Monday, January 28, 2008

This is campaigning?
Well, I suppose that depends on how you define 'is'!

Democratic party leadership was confronted with a problem. There was movement afoot to break with tradition and question the established wisdom of New Hampshire and Iowa's influential place as the earliest contests in the primary season. There was pressure to change the subsequent schedule of primaries through "Super Tuesday" and beyond, as well. Some larger delegate-rich states argued that their primaries deserved earlier, more prominent attention, while smaller states countered that their more intimate politics served as the better early vetting, or dress rehearsal, for the larger elections.

When Florida and Michigan defied the DNC requests to schedule their primaries only after Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina had voted —and not before "Super Tuesday," the committee countered by asking for a pledge from all leading candidates not to campaign in those states.

The party found itself trying to referee the electoral elbowing and looked to the leading presidential candidates for help.

The Edwards campaign obliged with a statement, saying that the four established early states "need to be first because in these states ideas count, not just money. This tried-and-true nominating system is the only way for voters to judge the field based on the quality of the candidate, not the depth of their war chest."

This is from Mark Barabak of the L.A. Times: Hours later, after Obama took the pledge, Clinton's campaign chief issued a statement citing the four states' "unique and special role in the nominating process" and said that the New York senator, too, would "adhere to the DNC-approved calendar."

Richardson, Dodd and Biden followed suit in the pledge not to campaign.

That was September of last year, back when Senator Clinton of New York was commonly referred to as "the front runner" and led comfortably in the polls.

On January 15th of this year, shortly after losing in the Iowa caucuses and then recovering to edge out Obama in New Hampshire, the Senator from New York won the Michigan Democratic primary. Strangely enough, she was the only one of the top candidates in the race with her name on the ballot. Clinton staffers were quoted as saying that actually removing herself from the ballot, as candidates Obama and Edwards had done, was seen as "unnecessary" and "that it needlessly disrespected the voters of Michigan."

The Senator from New York took 55 percent of the vote, as opposed to the mere 45 percent turnout for "Uncommitted."

Things didn't go so well for Senator Clinton in South Carolina this past weekend. Everybody was on the ballot. Everybody was campaigning. Heck, even the family members joined in.

No, the results for the Clinton Campaign weren't so good Saturday and suddenly, that pledge not to campaign in Florida had to be viewed in new light. The light of narrowly parsed distinctions, of equivocating semantics, that ever so careful definition of terms. Hillary Clinton wouldn't be "campaigning" in Florida, per se —no, but she did announce she was traveling to Florida so that "voices" there would be "heard."

She went on to point out she plans on attending an event Tuesday night in Florida —not a campaign event, not exactly. It's an election night "party" to thank the people who've worked for her in the state ...where she's not campaigning. You get the distinction, don't you?

Here's this from Saturday, from Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director:

"Regardless of today's outcome, the race quickly shifts to Florida, where hundreds of thousands of Democrats will turn out to vote on Tuesday.
Despite efforts by the Obama campaign to ignore Floridians, their voices will be heard loud and clear across the country, as the last state to vote before Super Tuesday on February 5."

It seems Senator Clinton has re-examined the pledge her campaign made last Fall. There's a new lens we have to view the situation through. That lens focuses on one thing: the end result. She offers this as a new take on the theme of inclusive politics:

"The votes of the people of Florida and of course Michigan really matter to me. I am running to be the president of our entire country."

It doesn't seem to matter to the Senator from New York that "the people of Michigan" voted in the kind of single candidate election we generally frown upon when they are held in places like Iraq or Venezuela. It doesn't matter that her team is now focused on a campaign that it once pledged would not exist.

It's that "vote" that really "matters" to her for one and only one reason. The situation has changed. That party consensus on a fair schedule for the primary elections is something from the past, from a simpler time, from back in the day when she was called the front runner.

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