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Publication: Conservative Review
Democratic Stalemate

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               THE CONSERVATIVE REVIEW   
                  February 5, 2008
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Democratic Stalemate
By Robert D. Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Terrence McAuliffe, the multimillionaire 
wheeler-dealer imposed by the Clintons on the Democratic 
National Committee as its chairman after the 2000 election, 
quickly paid back his benefactors. He designed a front-
loaded primary system intended to confirm Sen. Hillary 
Clinton as presidential nominee by Feb. 5. Contrary to 
expectations, however, no choice will be made for months 
and perhaps not until the national convention at Denver in 
late August. 

There is no mathematical possibility of Mega Tuesday ballot-
ing in 22 states tomorrow for 1,681 delegates -- labeled 
the first "national" primary -- giving either Clinton or 
Sen. Barack Obama close to the 2,025 delegates necessary 
for nomination. That unexpected reality is produced by 
Obama's appeal, Clinton fatigue and extreme proportional 
representation adopted by the Democratic Party. 

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The nation's two political parties have reverted to form 
after appearing to have exchanged identities. Democrats 
a year ago seemed to be emulating Republican practice in 
settling for an early anointed candidate, Sen. Clinton, 
while the divided GOP field resembled historic Democratic 
practice in the absence of an incumbent president. 
Republicans, who traditionally abhor competition, are 
ready tomorrow to crown Sen. John McCain as their nominee. 
Democrats will still be battling. 

The full consequences of adopting proportional represent-
ation three decades ago finally will be realized by the 
Democratic Party. In 1972, supporters of Hubert Humphrey 
protested George McGovern's winner-take-all capture of the 
huge California delegation that clinched the presidential 
nomination. Appalled at being called majoritarians, 
McGovernite liberals adopted proportional representation. 
For the next seven presidential elections, Democrats have 
avoided its impact creating a stalemate, in the absence of 
a prolonged two-candidate contest. 

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Under proportional representation, a candidate collects 
delegates by achieving the 15 percent viability level 
either statewide or in a congressional district. In a 
four-delegate district, Clinton could win 59 percent of 
the vote and still split the delegates with Obama, two 
to two. The impact of California consequently is dissipated 
in view of polls showing Clinton's former double-digit 
lead cut in half. Although she can win handily in New York 
and New Jersey, Obama will be first in Illinois and smaller 
states, and is strong in barometric Missouri. So, the 
supposed national primary will settle nothing. 

Nor, because of delegate division, is it guaranteed that a 
nominee would be selected by March 4, in the Texas and Ohio 
primaries, or even by April 22, when Pennsylvania votes. 
Many of the 796 "super delegates" (unelected prominent 
Democrats) can remain undecided. Finally, Clinton will try 
to restore Florida and Michigan delegates purged from 
convention rolls for scheduling their primaries too early 
-- primaries that she won virtually uncontested. That 
raises the specter of rival delegations from those two 
states arriving in Denver, prompting an old-fashioned 
credentials fight. 

Before that happens, the issue may be settled by either 
Clinton or Obama emerging as the clear popular vote winner 
in the primaries and clinching the nomination while short 
of a majority of delegates. But that begs the question of 
why the issue is still in doubt. McAuliffe, now the Clinton 
campaign's national chairman, calculated that front-loading 
would make his candidate the de facto nominee by now so 
that full time could be devoted to attacking the 
Republicans and raising funds against them. 

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The answer can be found in the surprising list of senators 
who endorsed Obama after Clinton won the New Hampshire 
primary: Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, 
Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Ben 
Nelson of Nebraska and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. 
McCaskill is the least prominent of the group as a fresh-
man, but she has attracted favorable attention during her 
first year in the Senate as a principled independent. She 
was campaigning hard last week for Obama in Missouri 
against her sister senator. 

Senatorial support of Obama helps explain why the McAuliffe 
plan failed. In addition to habitual Democratic resistance 
to being controlled, many colleagues simply do not trust 
Clinton. They complain that in Thursday's debate from Los 
Angeles she repeated that she opposed the Levin amendment 
to the 2003 Iraq war resolution because it would "sub-
ordinate" U.S. decision-making to the United Nations. It 
did not, and Clinton made no such claim until her 
presidential campaign. That kind of performance has helped 
build the stalemate. 

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