Friday, April 18, 2008

The Credentials Committee and "The Dean 25"

Depending on how the next handful of nominating contests go for the Democrats, the Florida/Michigan situation may once again be resurrected (In fact, Michigan Dems are going ahead with their delegate selection process despite the DNC sanctions.) and prove crucial to the outcome of the party's nomination race. In the UGA Campaign Discussion Group on Wednesday, the issue of the Credentials Committee and its role in deciding the fate of those delegates from Florida and Michigan was raised. This 186 member group is comprised of 1) party members from the states based on each state's primary or caucus results (not clear whether the results are from this cycle or from the past) and 2) party members appointed by the chairman of the party. There are 161 of the former and 25 members appointed by DNC chairman, Howard Dean. This committee is a completely separate entity from the Rules and Bylaws Committee that opted to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates for violating the contest scheduling rules in their delegate selection plans. The "make an example of them" approach may not be felt as intensely in the Credentials Committee as it was in the Rules Committee. However, "the Dean 25" (as Avi Zenilman of Politico is calling them) may have something to say about that.

The question though, is, are these appointees in lock step with the positions Howard Dean has taken on the Florida and Michigan question. One thing that the Politico analysis fails to examine directly is when these appointments were made. They do come to the conclusion that these Credentials members may not be beholden to what Dean wants. But if these appointments were made when he became chairman in 2005, there's no way this was even an issue in the appointment decisions. Like everyone else then, these folks are faced with having to choose between Clinton and Obama. And just like in the primaries and caucuses and just like with the superdelegates, there is a pretty even split in who members of the Credentials Committee appear to backing. Based on the "hints" information in the Politico piece, eight support Clinton, eleven favor Obama, five are neutral and one has donated to both and favors the 50 state strategy under which Dean has the party operating. Obama then, has a slight edge with five or six members holding all the power. Even if that 50 state strategy backer opts for Obama (And as FHQ has speculated, Obama puts more states in play on the electoral college landscape than Clinton, with the result of promoting the strategy more effectively.), the Illinois senator only has 12 of the 25 members of the committee in his corner. The other five would all have to break for Clinton though to give her an edge.

Is that good news for Florida and Michigan? Probably not. But it won't necessarily be because of the Credentials Committee bowing to Dean's desires on the matter.

I still feel like the party will quietly punish Florida and Michigan, but will ultimately strip half their delegations as called for in the original rules for 2008 delegate selection. But that will only be "quiet" if Florida and Michigan are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things in this nomination race. However, predictions are made to be broken in this primary season. So don't hold me to that.


Robert said...

The campaign is getting increasingly nasty -- between Obama and Clinton and between both of them and McCain. Forget what I said about an Obama/ McCain election being an election fought on the issues with the candidates avoiding the politics of personal destruction. Both candidates are slipping into the "gotcha" trap. Obama will not be able to use that card if he proceeds along the track he has pursued since the debate.

Josh Putnam said...

I'm curious to see if Obama's recent foray into negative campaigning is just a function of the proximity to Pennsylvania and if it will dissipate after Tuesday. My reading of this is that once you start it is difficult to stop. The real question is, is Obama desperate to end things now in PA? That may be driving some of this as well.

I can already see your response, Rob:
"But going negative has backfired during this cycle."
It has, which makes this move even more interesting.

Robert said...


You know me too well. I am going to need to get a psuedonym. I think I owe an apology to Stone Walls. He may have been right after all.

If you read between the lines in the latest PA polls, it looks like Clinton is picking up steam at the expense of Obama. Hard to tell if it is "bittergate", the debate or something else. It is too early to be picking up the negative campaigning. A loss of less than 5% in PA, a win of more than 10% in NC and a win in IN would wrap it up for him. He seemed to be on the edge of achieving that according to the pre-debate polls. Now he seems to be letting her back in. A win of 10% or more in PA, a loss of less than 10% in NC and a win in IN by her will make it very difficult for the super-delegates!

Josh Putnam said...

I think "bittergate" and the debate are one in the same. The latter has been interpreted as an extension of the former (whether that's accurate or not).

Things are too jumbled right now to go about setting the goals for each candidate in IN and NC (it was much clearer before the weekend). I'm going to have to hold out and make my assessment of those percentages after PA tomorrow.

But yes, the Clinton scenario you describe would make things difficult indeed for the superdelegates.