Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Clinton threatening to sue over Texas' primary results?

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Clinton campaign has raised the specter of a legal challenge to the results of next Tuesday's primary in Texas. The threat was apparently explicit enough that the state party chair felt the need to warn both camps that doing so would be extremely damaging to the enthisiasm of Democratic voters.

[Via Marc Ambinder]

Democratic sources said both campaigns have made it clear that they might consider legal options over the complicated delegate selection process, which includes both a popular vote and evening caucuses. But the sources made it clear that the Clinton campaign in particular had warned of an impending lawsuit.

"Both campaigns have made it clear that they would go there if they had to, but I think the imminent threat is coming from one campaign," said one top Democratic official, referring to the Clinton campaign. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another Democratic official who was privy to the discussions confirmed Clinton representatives made veiled threats in a telephone call this week.

"Officials from Sen. Clinton's campaign at several times throughout the call raised the specter of 'challenging the process,' " the official said.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said Clinton's political director, Guy Cecil, had forcefully raised the possibility of a courtroom battle.

But Adrienne Elrod, Clinton's top Texas spokeswoman, said campaign and party officials had merely discussed election night procedures and that the campaign was merely seeking a written agreement in advance.
The issue is reportedly the delegate allocation process in Texas whereby the winner of the popular vote could actually end up with fewer delegates due to weighting in more heavily-populated urban areas.

But even though Hillary's campaign only discovered this a few weeks ago, much to their shame and despair, it wasn't a secret. A little research would have kept them from getting caught flat-footed.

The rule was precisely one of the reasons that Obama mounted such a formidable ground game in Texas - he made plans to exploit the process fairly to his advantage.

The emphasis on organizing -- which has helped the campaign harness enthusiasm about Obama and propel a nationwide political movement -- has been one of the keys to Obama's success so far. Beginning with the 23 caucuses and primaries on Feb. 5, Obama has steadily built a delegate lead by simply playing to win just about everywhere the calendar took the campaign. Hillary Clinton's wins have been blunted by Democratic Party rules that award delegates proportionately -- and Obama racked up blowout wins in states where Clinton never gave him a serious run.

Obama's winning streak left Clinton aides floating a line of spin that has flown about as well as the Hindenburg: "Well, of course he won there -- he tried to." Now, grass-roots organizing could wind up being the deciding factor in the campaign, unless Clinton surprises and pulls out big wins in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont next Tuesday.
If Hillary really is planning to contest the results in court should she come out on the short end, it will destroy her candidacy. Nobody likes a sore loser. And after all her rhetoric about the "disenfranchised" voters in Florida and Michigan, it would be inexcusable for her to try to overturn the results in Texas, especially when the threat to sue comes before a single vote has even been counted.

If she isn't really planning to sue, then she had better get her people to keep their stupid mouths shut. She doesn't need a bunch of yahoos making her look like some lawsuit-happy malcontent when she's in the middle of the political fight of her life.