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Caveat Emptor

Stephan Ohlenmacher of Associated Press notes that Obama used party rules to foil Clinton

WASHINGTON – Unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, rival Barack Obama planned for the long haul.

Clinton hinged her whole campaign on an early knockout blow on Super Tuesday, while Obama’s staff researched congressional districts in states with primaries that were months away. What they found were opportunities to win delegates, even in states they would eventually lose.

Obama’s campaign mastered some of the most arcane rules in politics, and then used them to foil a front-runner who seemed to have every advantage — money, fame and a husband who had essentially run the Democratic Party for eight years as president.

“Without a doubt, their understanding of the nominating process was one of the keys to their success,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist not aligned with either candidate. “They understood the nuances of it and approached it at a strategic level that the Clinton campaign did not.”

Careful planning is one reason why Obama is emerging as the nominee as the Democratic Party prepares for its final three primaries, Puerto Rico on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday. Attributing his success only to soaring speeches and prodigious fundraising ignores a critical part of contest.

Obama used the Democrats’ system of awarding delegates to limit his losses in states won by Clinton while maximizing gains in states he carried. Clinton, meanwhile, conserved her resources by essentially conceding states that favored Obama, including many states that held caucuses instead of primaries.

In a stark example, Obama’s victory in Kansas wiped out the gains made by Clinton for winning New Jersey, even though New Jersey had three times as many delegates at stake. Obama did it by winning big in Kansas while keeping the vote relatively close in New Jersey.

And this is how Obama has learned to win, eliminating people in primaries, which meant he has never faced a real opponent in a general election, because in Illinois lately, the Democratic primary is the election. Read the whole thing and learn how delegates are apportioned, and there is nothing vague democratic about it.

Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston of CNN’s AC 360° go back to the root of this strategy in Obama played hardball in first Chicago campaign

In his first race for office, seeking a state Senate seat on Chicago’s gritty South Side in 1996, Obama effectively used election rules to eliminate his Democratic competition.

As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.

The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.

“That was Chicago politics,” said John Kass, a veteran Chicago Tribune columnist. “Knock out your opposition, challenge their petitions, destroy your enemy, right? It is how Barack Obama destroyed his enemies back in 1996 that conflicts with his message today. He may have gotten his start registering thousands of voters. But in that first race, he made sure voters had just one choice.”

He uses the rules to eliminate competition in the Democratic primaries, but he is actually going to face real opposition in the general election, and he has never had to do that before. He is a machine politician, and nothing more.

12 comments

1 hipparchia { 06.01.08 at 12:14 am }

from the cnn article:

He said the Obama team challenged every single one of his petitions on “technicalities.”

If names were printed instead of signed in cursive writing, they were declared invalid. If signatures were good but the person gathering the signatures wasn’t properly registered, those petitions also were thrown out.

i’m all for breaking roolz, civil-disobedience-style, if the rules are egregious or stupid, and if breaking them results in a greater good for ‘the little people’ for lack of a better term. which is why i applauded his florida ‘slip-ups.’ this kind of thing though, you called it — attacking the voters? not kosher.

so, the promise of change, of a different politics, isn’t a lie. he’s substituting chicago-style for washington-style.

2 Bryan { 06.01.08 at 12:22 am }

He’s a machine politician. This may work in party primaries, but it isn’t going to hack it in a general election. Running against Alan Keyes as the emergency fill-in candidate in his Senate race is all the general election experience he’s got.

Apparently the party leaders think that he is the one, just like John Kerry was the one in 2004.

3 Michael { 06.01.08 at 12:39 am }

I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

4 LadyMin { 06.01.08 at 12:45 am }

Bryan… you’re right. And you don’t even live in Chicago! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it firsthand.

5 Kryten42 { 06.01.08 at 12:53 am }

Yup Bryan! LadyMin and I just said the same thing before you started this thread! 🙂 Is that synchronicity? 😉 LOL

6 Frederick { 06.01.08 at 11:23 pm }

…and he’s still not going to face a real opponent in this go ’round either. He was the better candidate during the primaries and he’ll be the better candidate during the general election, hands down. I’m surprised, I was expecting to come here and see a more conciliatory post regarding the fact that Florida’s votes were fairly seated despite your earlier predictions. I was afraid that was going to be the case.

7 Bryan { 06.01.08 at 11:37 pm }

Conciliatory about what, the DNC helping the Republicans screw us over again?

I’m out of it, and have been out of it since February.

Obama is a machine politician, and nothing more. For the first time in his life he’s going to actually have to compete in an election, and there’s no way of knowing if he can.

As long as only Florida and Michigan were punished, there is nothing fair about the process.

8 Frederick { 06.02.08 at 9:48 am }

That is a totally irrational position. This flies in the face of all the explanations I’ve heard from you in the past as to why you were upset. Michigan and Florida were dealt with fairly, Florida retained it’s proportional representation and the plan put forth by the Michigan State party was approved. It leads me to believe there is something more to it than the hollow charges of “Machine Politician” thrown at Obama. In any case, helping the Republicans win in such a crucial state as Florida is your solution? Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

9 Bryan { 06.02.08 at 10:42 am }

Frederick, if you remember my Primary Day post, you would note that I was encouraging people to go to the polls, without regard to the Presidential primary because of a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Thanks to the DNC decision that no votes would be counted, Democratic turnout in Florida was below normal and the amendment passed, despite needing a 60% majority.

I explained about the real reasons for the Republicans changing the date of the primary in All Politics Is Local.

What they did on Saturday doesn’t “fix” anything for the people of Florida – we are screwed by that amendment, and the DNC helped the Republicans do it.

If Florida were a “crucial state”, the DNC wouldn’t have screwed us like they did unless they were totally incompetent. They are totally incompetent, and they are pushing a candidate with no real qualifications to take over the Presidency at a time of great turmoil in the country. I won’t help them.

Obama is nothing more than a machine politician. If you look at him closely you can see that he is a facade and nothing more. His “policies” are the same failed policies that are responsible for much of the current mess because his advisors still believe in them.

I’m not helping anyone do anything. The Party I have supported since 1964 screwed me over, and the results are their fault. This election was theirs to lose and they found a way to do it.

Any solution that only punishes 2 of the 5 states that broke the rules is not fair, and the Michigan solution isn’t even possible within the rules, so it will be fought out at the convention.

The powers that be want Obama, well he’s theirs. Now they have no one to blame but themselves for the result. Instead of Clinton 2.0 they have selected Bush 3.0 with a better speech program.

10 Michael { 06.02.08 at 12:25 pm }

Barack Obama had nothing to do with Florida’s property tax reduction. If your favored candidate had won the nomination, you wouldn’t be abstaining in November. That whole argument is a complete red herring.

What you’ve got left is a slur against Barack Obama, that he’s a “machine politician,” and it’s meaningless. Hillary Clinton has every bit as much of a political machine, and so does every successful candidate.

11 Bryan { 06.02.08 at 1:33 pm }

Michael, my candidate, Al Gore, wasn’t even running.

It may come as a shock to you, Michael, but some of us actually have principles and stand behind them. Obama is the choice of the DNC which most definitely is responsible for what happened, and his campaign has blocked every earlier attempt to resolve the issue.

Clinton at least created her own machine.

Being called a machine politician is only slur because you believe that he is something more. He isn’t. He got to where he is today because there was a political machine behind him, to promote him faster than anyone else. If you look at what he has done, you realize it isn’t because of any great accomplishments – there aren’t any.

Obama and Clinton are both Republicans with a D behind their names. They are center right politicians with nearly identical voting patterns since they have been in the Senate together. Their foreign policy positions are pure Republican.

Don’t blame me because I stand by my principles, that is part of the package.

12 Michael { 06.02.08 at 2:17 pm }

The DNC is the Democratic party, like it or not. I’d respect your decision if you felt you needed to support the Green candidate, because the Democratic party has never been left of center.