Whither the superdelegates now?

posted at 9:15 am on April 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

In my earlier post, I failed to identify the big loser from last night’s debate. It wasn’t Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and it certainly wasn’t ABC, despite the general spleen-venting on the Left. Superdelegates lost last night, and the pressure now will build on them to make a decision from which most of them hoped to escape.

Superdelegates exist in the Democratic party for one purpose: to invalidate the popular vote when disaster looms. Most of the media has ignored this as campaign activists from across the spectrum have demanded that superdelegates honor the decision of their constituents. If the party wanted that, superdelegates wouldn’t exist at all. They would simply have pledged delegates attending their August convention, and the constituencies would have their votes recorded accordingly.

The DNC deliberately created the college of superdelegates and made them 20% of the convention for a purpose. They wanted to block a narrow victory by a train wreck of a candidate who would lose the White House in a landslide. The debacle of George McGovern prompted it, and Jimmy Carter’s disastrous loss to Ronald Reagan provided the final impetus for such a structure. And in this race, regardless of the rest of the vote, superdelegates will have to provide the nominee with the margin of victory, since neither Hillary nor Obama can mathematically win enough pledged delegates to sew up the nomination.

After last night’s debate, the superdelegates have to ask themselves whether they are rubber stamps or whether they serve a purpose. Obama had already kneecapped himself with his Crackerquiddick comments in San Francisco, alienating a large portion of middle America with sneering comments about Midwestern voters “clinging” to religion and guns because they hadn’t had enough federal intervention in their lives, and all but calling them bigots in the same breath. Last night, when challenged on those remarks, he did nothing to reverse the damage:

And so the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington’s not listening to them, when they’re promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn’t, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

People don’t “focus” on religion because Washington doesn’t listen to them. People “focus” on religion because they have faith in God. Obama said exactly the same thing he did in San Francisco, changing “cling” for “focus” — and this is after having most of a week to develop a response.

Afterwards, when asked about his years-long political association with unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers, Obama tried equating the Weather Underground bomber with Senator Tom Coburn:

The fact is, is that I’m also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn’s statements? Because I certainly don’t agree with those either.

I doubt Senator Coburn will remain friendly with Obama after equating him to a terrorist because of a policy dispute. Coburn wanted to pass a law through legitimate democratic and political means; Ayers tried to terrorize people into policy changes by blowing up buildings, for which he remains unapologetic to this day. Does Obama really see no difference between the two? And if not, what does that say about Obama?

On policy, Obama turned out to be just as incoherent last night. He couldn’t specify where his payroll-tax expansion would hit, couldn’t explain how capital-gains tax increases would work, and offered (along with Hillary) the laughable notion that local communities could override Constitutional rights, as long as it was only the 2nd Amendment that was under consideration. It was an unmitigated, wall-to-wall disaster.

If superdelegates weren’t aware of Obama’s spectacular weaknesses before last night, they know them now. Under pressure, Obama looks lost and sounds unprepared. He will have no time to prep against John McCain in the fall, whose own personal narrative trumps Obama’s and whose lengthy track record in the Senate dwarfs the meager accomplishments of the one-term Senator from Illinois. The train wreck appearing on the horizon may have a scope approaching 1972 or 1984, even without the hurdle of incumbency.

Will the superdelegates act on their responsibility to avoid that? Or will they essentially make themselves irrelevant?

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