Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Will Hillary beat the popular vote?

When it came to the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton might have been forgiven for thinking she would lead the pack. As an immensely popular senator and wife of an equally popular former president, she was clearly the top dog amongst perennial also-ran John Edwards and a relatively inexperienced African American senator called Barack Obama.

But right from the get-go, Barack Obama showed Hillary that the road to the White House would not be as smooth as she might have imagined. First winning the Iowa caucuses, the charismatic senator has since been neck and neck with Hillary – threatening to sledgehammer her presidential campaign before it even begins.

But the game isn’t over yet – and although Obama and Hillary are pretty much even in terms of the delegates they have won over in the state primaries, when it comes to the Democratic National Convention (where the Democratic Presidential Nominee will be declared) Hillary has a powerful ace up her sleeve.

The so-called ‘Super Delegates.’

Representing almost 20% of the Democratic decision makers are the ‘Super Delegates,’ including former Democratic presidents (such as Hillary’s husband, Bill) and elected representatives, like New Jersey governor Jon Corzine. In a race that’s so far been evenly matched, when it comes to making the ‘big decision’ it’s likely that these Super Delegates will be the ‘king makers’ who finally decide who gets the crown (and the backing to run for the White House.)

And amongst them, Hillary Clinton has a distinct advantage.

While Barack Obama’s straightforward and charismatic style has made him enormously popular with ‘regular folk,’ politics is a dirty business and Hillary is waist deep in it. She and her husband have long standing political allies within the Super Delegates. Considering what a cunning and tactical politician she is, I’m sure she’s counting on their help to tip the balance in her favour.

What concerns me is that Barack Obama might well win over the popular vote – establishing himself firmly as the Democrat’s favourite to run for the presidency – only to have his chance squashed when Hillary calls in her political favours and steals the nomination right from under him at the National Convention.

That would be a real shame – and a disaster for the Democratic party. Obama has won the hearts and minds of a broad spectrum of American voters and if Hillary cynically sunk his campaign at the last minute, it would be a clear message to the people of America that a Clinton administration would always value political expediency over the voice of the people.

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