From reader Martin Johnson:
Barring a dramatic change in the campaign narrative (possible, but
unlikely) the primary/caucus system won't resolve the nomination. The
superdelegates will make the decision, which will hurt the Democratic
party for two reasons:
1.) The longer the campaign runs, the more likely it is that the
candidates will attack each other, hurting the eventual victor in the
general election. (Particularly a problem because any attack
Obama/Clinton make will then be legitimized so it can be turned against
them in the general election.)
2.) Given the fact that many of the superdelegates owe their political
fortunes to the Clinton's, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which
Obama comes out the victor without major bloodletting. And if Clinton
gets the nomination as a result, it will further damage her general
What's the solution? A superdelegate straw poll.
The DNC (or a similar group with some political weight) could require
all superdelegates to vote on an agreed upon date (a few days after
Wisconsin, which has traditionally served to decide nominations, might
be best). While their votes would be non-binding (it could even be
secret if necessary), it would give Democrats a sense of where the party
stands, and will probably make one candidate or the other a real
front-runner, with a 100-200 delegate advantage.
After that vote, the subsequent primaries (Texas/Ohio, Pennsylvania if
necessary) could choose to either accept or reject the momentum produced
by the superdelegate straw poll. So, if the superdelegates break for one
candidate, the other candidate could use those primaries to reject their
vote, and, if necessary, there could be a follow-up poll after March 4
to reassess. Pennsylvania could serve as another referendum, but by that
point one of the two could probably put together enough committed
superdelegates to secure the nomination.
Of course, this isn't entirely democratic, but it seems more so than the
alternative, and given that the superdelegates do represent the
leadership of the Democratic party (particularly those that are elected
officials themselves) this seems to be the way to get to a nominee more
quickly without officially changing any of the rules. Even if Clinton
pulls ahead after the vote because of her institutional advantages,
having at least a few major states (particularly the swing states
Pennsylvania and Ohio) weigh on the decision would go a long way toward
What do you think?
Marc Ambinder is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.