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Always looking for an edge

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Rick Horowitz
January 29, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Soon Enough—In a move certain to roil the already contentious battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton called today for further adjustments in the party’s delegate-selection procedures.

Speaking to a noontime rally here, Mrs. Clinton urged that delegates from states holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday be allocated, at least in part, on an alphabetical basis. Specifically, she suggested that, if any state’s name begins with the same letter as any candidate’s name, then that candidate be awarded all the delegates from that state.


“This is a way to make sure that voters’ voices are really heard,” Mrs. Clinton explained, standing in front of a giant banner filled with the word “Solutions.”


“They deserve the chance to support candidates who truly understand their situation. What could be fairer than that?”


The Clinton camp has already called for delegates from Michigan and Florida to be seated at the Democratic convention, despite an earlier decision by party officials to strip both states of their delegates for violating primary-scheduling rules—and despite the candidates’ agreement not to campaign in either of those states.


This latest proposal, if approved, would dramatically alter the terrain for the critical cluster of Feb. 5 primaries and caucuses, although the Clinton camp sought to characterize the plan as a matter of “voter equity.”


Under the proposal, Mrs. Clinton, whose last name begins with a “C,” would automatically receive all 60 delegates from Connecticut, all 71 delegates from Colorado, and—the biggest prize of all—all 441 delegates from California.


Former Sen. John Edwards, whose last name begins with an “E,” would receive no delegates, while Sen. Barack Obama, whose last name begins with an “O,” would receive only Oklahoma’s relatively meager allotment of 47. While Ohio and Oregon are also “O” states, neither will be voting on Super Tuesday; the Clinton plan apparently applies only to that day’s voting.


“That’s just the way it worked out,” said Howard Wolfson, the campaign’s communications director. “Some other year, it might come out a different way altogether.”


Anticipating criticism for seeming to shift the rules in the middle of the game, Mrs. Clinton tried instead to tie the move to her overall campaign themes.


“I’ve said all along that only one of us is really committed to change,” she told the crowd. “This is just another example.”


Spokesmen for the Obama and Edwards campaigns were struck momentarily speechless upon hearing of Mrs. Clinton’s proposal. Even after they regained their voices, they declined to be quoted.


Other Democrats, however, were not so reluctant, although none would agree to be quoted by name.


“They just don’t know when to stop, do they?” said one senior party official, referring to both the candidate and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.


“Didn’t they always used to talk about ‘work hard and play by the rules’?” sniffed a longtime Democratic strategist. “Well, they’re half right.”


Mr. Clinton, meanwhile, was campaigning in Tennessee, where he scolded a reporter from a Nashville television station who asked about Monday’s endorsement of Mr. Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy—an endorsement motivated at least in part, reports indicate, by Sen. Kennedy’s growing distress at questionable campaign tactics by the Clintons.


“You’re loving this, aren’t you?” Mr. Clinton responded, his face reddening. “All you people are about is stirring things up—you just love putting me on the ropes.”


Asked by another reporter whether his outbursts might be harming Hillary Clinton’s prospects, either for gaining the nomination or for prevailing in November, Mr. Clinton shot back, “You leave my wife out of this!”


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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