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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Spirit and Letter of the Florida Boycott

For all the focus on the Republican competition in FL today, there’s an interesting story a-brewing on the Democratic side.
As you probably know, the Democratic National Committee stripped MI and FL of their votes at the Democratic Convention in August on grounds that the states violated the ban on pre-February 5 primaries, other than the sanctioned contests in IA, NH, NV and SC. More importantly, the DNC orchestrated a candidate boycott of campaigning in the two states, though HRC appeared alone on the ballot in MI and all the remaining candidates are on the ballot in FL.
Best anyone can tell, Clinton has scrupulously hewed to the letter of the boycott in FL, traveling there only for private fundraising and eschewing any public campaign activity. But she’s certainly violated its spirit, by (1) openly appealing to FL primary voters by pledging to fight for the seating of their delegates, and (2) holding an election night event in FL where she plans to claim victory in the supposed non-event. Obama has not followed her in either of these actions, and continues to maintain that the FL primary is meaningless (not that his campaign would likely ignore an upset win, if that somehow happened against all odds).
But ironically, the Clinton campaign is now claiming (reports TNR’s Noam Scheiber) Obama has violated the letter of the boycott by putting up a national cable TV ad that will be viewed in parts of FL.
If the chattering classes buy this line of attack, it will represent a pretty good exercise in damage control by the Clinton campaign, whose efforts to elevate the FL results over those in SC took a big hit when Obama won by a surprisingly large margin in the Palmetto State.
But all this speculation may miss an issue of considerable importance for the long-range future. Remember that the whole point of the MI/FL boycott was to protect the IA-NH duopoly control of the first phases of the nominating contest. Having crossed the Rubicon by championing the MI/FL scofflaws, Hillary Clinton is unlikely to stand up for IA and NH’s future status if she wins the nomination and then the presidency. Indeed, the competition-driven maneuvering over Florida could wind up inadvertantly changing the nominating process for many years to come, to the consternation of Iowans and New Hampshirites and the delight of their many detractors.
Moreover, to get very speculative about it, the big irony is this: having fought for ages against the argument that they are too racially homogenous to represent the Democratic Party, the duopoly’s increasingly slim hopes of survival may now depend on the nomination and election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. If that’s right, there may soon be some NH Democrats who regret their intervention in what might have otherwise been an irresistable Obama march to the nomination.
Go figure.

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