Winning in the Democrats' Convention

Karl Rove:

After the last Democratic Primary is held in early June, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will have enough votes from delegates elected in caucuses or primaries to be declared the nominee. Obama would have to win 76 percent and Clinton 98 percent of the 535 delegates that are at stake in the final eight contests. Neither will happen.

Both sides are frantically wooing the 330 uncommitted superdelegates, who will decide the race. Obama supporters emphasize that he's ahead in the popular vote and argue that superdelegates should respect the wishes of the primary voters (except in the states he lost, of course). They suggest Obama would do better with independents and Republicans in the fall; they argue Hillary Clinton is a flawed, secretive candidate who was wrong on Iraq and dissembles about her experience. Clinton partisans point to her victories in big battleground states and say superdelegates should act in the best interests of the party. They paint Barack Obama as an inexperienced, untested, overly ambitious candidate with a thin résumé who will fall to the Republican attack machine.


Rule #1: Control the Convention Mechanism. If you set the rules, decide who votes, organize the event and control what is said, it's almost impossible to lose. So while Democratic National Committee chief Howard Dean is ostensibly in charge, both candidates would be well advised to gain control of the levers of the convention.

Three committees are key. The Rules Committee is where trouble can begin. Someone will come up with a smooth-sounding rules change that will give one candidate the advantage or the appearance of having a majority of the delegates. There will be an early test vote: the key is to pick what it is and win it. It's likely to be obscure—the election of a temporary chairman, say—or contrived. But it will establish who's in charge.


Rule #2: Watch the Platform. Party platforms were once the most important statement of the presidential campaign. No more. But they can still get you in trouble with your own party, or with the public....


Rule #3: It's All About Delegates. Delegates are political junkies. This is their moment in the spotlight. Don't take them for granted. Make every effort to attend to their every legitimate (and legal) need. By now your campaign should have a massive set of binders with information on every delegate—their birthday, pet peeves, hobbies and interests. If not, get them started.


There is much more.

While Rove's rules make sense the facts on the ground do not favor Clinton.

Think of the party convention as a giant caucus. Obama has won virtually ever engagement in that format. Just look at Texas where Clinton won the popular vote, but Obama carried the most caucus delegates. While that fight continues and Clinton had her forces engaged at this weekend's senatorial district conventions Obama still appears to have prevailed.

It is not from lack of organization and effort that Clinton is failing. Obama supporters are overwhelming the caucuses with political passion that she has not been able to match and that is unlikely to change in Denver.

Hillary Clinton's best hope is further implosion like that caused by Rev. Wright. There is still much to mine in that vein if they are courageous enough to challenge the hatred of black liberation theology.


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