Primary Controversy, Not Yet Solved


The DNC's working group charged with examining and retooling the Democratic presidential nominating process is moving forward with some recommendations, CNN reports, having produced working off a draft document that suggests grouping primary and caucus states by "region or sub-region," with the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina retaining their earliness, convention perks being used to incentivize sticking to the schedule.

Democrats were not happy with how controversy over the Florida and Michigan delegates ran through the primary season in 2008, with lots of party anger directed toward Chairman Howard Dean, who was, essentially, stuck in the position of having to decide what to do after the two states moved their primaries up ahead of the party-specified time, seeking greater power in the process.

With the initial suggestion that the votes wouldn't count anyway, Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan, and neither he nor Clinton campaigned in Florida...confused talk of splitting Michigan delegates, and the looming decision of the DNC Credentials Committee (with Obama vs. Clinton tensions running high) were a huge story until Obama sealed things.

But there's another controversy the working group has yet to sort out: superdelegates--the 800-plus lawmakers and party elites (out of over 4,000 total delegates) that propelled Obama toward the nomination after he successfully courted their endorsements, despite some standing affiliations with the Clintons--and what to do with them. As Reid Wilson notes, this will be a major showdown.

If Obama hadn't won the states as convincingly, the story of 2008 for Democrats would be a failed and disastrous nominating process that allowed elite members of the party to choose a candidate, leaving the party torn between Obama-ites and the once-prominent PUMAs, the Clinton folk who didn't much care for the other team, or the way things had played out with the selection process.

Without a Democratic win in '08, rancor would have exploded. Dean might have had to move to Canada.

And it's not as if superdelegates will necessarily want to give up their privileged status. But Democrats are lucky that they're sorting all this out in a year with very little pressure on them, as President Obama is expected to seek the presidency again in 2012 with no Democratic challengers on the horizon. Trying to iron this out with top Democrats jockeying for prominence might not be as easy.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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