Mark Bubriski, the Florida Democratic Party's spokesman, doesn't like how I described the party's January 29 vote, which won't allocate any delegates to the Democratic convention.

Florida’s January 29th election is not a “beauty contest” or a “straw poll.” On January 29, 2008, there will be a fair and open primary election run by the State of Florida at the cost of $18 million, which will maximize voter participation. Labeling this event anything but an ELECTION is disrespectful, inaccurate and misleading. The nation will be watching, and the results of Florida's Democratic primary will likely impact the race. Florida Democrats will be allocating our delegates based on the Jan. 29 results, and we are confident that the eventual nominee will seat all 210 of these delegates.



Far be it from me to offend my home state, but by calling it a "beauty contest," I simply recognize reality, which is that the Democratic National Committee is the controlling legal authority over delegate selection.

Lest you think Florida Democrats will martyr themselves to get back at Howard Dean, there's a chance that the Democratic vote in Florida will effect perceptions of the race going into February 5, especially because the media will probably not be able to ignore the spectacle of millions of Democrats voting ... covering the mechanical story itself lend some legitimacy to the Democratic winner.

Of course the accumulation of delegates is material to the nomination, but in January and February, it somehow occupies -- or has occupied, historically, -- the back seat. Perception drives the story forward. The DNC bets that delegate counts will matter more this year than they have, especially if the candidates begin to split the vote. At some point, one candidate will cross a momentum threshold -- having won enough delegates -- and the nomination will be secure.

Florida Democrats, by hold a non-binding -- ok, there's a more neutral phrase -- primary, assume that their delegates will be restored before the convention (true), and that candidates and the media will mentally add Florida delegates to their score after Jan. 29, even though those delegates haven't been awarded yet.

Not be opaque, here, but we are literally dealing with a structuralist language problem.
Do delegates "exist" before they actually exist? Or do they come into being when the candidates summon them? And if they're taken away before they can be awarded, and later returned, where do they go in the meantime? If you can answer those questions, then you'll know whether Florida will matter or not.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.