1984 All Over Again?

Chris Bowers and Patrick Ruffini agree, so it must be true: The Democratic race will come down to a competition for superdelegates. In Sunday's Times Magazine, Matt Bai looked back on the last time that happened:

I recently got a short history lesson about this from Gary Hart, who pointed out what he called “eerie parallels” between his near-upset of Walter Mondale in 1984 and Obama’s campaign against Clinton. Not least among them was that Clinton had actually gone back and unearthed Mondale’s signature line: “Where’s the beef?” (It came from a Wendy’s commercial that was all the rage at the time, but it’s doubtful that anyone under 30 had any idea what she was talking about.) Hart reminded me that by beating Mondale in the California primary, just weeks before the convention, he denied the former vice president the delegates he needed for the nomination. Had it not been for the existence of the superdelegates, who lined up behind Mondale, Hart could actually have swiped the nomination.

“Lee and I called every one of the superdelegates personally,” Hart recalled, referring to his wife. “She talked to a woman in Kentucky who said: ‘I want to vote for your husband, but my husband works for the state highway department. And I was told that if I didn’t vote for Mondale, he would lose his job.’ It was hardball at that point.”

It won't be the same kind of hardball this time around; as Bai notes, we've come a long way from the age when institutional loyalty and establishment-enforced lockstep made all the difference. But it will hardball all the same. And I can't wait to see what happens.