Clinton Camp Pushes Ahead With 2210 Argument

05/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman Howard Wolfson acknowledged that the campaign had recalibrated the metric by which they are using to decide the primary race.

Arguing that the nomination should be determined by which candidate had won 2210 delegates as opposed to 2025 -- the latter number does not include delegates from Florida and Michigan -- Wolfson argued that overwhelming turnout in those two states merited a reconsideration.

"I think there was every expectation throughout this process that we would not have a significant outpouring of support for the Democratic Party from Michigan and Florida in their primaries," he said. "I think that the political world was shocked by the fact that so many people were coming out despite [the fact that they weren't sanctioned]."

Turnout in those states were indeed historic. But the Clinton campaign wasn't always making the case that Michigan and Florida's delegates should be brought into consideration when crafting a primary finish line. Weeks after those two states ran their elections, in fact, surrogates for the New York Democrat were still citing 2025 delegates as the decisive number.

Take for instance, these three quotes, turned up by Mark Nicholas at Political Base:

February 14: "The goal of both campaigns is to get 2,025 delegates. That could take into the summer for either campaign," said Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway. "Both campaigns are having to keep forward deploying resources as the process keeps moving."

February 14: "Neither campaign is in a position to win this nomination without the support of superdelegates," said Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton's press secretary. "No one is going to get to 2,025 [the number needed for nomination] without the superdelegates."

February 17: "Let's put this a little bit in perspective. There are about 40 delegates separating Senator Obama from Senator Clinton, about 1 percent of the overall number. That's essentially a tie. None of the candidates--neither of the candidates will get to the number needed to secure the nomination, 2,025, without the support of superdelegates."

As the reporter who quizzed Wolfson on his methodology noted, if the Clinton campaign was persuaded by the Michigan and Florida turnout to change the winning delegate total from 2025 to 2210, why did they continue using 2025 weeks after those two states voted?

Wolfson said that the Senator and her aides had long argued for the inclusion of Florida and Michigan results, and added that the Clinton campaign had begun using 2210 only after the "element of challenge" to the DNC's sanctioning of those two state's primaries had come into play. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet on May 31 to weigh in on the fate of those two states.

"We are on the side of maximum participation we are on the side of letting any vote count," he said.

Indeed, it was around May 5 when the Clinton campaign began using the 2210 metric. Geoff Garin, on a conference call with reporters, called the figure the "standard" by which the nominee would be decided.

And yet, lost in the debate is whether or not raising the number would make any difference. As noted by a diarist on MyDD, if Obama hits 2025 before the Rules and Bylaws Committee meets, 2210 won't make much, if any, difference.

Let's look at how Obama got to 2025. He needs 159 more delegates... let's say he gets 60 from OR/KY/WV (a pretty achievable goal) and 25 from add ons (again low balling his likely total), and 74 superdelegate commitments after he clinches the pledged delegate lead.

So he's at 2025, the rules committee meets, and says FL and MI counts in full. He's doomed, right? Wrong. Remember, Obama is going to get some of those delegates. Michigan's recent plan - not the Obama camp's plan mind you, but Michigan's - would give him 59 delegates. In Florida, he earned 67 delegates. So immediately he'd be at 2151. He also has 6 superdelegate commitments from those states (5 from MI, one from FL), so he's be at 2157. Moreover, the elections aren't over. Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota would still vote. Of those 86 delegates, Obama would receive close to 40. That gets him to 2197.

So with conservative assumptions, even with MI and FL counted in full, Obama would be within [13] delegates of the nomination with 164 superdelegates left to commit (remember the number is higher because I'm giving FL and MI their superdelegates).

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