I've been a huge fan of Rachel Maddow since the star-crossed launch of Air America Radio back in early 2004. She is now the last host standing from Air America's initial slate, and also the only host to emerge from the network who has successfully cracked the mainstream media bubble -- she is a regular commentator on MSNBC, and last Friday was invited back for her second stint guest-hosting Keith Olberman's Countdown.
Her radio program -- the best news show on the radio -- has been linked to in the "Redeye Newsfix" portion of the sidebar since back when her show was broadcasting at 5 AM Eastern. It now airs 7-9 PM most places -- but the best way to get it is to subscribe to the free podcast, courtesy San Fransisco's Green 960AM. (What you want is Hours Two and Three, which are 100% Rachel -- Hour One is a simulcast of MSNBC's Race to the White House.)
In addition to being an incredibly astute political commentator (Rhodes scholar, D.phil in political science) and entertaining radio host, Rachel is also a serious classic cocktail aficionado, one who is, like all right-thinking drinkers, especially partial to the whiskey drinks. So yeah, basically I am completely smitten with her, which is inconvenient as we are both taken, and also she is a lesbian.
Anyway, last night on her show, Rachel broke with format to deliver a long, incisive, and chilling analysis of where the Democratic race is headed if we don't have a candidate before the Rules and Bylaws Committee meets on May 31. If that happens, then the process ball will start rolling on the question of what to do with the results of the disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida. And once that ball starts rolling, it essentially cannot be stopped until the Democratic National Convention in late August.
I think Rachel is essentially correct -- Hillary Clinton has shown no intention whatsoever of dropping out of the race, and shows every sign of using the uncertainty her campaign has created around the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegations as justification to take this fight all the way to the convention in Denver. That means that unless something incredibly dramatic happens with the superdelegates over the next nine days, we are in for three and a half more months of infighting, with no official Democratic candidate, culminating in what is sure to be a bloodbath on the convention floor.
I do not think this scenario bodes well for the eventual nominee's chances versus John McCain in November.
Here is Rachel's post on this, which outlines her argument in detail:
The Clinton strategy, as best as I can tell, is to stay in the race. You can't win if you don't play -- conceding the nomination is sure defeat, not conceding means there's still a chance.
The way for her to avoid conceding is for her to avoid conceding that the race is resolved.
As long as the Florida and Michigan dispute is alive, and it is being used as the basis of Clinton's claim that the nomination is unresolved, we should expect that Senator Clinton will stay in the race.
We should also expect that if the Democratic Party's committee system takes up the Florida and Michigan dispute through its rules as they stand now, Clinton's campaign will be able to keep the Michigan and Florida dispute alive until the convention. If there's a secret Democratic-insider plan to keep that from happening, it's time for that plan to become un-secret.
The pundit corps has been counting Clinton out and saying the race is over -- but saying it doesn't make it so.
If Clinton fights to stay in until the convention -- which seems utterly plausible to me -- then I believe the Democratic Party's nominee (Obama or Clinton) will lose the general election to John McCain. This last point is of course infinitely debatable -- but my take is that in November, the party that's had a nominee since February/March, beats the party that only got a nominee the last week in August.
There appears to be one, slim hope remaining to avoid this nightmare scenario:
[I]f the Democrats are to avoid a divided convention, the Florida and Michigan dispute will have to be taken off the table -- settled in a way that avoids the risk of a rules dispute that stretches the nominating contest out through the convention. I can think of only one way to do that, but there may be others.
Here's my way: based on my read of NBC's delegate math, I think if the Clinton campaign won 100% of what they wanted on the Florida and Michigan dispute, Obama could still clinch the nomination -- even according to the most pro-Clinton math -- if 90 of the remaining 210-or-so undeclared superdelegates declared for Obama.
If they so declared before May 31st, the Rules and Bylaws committee would have no reason to take up the Florida and Michigan dispute because it would be a moot point -- Obama's camp could concede every Clinton demand on the subject and still win the nomination.
Rachel concludes by noting that the last three disputed conventions -- in 1968, 1972, and 1980 -- were complete electoral catastrophes for the Democrats. I really don't think we can afford to go 0 for 4.
UPDATE: Well, okay, sure, that is one way we could avoid a disputed convention. I'm not sure it would exactly be my first choice...
Seriously, Hillary, WTF?
Especially coming on the heels of this.