UPDATE/REQUEST: If you participated in a caucus -- in Texas or anywhere else -- would you please email me at vichy at safe-mail.net? Please do so whoever you supported, and whether your experience was good or bad; I just want to learn more about what's been happening on the ground. Thanks! TDS.
I'll flesh this out later, but this is big news: the Clinton camp just called a press conference, which I attended telephonically, to accuse the Obama Texas campaign of "statewide systemic" abuses of the caucus process. They've "lawyered up" -- had a lawyer on the call -- and are expressly keeping open the possibility of legally contesting the Texas caucuses long into the future. Among other things, they claim that Obama supporters have stolen caucus materials and chairs needed by Clinton supporters, "taking control" of caucus sites, and locking out "long lines" of Clinton supporters to ensure the caucuses go Obama's way. They also confirmed that they will press their delegates to insist that the Florida and Michigan delegations be seated at the DNC convention in August, WITHOUT the revotes that everyone besides the Clintonites are urging as a fair way to honor those voters without being unfair to candidates (Obama's name didn't even appear on the Michigan ballot, but Clinton wants those delegates).
It was just a few hours ago, but I did predict this exact scenario unfolding before all these claims of scurrilous behavior slammed into the media machine like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900:
The Clinton camp seems intent on building a "record" of supposed campaign violations in Texas, which is critical to them and which they're very afraid they'll lose, so that they can file a lawsuit challenging the results and then use that as an excuse to stay in the race even though it hurts the party ("we can't drop out now, we don't even know how the courts will rule in Texas").
Why do I think they're intentionally manufacturing a lawsuit? Easy: they've pretty much said so. They had their surrogate -- a teacher's union strongly backing Clinton -- file a frivolous lawsuit, quickly dismissed, in Nevada. They've threatened to file suit to seat the Florida delegation that Hillary herself previously said shouldn't be seated. (The Wall Street Journal foresees that one going to the Supreme Court -- an even more conservative Supreme Court than the one that selected Bush President in 2000.) And they "lawyered up" long ago in Texas, though they tried to deny it once word got out.
If real evidence comes to light, I'm willing to change my mind, but at this point I'm not buying Clinton's claims of widespread terrorism by Obama supporters, for several reasons. These include:
1) Obama's done outstandingly well in almost all caucus states so far this election, and was on track to do similarly well in Texas tonight. His campaign has no reason to cheat to win the caucus portion of the Texas nomination process.
2) Unlike earlier contests, the Clinton camp had large numbers of lawyers lined up in Texas far ahead of tonight's "emergency" press conference. Texas was their "firewall" state, they "lawyered up" to protect it just like Bush did in Florida in 2000, and all they needed was a claim -- real or fake -- for those lawyers to go to work on.
3) Pressure has been building on Hillary to withdraw gracefully if she lost EITHER Texas or Ohio. Bill Clinton said she needed to win both; Chelsea Clinton said she needed to win both; James Carville said she needed to win both; and the delegate math clearly shows that she needs, not just to win both states, but to win them by 5- to 8-point margins to make any significant inroads into Obama's delegate count. Contesting one or both states' elections tonight (and I do mean both -- legal action in Ohio is the other shoe I'm waiting to drop) is a good way for her to stall while she continues to run the (increasingly effective) negative campaign she's been running against Obama for the past few weeks, and to try again for a big win in another large state, like Pennsylvania -- or even as an excuse to string things out all the way to the Convention in August, when she'll try to leverage superdelegates and the Michigan/Ohio contingents into a brokered victory that upsets the popular vote.
The big thing to remember: this isn't just a press conference about some election irregularities; it isn't more negative campaigning against Obama; it's the first salvo of all-out war, and I'm absolutely sure it's Step One of a full-fledged plan to stall Obama's clearly winning the nomination at least until the Pennsylvania primary and probably until the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August, where Clinton intends to manipulate superdelegates and the Michigan and Florida delegations into a nomination victory that overrides the popular vote. I only hope the mainstream media understands the big picture, or at least has a glimmer of good old fashioned journalistic cynicism, instead of doing Clinton the unearned favor of reporting it at face value.
Update: early media reports coming in. In no particular order: The Oregonian; Wall Street Journal; Slate (conference call transcript); MSNBC; Washington Post (Obama's representative was very reasonable on the conference call, by the way -- not like it sounds); Update 3/5: CNN (election results, laudably NOT biting on Clinton's presser yesterday). Question remains: since it IS about the delegate count, and Clinton's "comeback" yesterday didn't really eat into Obama's delegate lead, will she still go on the warpath over the TX caucuses? Even if she decides to sit pat for now, we're going to see repeats of the lawyers-guns-and-money approach to every close contest from here on out, and to the Convention -- which means a drawn-out primary season, more negative campaigning from her side, more boosts to McCain as the Dems tear themselves apart, and very possibly a Republican victory in November.
As I said, I'll flesh this out, but wanted to put the news out there a.s.a.p.
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