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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dem elders attempting to "head off" convention fight

Super delegates are at the heart of the problem:

The New York Times is reporting that Al Gore and a number of other senior Democrats are remaining neutral for now in the presidential race in an effort to leave open the option to broker a peaceful resolution to what could be a bitterly divided convention this summer. The issues party leaders are grappling with include how to avoid the perception of a back-room deal that thwarts the will of millions of voters who have cast ballots in primaries and caucuses, which could cripple the eventual Democratic nominee’s chances of winning the presidency in November. The group of 795 party insiders known as super delegates are at the root of that problem.

A number of senior Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi, have spoken with Gore in recent days. Pelosi, who is officially maintaining her neutrality, stated "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided". She added that the nomination should not be decided by delegates from Florida and Michigan allocated on the basis of voting in primaries there last month. Neither candidate actively campaigned there and Mr. Obama was not even on the ballot in Michigan. Both states had been penalized for holding their primaries earlier than the party wanted by stripping them of their delegates to the convention. “We can’t ignore the rules which everyone else played by,” Ms. Pelosi said.

Party insiders describe Al Gore as a potentially crucial mediator because the putative head of the party — and the man who chose him as his vice president — Bill Clinton, is hardly a neutral observer when it comes to his wife’s candidacy. He’s probably the only unaligned person with the kind of stature to step in to that role and have a real impact on this. Although Mr. Gore has expressed concerns about the damage a brokered convention could cause, he remains hopeful that one candidate will soon break through, sparing the party such an outcome. He recently commented that his decision not to endorse “feels like the right thing” and that he remained optimistic the race “is going to tip at some point."

Senior party officials had actively consulted him for his advice about what the super delegates should do if neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs. Clinton amasses the 2,025 delegates necessary to win the nomination after the final Democratic caucus in Puerto Rico on June 7. Gore’s bruising defeat in 2000 presidential voting in Florida gives him the credibility with Democrats to carry the message that the will of the people should be respected.

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