candidates to put one together.

But I think this is how many of them would react.

Posted by: rachelrachel at November 6, 2003 02:12 AM | PERMALINK

I actually attended a brokered convention, as a relative of mine was a delegate for a congressional candidate. Man, it was cool. I don't know if it was good for the party, but it was fun to watch.
The top four candidates, with the most delegates, managed to wipe each other out with vindictive voting, and the candidate who was seventh in number of delegates ended up winning the nomination. Yes, seventh.
Brokered conventions can go very crazy. The advantage is that you get new blood in to run for office.
The only wild card here are the superdelegates. Does anyone here know who they are, and who appoints them?

Posted by: rhinoman at November 6, 2003 02:58 AM | PERMALINK

Superdelegates are likely to already have split their support among several candidates. Jesse Jackson, Jr., for example, is unlikely to vote the same way as Zell Miller, both of whom are superdelegates. (Yeah, maybe we should change the rules for Zell.)

If the leading candidate is reasonably close to a majority, it would be unseemly and extremely divisive not to go with that candidate. And I think the horse-trading will begin for that long before anyone gets to Boston.

A "magical candidate", like Gore or Hillary, would have to draw votes from at least a few of the top delegate-holders, which seems unlikely.

It would be a great convention, but not a very good omen for the general election.

Posted by: RonZ at November 6, 2003 03:37 AM | PERMALINK

zell miller is a superdelegate? doesn't saying publicly that you will vote for a republican can that option? What are the democrats thinking? They should make everyone take a loyalty oath (joke) like the republicans do, or at least hand out better bribes.--aimai

Posted by: aimai at November 6, 2003 04:33 AM | PERMALINK

every four years about this time i hear the same speculation about a brokered convention. The delegate rules are not significantly different this time than before. Even with the truncated schedule (maybe even more so)the candidates coming out of Iowa and NH with momentum will probably be successful during the next set of primaries. Past history also suggests that the Superdelegates (being politicians) know which way the wind is blowing and quickly line up with the frontrunner. Again, with such a long period of time between the main primaries and the convention, i would expect the party to gravitate around a frontrunner long before the convention started. For a brokered convention to be even possible you would need such an even split among four or five candidates that it just won't happen despite what all the political junkies want (and salivate about).

Posted by: Michael Rebain at November 6, 2003 05:13 AM | PERMALINK

a non first ballot convention would nominate the leading non-Dean candidate, be that Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, or Clark.

it's an unlikely outcome, but quite a bit more likely than it has been in a generation.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 05:29 AM | PERMALINK

I will admit I am clueless about these democratic "super delegates," but if they are congressman and senators, that could help Gephardt, right? He is getting most of the congressional democrats behind him (or trying)...

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 05:29 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Rebain,

what makes the non-first ballot convention more likely than usual this year is the polarizing nature of the Dean candidacy.

Dean is going to have extreme trouble getting 50% numbers in primaries. but his financial warchest and hardcore support, along with the large field, means that other candidates are also going to have trouble getting 50%.

and without 50% of votes, you don't get the 50% of the delegates necessary for a first ballot victory.

if this year's rules had been in effect in '72, McGovern wouldn't have had enough support on first ballot, and that convention would have been brokered.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 05:35 AM | PERMALINK

How would the public react if Dean had the most delegates going into the convention but party insiders threw the nomination to Clark anyway? While the ratings would probably be extremely high and it would be fun to watch, I have to think that it would torpedo Clarks overall chances immediately. There is nothing that turns off moderate voters like the idea that a backroom deal is what got someone elected.

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 05:37 AM | PERMALINK


if Dean wants the nomination, he'd better show up in Boston with 50%+1 of the delegates. otherwise, he's a dead duck.

and a brokered convention means doom for the party, no matter who walks out with the nod.

that's why i'm hoping the consensus ABD candidate gets determined earlier, rather than later. my fear is that Kerry, Clark, Gephardt, and Edwards will all hang around fighting for the 65% ABD vote, while Dean wins primary after primary with 35%.

that's how we get to a brokered convention, and that's how we get to four more years of el busho.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 05:56 AM | PERMALINK

I went to the Dean Meet-Up last night (I'm still undecided, but am leaning about 60% Dean to 40% the rest of them, in varying degrees), and this very matter was a topic of discussion.

There was much talk about going to Democratic Party meetings, joining up, and influencing delegate selection.

The Dean people I met were so young and good-hearted. The Democratic Party needs those people as activists. The Republicans have built themselves a grass-roots, and only Dean among the Dems is anteing up.

Posted by: adamsj at November 6, 2003 05:56 AM | PERMALINK

As a Kerry fan, the good news I see for Kerry here is that non-winners get delegates. Kerry's not leading in a single state, but he's doing well in various. I'd thought Kerry was dead, as I noted at Kos, now I'm not sure. I like that.
mark: Kerry has 21 Congressional endorsements.
Theresa in Oakland: "No way are the superdelegates going to go for Kerry. His fundraising is drying up and his staff are leaving him for the Clark campaign."
Those are interesting allegations I haven't heard before, O Dean fan. Perhaps you have links to go with them?

Posted by: John Isbell at November 6, 2003 06:02 AM | PERMALINK

Geez, Kevin:

Don't give Dick "If Hillary Runs, Maybe People Will Pay Attention To Me" Morris any ideas for his next column.

If it is a brokered convention, does that mean that Bill Hemrick of CNN has to do math?

Posted by: Chris Rasmussen at November 6, 2003 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

Is there a rule of thumb for how many delegates a state has? Actually, anyone have a page listing more details of the primary process in general?

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 06:11 AM | PERMALINK

If the electors in the Electoral College were apportioned on a (congressional) district basis, assigning delegates to the convention on a congressional district basis might make some sense. The electors aren't apportioned on that basis, so assigning delegates on that basis doesn't make any sense, either.

Unless people who made up the rules for the convention wanted to increase the likelihood of a deadlock at the convention.

Column in the Boston Globe about some fall-out in Boston from the Tues. rock the vote extravaganza.

Posted by: raj at November 6, 2003 06:23 AM | PERMALINK

One thing Bush had going for him were proxies campaigning for him. So many people trusted Powell, for example, that they put aside the fact that Bush is (perceived as) an idiot.

I wonder if the Dems could do something like that.

Clark / Dean ticket; Edwards to replace Ashcroft; Bill Clinton as Sec. State; Sam Nunn as Sec. Def.

Your dream team?

Posted by: MattB at November 6, 2003 06:29 AM | PERMALINK

Here's another possible outcome of this: Sharpton as kingmaker. He'll easily get +15% in the 35-45 congressional districts that have large African American populations. Perhaps up to 30-40% in some cases. This could give him a nice bloc of delegates going into the convention...making it highly unlikely that he drops out of the race, and forcing the presumptive candidate to tilt left on platform issues right when he should be moving back to the center.

Posted by: cb at November 6, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK

MattB: not mine.

Posted by: John Isbell at November 6, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK

Is the Dem leadership really dumb enough to pick Kerry? No one except Lieberman has had such disappointing buzz. He just doesn't seem to light enough people on fire, and his distortion of Dean's Confederacy comment looked more like spite than a pitch for votes. It's clear he's going to be behind fellow New Englander Dean. The Vietnam Vet deal is getting a little stale, too.

Posted by: Andrew Lazarus at November 6, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK


there's a formula that depends on how many electors a state has, multiplied by how reliably Democratic the state votes.

so New York has somewhat more weight per elector, compared to Alabama.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 06:37 AM | PERMALINK

The fastest way to lose would be to throw it to the guy with fewer votes.

Democrats really don't like that.

Posted by: SamAm at November 6, 2003 06:40 AM | PERMALINK

Andrew Lazarus,

Is the Dem leadership really dumb enough to pick Dean? No one among the serious candidates would run a weaker race against el busho. His supporters' blind fervor is getting a little stale too.

Happily, I think the answer is no.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 06:41 AM | PERMALINK

raj: I was admiring the twisted logic in that Globe piece you link to. My favorite moment: "But because his rhetoric got lazy, and because he is threatening Richard Gephardt in Iowa and Kerry in New Hampshire, he now has Sharpton stopping just short of calling him a racist."
Who knew that Gephardt and Kerry had Sharpton bought and paid for? The Globe: your source for timely campaign info. Then I got to the byline: Joan Vennochi.
Andrew: I agree, Kerry should stop being a Vietnam vet.

Posted by: John Isbell at November 6, 2003 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

So, lert me get this straight:

In the democratic convention, if no candidate gets 50% of the delegates, it becomes a "brokered convention," and thus turns into a free-for-all?

On one hand, it sounds like a dream to political buffs. On the other, it sounds like the official return to the "smoke-filled room" days of the Pendergast gang, which could very well piss off a few of the candidates (I am thinking mainly Dean).

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 06:46 AM | PERMALINK

Coming this August:

Survivor, The Democratic Convention!

Who will be brokered in? Who will be brokered out? Follow the candidates through the Primary Season when they rhetorically flog each other (could this come to blows?!?). Will Dean and Clark form a coalition against Kerry and Edwards? Will Sharpton raise the rhetorical bar to a fever pitch? Will Mosely-Braun shed her polite demeanor and really mix it up? And what about Hillary?

Don't miss the best Survivor since the first one!

Posted by: steve at November 6, 2003 06:52 AM | PERMALINK

This proportional delegate thing combined with the acclerated primaries is really going to keep marginal candidates in the race longer than they would have been in past years. When there are 6 candidates pulling significant support through super tuesday its going to be nearly impossible to get above 50% overall. Getting 50% in any state is going to be exceedingly hard. Plus- this system will keep there from being any kind of consensus pick because no one will be able to build up a commanding lead.

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 06:56 AM | PERMALINK


if no candidate has 50%+1 of the delegates on the first ballot, all delegates become free to vote for any candidate, and ballots continue as long as necessary until someone gets 50%+1.

IMHO, it's a good rule. it forces candidates to achieve majority support in the party in order to get the nod.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 06:57 AM | PERMALINK

Not that it matters this year, is the republican's system the same? Proportional delegates, Super delegates, and a potential brokered convention?

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 06:59 AM | PERMALINK

I've done some analysis, and I think this situation actually favors yours truly.

Posted by: praktike at November 6, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

John I (and others):
No, I meant -- what would be your dream team? Would your dream campaign team be different than your dream governing team?

Posted by: MattB at November 6, 2003 07:22 AM | PERMALINK

Slightly off-topic, but Dean is asking his supporters to vote on whether or not to accept funding (and the spending cap that goes with it), or forego the funding and raise as much as he can. I just received an e-ballot this morning- the buzz is that there is overhwelming support among the faithful to go for it- the campaign thinks it can raise $200 million....

Posted by: peter jung at November 6, 2003 07:24 AM | PERMALINK


There are no "superdelegates" in the republican system. It is also, I believe, winner take all for each state primary.

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 07:29 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP doesn't impose as much uniformity on the state parties as the Dems do with theirs, so they don't have as many nationwide rules for primaries as the Dems. So there are some states that are proportional, others that are more winner-take-all. The overall effect is that the GOP delegate selection system is less proportional than the Democratic delegate selection system.

Also, I don't believe that the GOP uses "super delegates." The Dems imposed the superdelegate rule sometime during the 80s, and from what I remember of it, the CW said it was because party insiders were worried about the primary electorate producing candidates too far to the left, so they created the rule (which essentially means that congressmen, Senators and state officeholders are automatically delegates to the convention) to try to impose some order and restraint. Its never really mattered much (at least in terms of nominating candidate, perhaps it has in terms of coming up with a platform) as one candidate has always come to the convention with a majority.

Posted by: SRock at November 6, 2003 07:31 AM | PERMALINK

Peter Jung,

the buzz is that there is overhwelming support among the faithful to go for it.

don't you folks ever get tired of the cynical, manipulative doublespeak that comes out of Joe Trippi?

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 07:34 AM | PERMALINK

SRock is right about the states, I forgot that. There are winner-take-all, and some proportional.

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 07:36 AM | PERMALINK


For those who want to read through what looks to be like an extremely boring document, I present the 2000 RNC rules:

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 07:38 AM | PERMALINK


until the recent 'reforms', the Democratic party was the same way.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 07:44 AM | PERMALINK

I heard something about Florida wanting to hold a straw poll instead of a primary to determine the delegates. Why is florida allowed to do that if every other state is tied to the same rules?

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 07:46 AM | PERMALINK


'straw poll' means that the results don't count.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 07:48 AM | PERMALINK

Damn this could be fun! And Al Gore as the brokered nominee? Think of the slogans: "Re-Elect Gore in 2004" ; "The PEOPLE'S Choice" Bring it on.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci at November 6, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

I think Clark/Dean is the most likely outcome of a brokered convention. This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think that's our strongest ticket as far as electability. If they go for someone insider-y Gephardt strikes me as more likely than Kerry. I go to school in Mass and it's amazing how little support Kerry has on my campus--Clark and Dean groups are much, much more active & both contain people who were planning to/did work for Kerry at one point. (I did, and he's dropped to my fourth choice. He just has not run a good campaign.)

It's sort of fun to think about, but it would be bad for the party. Even if it doesn't create anger between insiders and outsiders, our nominee will come out bruised and broke in July.

It's worth noting that the campaigns are not acting like they expect a brokered convention. (Or they'd be focusing much more on NY and California and Texas and Illinois, which I think all may be on Super Tuesday this year.)

Posted by: Katherine at November 6, 2003 08:06 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest that we throw our support behind "generic" democrat. This candidate consistently polls best in one-on-one matchups with bush.

Preference for the imagined over the real characterizes the oughts. Michael Moore's "fictitious times."

Posted by: obruni at November 6, 2003 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, what you and any poster speculating here about a brokered convention are ignoring is the reality that the serious candidates who don't win any or enough early primaries will be forced to drop out for that fact and for the consequent drying up of money. In fact, the money factor will likely make two or three of the serious candidacies ready to dry up before we even get to March 2.

The idea that a steady winner of primaries, whomever it may be, is going to take only pluralities of delegates out of those wins just doesn't accord with the reality that candidates who don't win are forced to drop out quickly. The media and the fundraisers see to that.

That's the backstory (as Josh Marshall would say) history behind the lack of a brokered convention in the modern primary era. There have been no second-ballot conventions, let alone brokered ones, since voters began to take the nomination of presidential candidates out of the hands of political bosses starting about 1960.

Posted by: Steady Eddie at November 6, 2003 08:20 AM | PERMALINK

Steady Eddie,

neither party has ever had a straight proportional primary system before.

as mentioned earlier, if this year's rules had been in effect in '72, McGovern would not have had a majority on the first ballot.

i can easily see 3 strong candidates surviving through March 3, and if that happens, we're something unusual.

all that said, if i were a betting man, i'd bet against a brokered convention, but i do think the chances are much higher than you suppose.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 08:34 AM | PERMALINK

Steady- Plus look at it from Sharpton's perspective. Lets say he stays in the race until the end. His campaign costs are not as high as the rest of the candidates so he could do it. He could easily win 5% of the delegates without winning a single state. That 5% could possibly be enough to push Dean over the top for the nomination. That gives Sharpton a LOT of power. The fact that you can win delegates without ever winning a state really should serve as a major incentive to say in as long as possible. Plus, there is only 6 weeks between New Hampshire and Super Tuesday. (do I have that right?) Thats not a long time to keep your head above water especially considering that the longer you stay in the less likely it is that anyone will pull 50%. If you are still in at the end and there is a brokered convention then anything can happen.

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 08:42 AM | PERMALINK


one slight point. after the 1st ballot, delegates are free to vote anyway they like. Sharpton can tell his delegates to vote for some other candidate, but they are free to listen or not.

Posted by: Petey at November 6, 2003 08:47 AM | PERMALINK

Steady Eddie's missing two things: one, the foreshortened primary period; two, the fact that for all his "frontrunner" status elsewhere, Dean polls in single digits in the South and parts of the Midwest. Hence by mid-March, there will likely be three or four candidates who have won significant primaries. Granted, candidates who have won none will come under considerable pressure to drop out, but only the "serious" candidates who aren't going anywhere. If I had to guess today, I'd say two among Edwards, Kerry, possibly Smokin' Joe Lieberman. But with, purely for the sake of argument, three or four still standing post-Super Tuesday, anybody comes close to 50% with proportional voting. Likelihood of a strong anybody but Dean movement gaining force simply for pragamatic reasons. Hard to see him winning the general election.

Posted by: aloysius at November 6, 2003 09:03 AM | PERMALINK

John Isbell,

I really always like your posts and pretty much always agree with you. Can you tell me why you are supporting Kerry? I'm from MA, born and bred, and I really pay attention to politics and I can't stand him. Of my circle of aquaintances in the state only people who *don't* pay attention to politics ask me if they should support him, and that is only because they know he is running but don't know, or don't care, what he says he is running for. People who are marginally following politics here, or seriously following it, prefer either dean or clark. That's just my personal poll, but I've been truly surprised by the lack of local support for Kerry. I'm not surprised that I don't support him--he has consistently done really stupid things, contradicted stances he has taken publicly, and done things his own constituents don't want him to do on Iraq. He has postured and trimmed to fit what he thought was the prevailing wind instead of standing up for anything. In saying that, I don't accuse him of "being a politician" but of being a damned incompetent one. I'm really sorry, because I think his career had great promise at one point.

But my question is: what do *you* like about the guy, and why do you think he is electable if he can't even get his own state to vote for him?


Posted by: aimai at November 6, 2003 09:32 AM | PERMALINK
I heard something about Florida wanting to hold a straw poll instead of a primary to determine the delegates. Why is florida allowed to do that if every other state is tied to the same rules?

(1) The "straw poll" wouldn't determine delegates, it would be a non-binding effort to get the state some clout by having an early event.

(2) "every other state" isn't tied to the same rules, that's why some have primaries, and some have caucuses.

Posted by: cmdicely at November 6, 2003 09:33 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the compressed sched means there's less incentive for candidates to drop out. And if, say, Kucinich, CMB and Sharpton stay in and look like they could parlay repeated 5% performances into any position of power at the convention then mainstream candidates might stay in as well. If things go helter-skelter the influcence of those folks grows (and pressur will rise on all the candidates to stay in and stick up for the wishes of their supporters).

Posted by: SamAm at November 6, 2003 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hah! Nice to kick of an interesting debate. I thought petey had the best points, though I still mostly disagree (speaking as someone who wanted a brokered convention in the four Dem conventions prior to 1992).

Damon -- it's not yet clear that Sharpton is going to pull numbers anything like Jesse Jackson did in 1988, let alone 1984. It's no coincidence Sharpton has said what he has against Dean ever since JJJ gave his endorsement last week. But there have in every Dem primary campaign been non-serious candidates who held on to a block of delegates through the convention, which ended up being inconsequential to the result because serious candidates who didn't win enough released their delegates for the sake of party unity.

aloysius -- the foreshortened primary season is very unlikely to change fundamentally the reality of money and media as forces that will push out serious candidates without more than a win or two after March 2. Not enough wins, no money, no paid media, no free media attention... you're out of there. Your point about Dean -- or for that matter, anyone else -- polling in single digits in various states is similarly insignificant, because early winners of multiple primaries/caucuses always pick up dramatically in the subsequent contests. In fact, almost everyone is polling in single or low teens at most in most states, which is about as significant as Lieberman's current polling in those states or nationally... name recognition at best, which becomes relatively trivial in the face of early contest results, where the front-runners get both unpaid and money for paid media that guarantees their name recognition.

petey -- valid point about pure proportional, but the reality (as I mentioned above) is that you need a bunch of consistent wins to stay in the race with the money to compete -- the front-loading doesn't change that -- and even the serious also-rans who accumulate substantial delegates but don't overtake the front-runner on sheer win totals come under great pressure to release their delegates and support the front-runner. Happens every time. That's why the superdelegates thing ultimately doesn't change things either, because they've got to respect the candidate who wins in their states. Relatively few superdelegates have committed yet, they're not being spread disproportionately to any candidate, and they routinely change commitments to back the front-runner anyway.

Posted by: Steady Eddie at November 6, 2003 09:41 AM | PERMALINK

Eddie's right. Keep in mind, too, the Feiler Faster Thesis that Mickey Kaus has established. The compression of the news cycle means that the compression of the primaries still gives a frontrunner time to emerge and gain momentum.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at November 6, 2003 09:59 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any question that the powers that be, whoever they are, are putting up roadblocks to stop a Dean nomination. When where the primary procedures changed? Isn't it clear to all the savvy that Clark's late entry was purely anti-Dean insider-driven strategy?

Kerry's a cold-fish dead duck, give it up!

The elite don't want Dean, which is ONE good reason that a rank and file YELLOW DOG DEMOCRAT, like myself, does! Look what those dipshits in charge of the party have done since 1996. The response Dean has mustered is as much about the failings of the party leadership as it is about his particular candidacy. In fact, he is too conservative for many of us, but he seems to inspire the sheeple.

I don't think the party leadership really believe that Dean is comparable to Dukakis. I remember that debacle well. I supported Gephardt initially and was loyal when the convention went otherwise. While I voted for him , it was difficult to be an avid and vocal supporter.

Whatever unfolds, Dean won't go quietly into the night, and that I can support with gusto.

Posted by: Tim Lynch at November 6, 2003 09:59 AM | PERMALINK

DEAN won't make it because he's an outsider, and he doesn't have a political State structure in place, in all 50 States.

CLARK's faded from the radar screen. Big, early swoon. Quick recovery. Baggage of the Clinton's? Probably. Given that the Clinton's knew this was going to be a bad year for democrats. And, Hillary is trying to figure out where her best safe harbor, up ahead, will be, during these "perfect storms."

My guess is that she doesn't even challenge the republicans in 2008, for the White House. But either chooses to keep running for her Senate seat. Or, she saddles a run on both, with a run for the governor's mansion in New York. Either/or. She can't win the White House. And, NY could even be a toss up if Guiliani is her competitor in the race ahead which she must make. To keep her seat in the senate. Or to move on. (Will Bill Clinton become Mayor of NY?) The Clinton's aren't dead, politically. But higher office for the democrats has probably been cancelled for decades. Not just years.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 6, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If the journal-lousy'est-predictors have on handle on what the democrats end up doing, the nod for the top ticket spot goes to Gephardt. He wants it. He's on the inside. And, the machinery will work for him.

Why would it work for Dean?

You already know Clark was sent out there to knock him down a peg or two, don't you? What does that tell you about DNC headquarters?

Posted by: Carol in California at November 6, 2003 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Nationwide, what percentage of Democratic primary voters are black?

Posted by: Damon at November 6, 2003 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I see no sign that the situation in Iraq will improve by the time of the convention. The war will be even less popular than it is now. Given that, having voted for the war will be "baggage", which will hurt Kerry and Gephardt. Kerry supporters are deluding themselves if they think otherwise.

The superdelegates are going to want a winner, and aren't likely to back someone who came in third or worse in the primaries. At this point I expect Dean and Clark to be the top two. The superdelegates might feel more comfortable with Clark, if he improves as a campaigner and looks strong. However, if Dean has by far the most massive pile of money (because his followers vote to pass up matching funds, as I expect, and then shower him with cash) as well as first place, it's going to be very hard for the superdelegates to pick someone else. If that someone else then loses, careers might be lost over this.

In any case, the superdelegates aren't going to be voting as a bloc; they will split, reflecting the internal tensions in the party. A Dean/Clark deal resulting in a combined ticket might settle the thing.

Posted by: Joe Buck at November 6, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

The article says there are 700-something superdelegates? Who exactly (besides congressmen) ARE these superdelegates? Are they basically officeholders, former officeholders, and/or party loyalists?

Posted by: mark at November 6, 2003 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The most electable Democrat candidate is Lieberman, followed closely by Clark and Dean. No one else on the Dem side will be able to win the general election. Gephardt, if nominated, will lose the general election for the same reason Dole did in '96 - he's a cynical career pol with too much baggage. Kerry, like Gephardt, also has a lot of political baggage weighing him down, and lacks charisma. Edwards doesn't have enough name recognition or grassroots support, and comes off as a nonentity. Sharpton, Braun, and Kucinich are no-hopers.

Lieberman is the most electable Dem candidate because he has the most credibility on national security. The other Dems can try to build more credibility on that front, but they will have to work hard. If the job market picks up significantly before the election, then the Dems don't have much of a chance, but so far I see no signs of that.

Posted by: Firebug at November 6, 2003 12:53 PM | PERMALINK
Lieberman is the most electable Dem candidate because he has the most credibility on national security.

(1) Its an open question whether National Security or the economy will be a bigger issue.

(2) Its an open question whether Lieberman is "most credible" on the issue, rather than just "most like Bush".

(3) Even if he is somewhat more credible, being
more like Bush gives people less reason to choose him over Bush. The "Bush Lite" image -- accurate or not -- is going to have core Democratic voters staying home or voting Green, and leave swing voters voting Bush because, if you really aren't changing policies, why change leaders?

Posted by: cmdicely at November 6, 2003 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

MattB: in the White House, I'd like Kerry/Richardson, or maybe Kerry/Lewis. On campaign, I agree that Dean has outstanding strengths, and also a couple of weaknesses.
aimai: someone in MA has been electing Kerry to the Senate for 18 years. We differ in that I feel that Kerry pretty much always tries to say what he thinks, stick to it, and do what he thinks is right. For instance, voting for the Iraq resolution. Or, volunteering for two tours in Vietnam, then coming back and founding Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I agree that Kerry is muddy: I suspect that 18 years in the Senate tends to breed waffle into people's bones.
My taste for Kerry is not unique, it is shared by RFK Jr. (environment), Joe Wilson, William Perry, and Gary Hart (national security), Robert Reich (economy), the AFL-CIO (90% voting record), the firemen's and utility workers' unions, 21 members of the House, 4 of the 6 Democratic state senators in NH, Jeanne Shaheen and Harold Ford Jr.
My two biggest problems with Kerry are his stiffness and his tendency to finger-wag. He's no Clinton, but in 2004, he's my choice. I like him quite a bit: a decent, slightly stiff man who's devoted his life to service. I feel entirely confident about him in the White House deciding the fate of the world. You go, boring John Kerry.

Posted by: John Isbell at November 6, 2003 03:19 PM | PERMALINK

The stock market, today, had a big jump. The economy may not be the issue.

And, how the democrats view national security seems to be a foregone conclusion to most Americans, is that they just don't.

Keep it up. The democrats want to be the pacifists of the New Century. While Bush manuevers as well as FDR ever did. Points to Bush.

I doubt if the democrats are heading to score anything. (If this were a football game it would be so outrageously in Bush's favor, that the quarterback could be resting on the bench, and the kid that sweeps the locker rooms could be suited up to have his day in the sun.) In athletics these moments are actually tiring. The audience, suspecting the outcome is not in doubt begin leaving for the parking lot.

So, it's possible that Karl Rove keeps hoping the democrats just keep doing what they're doing ... as it keeps the people in the stands laughing. And, interested in watching the show.

Barbara Streisand's show, though, just bit the dust. I wonder what CBS executives are talking about these days?

Posted by: Carol in California at November 6, 2003 05:09 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone considered that, if it came down to a brokered convention, it WON'T MATTER who wins...

First of all, the media would portray the Democrats as in a state of chaos, which is not helpful when you are trying to portray your party as popular and together, and when you are trying to put out a coherent message. Second, whoever the eventual nominee turns out to be will be viewed as an extremely weak candidate... someone who couldn't even beat the OTHER DEMS in the primary, let alone beating Bush, with his $200 million war chest. Finally, the Democrats would get absolutely killed over the summer, since Bush would be able to use his $200 million to promote himself, but the Dems wouldn't be able to use any money to promote their candidate (since they wouldn't even know who that candidate is).

I'm a right-winger, so take that analysis for what it is worth. But if I were you, Dems, I'd be horrified at the prospect of going through the entire summer without knowing who the candidate is.

Posted by: Al at November 6, 2003 05:44 PM | PERMALINK

I want to see it go down to the convention just for the spectacle. How long has it been since it went to a convention?
The cool thing about dean is his anger and passion. He'd make it interesting that is for sure.

Posted by: Reg at November 6, 2003 06:04 PM | PERMALINK

There will be pressure to resolve the nomination as soon as possible.

Most likely scenario--Dean wins DC, IA and NH and runs the table, perhaps minus some 3 Feb states.

Next most likely--Gep wins Iowa and it takes Dean longer to close the deal.

Next most likely--Gep wins Iowa, but demonstrates serious weakness on 3 Feb. Edwards or more likely Clark emerges as the anti-Dean and Dean volunteers and money don't hold-up against the perception he's lost the mo. The anti-Dean gets the nomination and Dean withdraws late in the process.

It would take an unusual seesaw dynamic to lead to a brokered convention. The Dems don't have the irreconcilable differences of Humphrey and McCarthy in '68 or Wallace and McGovern in '72. The party wants to coalesce behind a candidate and all of the major candidates are basically acceptble.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg at November 6, 2003 08:25 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me there is an important dimension to this that has been missed. In fact, contrary to Al above, I think that a brokered convention could *help* the democrats.

Remember Bush's strategy: raise $200 million. Wait until the end of the primaries, when a winner emerges, battered and broke. Trash him for all he's worth for months while he can't afford to respond. Coast to victory.

But... what if THERE IS NO WINNER until mid-August? Then Bush needs to either try to trash all of the frontrunners... or sit on his $200 million, which won't be good since (if I understand matters correctly) as soon has *his* convention is over and he takes matching funds (as he has said he will), spending limits kick in on him.

So that a brokered convention could hurt Karl Rove's chief strategy for 2004.

What do ya'll think? Kevin? Am I missing something here?

Posted by: Stephen Frug at November 6, 2003 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

John Isbell: "My two biggest problems with Kerry are his stiffness and his tendency to finger-wag."

Better watch out - for a Presidential candidate, those are real deal-killers. The candidate can't come off as too uncharismatic or patronizing. Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, and Gore all suffered in this way. That's why I think Lieberman, Clark, or Dean have a much better chance - these are guys with real fire and ambition, who still come off as not too patronizing to the average American voter.

Carol in California: "The stock market, today, had a big jump. The economy may not be the issue."

The stock market isn't the economy. Sure, the boost is nice for our 401(k) plans, but in the immediate future, the important economic factor will be the availability good jobs. Job growth always seems to be 'just around the corner' and a lot of people are getting really sick of it. Productivity is skyrocketing, but salaries are stagnant and our best jobs are being sent to India and China.

Posted by: Firebug at November 7, 2003 03:52 AM | PERMALINK

At the 2000 GOP convention they changed the party rules to have the state party chairs and national committee members serve as superdelegates. Members of Congress and other elected officials are not superdelegates at the GOP convention

The Democrats have superdelegates for their members of congress, senators and the state party chairs and national committee members. I also believe that former democratic presidents are also superdelegates, but I'm not 100% sure of that.

It is also of note that in some states primaries bind a delegate, but the individual who actually serves as a delegate is selected at a state convention. These delegates are probably more likely to be party establishment types.

In other states the candidate to whom the delegate is bound gets to select who the delegate will be (generally by submitting a slate of delegates before the primary). These delegates are probably more likely to be die hard supporters of that particular candidate.

Posted by: name at November 7, 2003 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Some people are trying (TRYING) to cause a brokered convention. They are also using that strategy to line up superdelegates who would vote for Gore on the second ballot.

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