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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Mrs. Clinton Goes to Denver

June 3, 2008

Hillary Clinton continued her winning ways in Puerto Rico yesterday trouncing the presumptive Democratic nominee by over a 2-1 margin. Not since Jimmy Carter lost 8 of his final 11primaries back in 1976 has a perceived Democratic nominee limped so badly to the finish line. It’s unclear whether Clinton’s recent strong showings will make any difference to the remaining undeclared super delegates. Most think not.

Meanwhile, earlier over the weekend the national Democratic Party awarded one-half vote for each delegate in the Florida and Michigan delegations that will be seated at the national convention in Denver. Montana and South Dakota primaries will be held on Tuesday and that could bring an end to the primary process for the Democrats.

Or will it.

Clinton now has every right to make a full case for her candidacy not only to the super delegates but also to the delegates at the convention itself. Clinton disagrees with the National Democratic Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee decision on Florida/Michigan but has yet to disclose what her next step might be. She could challenge the ruling by appealing directly to the delegates at the Denver convention in August.

There are plenty of reasons to fight the Florida/Michigan decision and the Clinton campaign will remind delegates that it was Obama who steadfastly refused to agree to a redo primary in those states once it became apparent that a primary redo would play a critical role in determining the delegate winner. Many believe the Obama refusal was based on the lone fact that he couldn’t win in those primary states.

Many want the process to end, and Obama is poised to announce on Tuesday that he is the Democratic nominee. Clinton, will say, not so fast. It isn’t over.

History has shown that taking matters directly to the delegates at the convention is a viable option. In 1976 the Reagan campaign broke with the longstanding tradition of waiting until the nominations were over to inform the delegates who his vice presidential running mate would be.

Reagan pre-selected U.S. Senator Richard Schweiker from Pennsylvania as his running mate in an effort to sway uncommitted northeastern delegates to his side. The Reagan campaign made this issue the cornerstone of their convention floor fight in Kansas City – called Rule 16-C – whereby delegates would have the right to know the choice of President Ford ‘s running mate before the delegate balloting for President got underway. Reagan lost the floor fight and ultimately lost the nomination by 70 votes.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter went to the New York Democrat Convention with 1,764 delegates – 100 more than needed to capture the nomination over Senator Ted Kennedy. But Kennedy did not quit the race and did not concede the election. He went to the convention and fought on.

Kennedy argued at the New York convention that he had gotten stronger as the primaries went on and that delegates should be able to reassess their choice. Kennedy proposed a change in convention rules -  Minority Report No. 5 – to "Keep it Open" enabling delegates to be free to vote for whomever they choose - even on the first ballot regardless of who they were pledged to.

While Clinton has not yet asked for an "open convention" she, like Kennedy in 1980, came on strong as the primary process developed, and as Kennedy did, is arguing that she is the strongest candidate for November. In that respect, Minority Report No. 5 is eerily similar to what Senator Clinton is arguing today.

Former Senator George McGovern, an Obama supporter, who is now calling on Clinton to quit, said in part the following 28 years ago to the convention while arguing in favor of Minority Report No. 5:  "I would say to my fellow Democrats who are now backing the President for nomination, you need not fear an open convention. If President Carter in nominated by an open convention that is free to make its judgement on the basis of conscience and convictions, it will better serve the election chances of the President and the Democratic Party.

Minority Report No. 5 was hotly contested but Kennedy lost the vote on the floor 1,936 to 1,390. Two hours later that same evening Senator Kennedy conceded the nomination and delivered his famous ‘The Dream Shall Never Die’ speech which captured the hearts – if not the votes – of the 1980 convention.

Two nights later, a little known Governor from the state of Arkansas named Bill Clinton spoke to the convention delegates, saying in part, "I became a Democrat many years ago because of the values and influence of my wonderful grandfather who ran a country store in a black neighborhood in a small town in southwest Arkansas. But I remain a Democrat today because of my love and concern for the welfare of my six-month old daughter".

He went on, "I know in my soul whatever the faults of our party, whatever anyone can say, this administration and this party offer her a better hope for a safe, and prosperous, and good, and decent world than the alternative. And I mean to do what I can to take that message to the American people."

A contested convention is not the end of the world.

Many remember, the dream shall never die.