Democrats to Fashion Deal on Delegates

Washington Matters

Democrats to Fashion Deal on Delegates

Democratic bigwigs had hoped not to get involved in a potential delegate mess until after the primaries, keeping their fingers crossed that the voters will have made their voice heard loud enough that neither side would try any shenanigans. No such luck. Look for a deal that would stop an escalating battle over delegates and eventually define the proper role of superdelegates.

A few respected party veterans, such as Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Vice President Al Gore and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (the broker of the Irish peace accord and judge and jury in the baseball steroid mess) will eventually press the Obama and Clinton camps to agree to a ceasefire in the hunt for delegates, at least those not up for grabs in upcoming contests. No more pestering superdelegates around the clock. No going after delegates pledged to the opposing candidate.

A story on today that suggested Clinton was preparing to seek support from some of Obama's pledged delegates set off exactly the kind of furor Democrats want to avoid. (Delegates selected in primaries or caucuses are pledged to a candidate and expected to vote that way at the convention, but they are not strictly bound to honor that pledge.)

A final deal with the blessing of the Democratic National Committee may admonish all superdelegates against thwarting the will of the voters and likewise warn pledged delegates to vote according to the results of  their state's primary or caucus.

All this is good news for John McCain. The longer the Democrats are engaged with each other, the more time McCain has to try to unite disparate bands of the party and get head start on appealing to independents and moderates nationally. That's all the more true if Democrats are not able to settle their differences and a real internecine feud breaks out.