Democrats kneecap Hillary, themselves, in Florida and Michigan

The revote efforts in both Florida and Michigan have ground to a halt, thanks to divisions in the party at both state and national levels. That will keep Hillary Clinton from claiming extra delegates and a late surge in momentum, both necessary to convince superdelegates to overcome the pledged-delegate gap and nominate her for the presidency. The Wall Street Journal’s June Krunholz argues that it also burdens the Democrats by eliminating a potential means to resolve the primary impasse that they created:

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidential nomination were deeply wounded by the apparent collapse of do-over primaries in Florida and Michigan this week. The other big loser may be the Democratic Party.

With five months to go before the national convention, party leaders still hope voters will settle the nomination by leaning decisively toward one candidate or the other in the remaining 10 primaries. The party’s superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders who aren’t bound by vote results, could then follow the popular lead. With the nomination wrapped up, the party could seat the Florida and Michigan delegates and avoid angering voters in two states that are important to a Democratic win in November.

A muddled outcome in the remaining primaries could force any decision about the nomination onto the party’s nearly 800 superdelegates or the 186-member committee charged with settling delegate disputes, and then onto the convention floor.

Florida may not present as much of an issue as Michigan, or at least it shouldn’t. All of the candidates were on the ballot for the Florida primary, and all of them followed the no-campaign edict from the DNC in about the same measure. However, the effort to seat the Florida delegates will undoubtedly touch off a floor fight with the Obama campaign, which will give up close to 40 delegates of its lead if Florida succeeds. That alone could rupture the convention and create chaos in Denver.

Michigan is even worse. Obama played by the rules and took his name off the ballot. Now he wants Michigan’s delegation seated with an even split between himself and Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t help Hillary at all, nor does it represent any kind of reflection of Michigan’s actual intent. Neither does Hillary’s 55% of the votes from a ballot without Obama’s name on it. The credentials committee will infuriate a large portion of the delegates regardless of which decision they reach, especially since it appears that Obama himself frustrated the effort to schedule a new Michigan primary.

Yesterday, pollster John Zogby threw another element into the fire when he claimed that an effort had begun to draft Al Gore as the nominee with Barack Obama as his running mate. Supposedly, the Obama campaign sees this as preferable to being Hillary’s running mate, although for what reason, no one can guess. That would mean that the Democrats would nominate someone who received no votes at all during the primary process and make Obama the person who connived in a back-room deal to cut Hillary and her supporters from a shot at the nomination from the convention floor.

Yeah, sure. That would be helpful. If Obama’s campaign is really considering this — and I find it highly doubtful — they’d be signing the death warrant for Democratic chances in 2008.

The Democratic primary has become a game of chicken, and no one wants to blink first. Even when options are available for resolution or at least clarification, both sides refuse to choose anything but a head-on collision. And that’s exactly what they will get in Denver.