Monday, February 18, 2008

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

That Clinton Competence - Jason Zengerle @ The Plank
Competence - hilzoy @ Andrew Sullivan
What? There Are Rules? - Matt Yglesias

Three posts from three different bloggers all hitting the web at the same time on the competence of the Clinton campaign. The issue sparking this concern on competency is the Texas primacaucus and the surprising revelation that the Clinton camp had no knowledge of how the Texas delegate system worked until earlier this month. According to Zengerle, Hilzoy and Yglesias, apparently the Clinton campaign was counting on the Latino vote in the southern sectors of Texas as a sort of 'firewall' against Sen. Obama. Unfortunately, the way the Texas primacaucus works, it favors more urban area such as Dallas and Houston, which to add insult to injury, hold a large black population. Now, I'm not sure what the standing is in cities like San Antonio, which is predominantly Latino, or Austin, which is distinctly liberal but has a large student population.
The main problem for the Clinton camp though, is that Latinos have traditionally shown a low turn-out during primaries, something that figures heavily into the number of delegates the next primary allocates. Each precinct receives a certain number of delegates that are dependent on the previous two primary elections. So if a precinct had a low turn-out in the last two primaries then that precinct will receive fewer delegates this time around. Moreover, during the last primary in 2006 there were two independents running for governor; one coming from the Republican side and poaching Republican votes, and one, Kinky Friedman, coming from nowhere to poach independents and Democrats. So the delegate count for most precincts is lower this election cycle than in previous cycles.
That the Clinton campaign never took the Texas system into account when boasting it as a firewall state speaks more to their ignorance, and yes, competence, than their ability to predict and adapt to changing circumstances. They had a plan that started and ended with Super Tuesday and have done nothing but scramble ever since. I do hate to say this since I don't think the comparison is completely accurate, but the actions of the Clinton campaign ever since Super Tuesday have reminded me a great deal of the Bush administrations reaction to the changing circumstances on the ground in Iraq. That is to say, the Clinton campaign has gone into a serious bout of denial about Sen. Obama's chances while maintaining their own superiority. Well, after learning about their recent education on the Texas delegate system, I have to say that superiority is seriously mistaken.

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