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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

An Early Start on Nominating Process Reforms

Amidst this week’s veep-o-mania, and preparations for the Democratic National Convention, an item of potentially long-term significance slipped into the Washington Post today, in Dan Balz’s report that the Obama campaign will ask the convention to create a Democratic Change Commission to review the presidential nominating process.
According to Obama campaign chief David Plouffe, this commission (to be appointed by DNC Chair Howard Dean) would be instructed to propose ways to reduce the power of superdelegates; to come up with a primary/cacusus calendar that reduces “front-loading” and eliminates Super Tuesday-style megaprimaries; and to set conditions on the power of state parties to hold caucuses rather than primaries.
The first item on this agenda, of course, reflects the sudden rediscovery and potentially awesome power of superdelegates this year. The second and third involves longstanding demands of reformers who think the current state-driven nominating calendar is crazy and capricious, and too distorted by low-turnout caucuses.
Maybe I’m being Machivellian here, but I suspect Team Obama is interested in introducing these reforms on their merits, but is quietly establishing the means for accomplishing them in the guise of accomodations made to Hillary Clinton supporters to keep them quiet and happy in Denver. The forces supporting the current chaotic system (well-positioned state parties generally, and “gatekeepers” like Iowa and New Hampshire in particular) may well have their guards down at this particular moment. If Obama wins in November, he will be in an excellent position to ram through truly significant changes in the nominating process. And now he will have the vehicle for them.

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