Dean’s Fix

Jason Horowitz has a great write-up of a Democratic fundraiser last night, featuring angry Clinton supporters and a testy Howard Dean. When donors raised the issue of seating Florida and Michigan delegations,

Dean said that in his view, the question could be settled only after the primaries had finished in June, and after the superdelegates had made their decision.

At that point Clinton campaign finance chair Hassan Nemazee spoke up. He said Dean’s response sounded to him as if the DNC chairman were “essentially trying to kick the can down the road” and that the chairman was not exhibiting the type of leadership one would expect. Nemazee said that since the campaigns obviously could not reach a solution on their own before June, Dean’s argument amounted to passing the buck.

Dean then responded, heatedly, that in his experience, those who sought the intervention of party leadership were motivated by their own particular agendas. And that was not the sort of leadership he intended to provide.

This illustrates the problem we talked about the other day: Dean thinks he can broker a “compromise” on the issue, without recognizing that the two campaigns have no common ground whatsoever. Either the states’ delegates get apportioned in a way that influences the election, or they don’t. So no matter what, if he forces a decision, it’s going to look like he’s taking sides.

You can see why he wants to stonewall. By waiting until after the primaries, Dean increases the chances that Florida/Michigan will be a nonissue. If one of the candidates may have dropped out by then, he or she will gladly seat the delegates.

You can also see how much this helps Obama. Not only does Clinton need their delegates, but Florida and Michigan are key to her case to superdelegates that she should win the nomination. Without official recognition that the two contests counted, she’ll have trouble arguing that her victories there mattered—not to mention lumping their votes into the popular vote tally. (It’s a tough case, anyway, seeing as Obama wasn’t on the Michigan ballot.)

So in that sense, “kicking the can down the road” isn’t a perfectly neutral stance—it ends up slightly favoring Obama.