The Friday Political Thread: Get Ready for President's Day Edition


Sometime tomorrow I'll be on the America's Future Foundation podcast, right here.

The Week in Brief

– Barack Obama and John McCain swept the Virginia, Maryland and DC primaries: Only McCain had any trouble, winning by only 9 points in the commonwealth.
– In Maryland, Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and Democratic Rep. Al Wynn were defeated, by surprisingly large margins, by challengers more in step with their parties.
– Mitt Romney endorsed John McCain; John Edwards' circle let slip that the ex-candidate might endorse Hillary Clinton.

Larger Issues

The Big Lie. I'm not counting Hillary Clinton out of the presidential race, but it's sad what her apparatchiks have been reduced to. Unless they romp in the March 4 primaries, they'll have to count on unelected superdelegates to erase Obama's lead and secure the nomination for her. And voila: Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton friend and spinner, writes at the HuffPo that superdelegates are the best thing to happen to the Democrats since Bill Clinton gave his first stemwinder. The superdelegates were necessary, Davis says, because the ultra-open reforms of the 60s wrecked the party.

It did not seem entirely coincidental that the nominees since the Democratic Party reforms—Senator George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter for reelection in 1980—suffered landslide defeats.

We were also reminded that before these reforms, the "smoke-filled rooms" of Democratic Party leaders had led to the nomination and election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy. Not bad.

There are two problems with this. One is that Jimmy Carter was also nominated in 1976 and, obviously, won. So the Democrats had a 1-2 record in the pre-superdelegate era and, so far, a 2-4 record in the Glorious Age of Lanny Davis.

The other problem is that Roosevelt and Kennedy were actually nominated via primaries. Few states held primaries in 1932 and 1960, but the CQ Politics blog has the rundown on both races.

1932: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor of New York, outpaced his nearest rival by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 in the overall primary vote en route to winning his first of four nominations and elections for president.

1960: Sen. John F. Kennedy, a little less than two months short of his 43rd birthday, established himself as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination by winning the April 5 primary in Wisconsin — the first after the New Hampshire contest March 8, which Kennedy, of neighboring Massachusetts, won easily. Kennedy appeared to be at a regional disadvantage in his one-on-one matchup with Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, making his 13 percentage-point victory margin even more impressive. The contest was captured in the well-regarded documentary film "Primary." Kennedy went on to another impressive win, and effectively ended Humphrey's hopes for the nomination by winning easily in West Virginia, overcoming doubts that the state's overwhelmingly Protestant electorate would go for Kennedy's bid to become the nation's first Roman Catholic president. Kennedy faced competitors at the convention — including Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who would become Kennedy's vice president and ultimate successor — but clinched the nomination on the first ballot.

It's possible that FDR would have been nominated in a smoke-filled room, but not a sure thing. The rules were different in 1932 (you needed 2/3 of all delegates to secure the nomination) and party insiders might have fretted about FDR's handicap, while voters didn't realize how severe it was. It's less like Kennedy would have been nominated in 1960—he badly needed to win those primaries to prove that a national Catholic candidate could win (or in the case of West Virginia, buy) elections in Democratic states. Again, I'm not counting Clinton out, but there's an argument to make for reforming the primaries and changing the role of the great unwashed. This isn't it. James Robbins has a snarkier take on the same thing.

Below the Fold

– Holly Yeager combs through data and sees Barack Obama stealing Hillary Clinton's base.

– Ben Smith asks what happened to Clinton's support in the right-wing media.

– Brian Beutler wraps up the career of Tom Lantos.

No special theme for Politics 'n' Prog: Just Lemmy, a space woman, and a whole lotta riffin'.