Cody Shearer: Party officials’ horse trading may decide a convention
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Is the Democratic Party race heading towards a convention. Well, to help us answer that, we’re interviewing Cody Shearer, who’s been to every national convention, Demacratic and Republican, since 1960. Cody’s been a journalist, political analyst, for more than 40 years. So, Cody, where is the Democratic race, first of all? Where’s it headed?
CODY SHEARER, JOURNALIST: Here we are, the day after Super Tuesday, in which we’ve just seen elections on the Democratic and Republican side in 22 different states. And as far as the Democratic party’s concerned, these front-loaded primaries were constructed by Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman at the Democratic National Committee, so that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee, she’d be able to wrap this thing up early on, and we’d have a united Democratic Party that would head towards the general election, to be able to prepare their campaign against, now, Senator John McCain. But that’s not what’s going to happen. This train to the victory celebration has been derailed for the party. And today I can report that their celebrations at the Republican National Committee in Washington, they realize, as most of the Democratic strategists realize, that we are looking for a firestorm at the Democratic National Convention in late August in Denver. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Senator Barack Obama will have enough delegates on the floor of the convention on the first ballot to win, to be nominated. So there’s going to be a lot of horse trading come convention time in Denver. Super delegates—these are elected officials—800 super delegates are available, and these are elected officials, governors, senators, congressmen, and the various camps are going to be vying for these super delegates to put them over the top.
JAY: Now, are the super delegates able to change their mind? Or are they committed in what they have to do on the first ballot in some way?
SHEARER: They are called unpledged delegates. So these super delegates can do whatever they want. They can come out for Obama, change their mind two hours before the convention begins. This is absolute insanity. So what’s happening right now is that the various candidates, Obama and Clinton and their people, are already lobbying these uncommitted super delegates this morning.
JAY: Give us an example of who some of these super delegates might be. And how would these conversations go?
SHEARER: Well, basically you have a meeting. One of your—.
JAY: How does someone get to be a super delegate, first of all?
SHEARER: Well, you’re an elected official. You are an elected official—senator, a congressman, a governor for the Democratic Party. So you’re a member of the party; you’re an elected official. And what would happen is that a member from the Clinton campaign or the Obama campaign will call you up and ask for a meeting. And if I’m a Clinton or Obama strategist, I would say, “What’s the best way to approach governor So-and-so? Who’s his biggest private funder? Who’s his best friend? Either do I know him? Can I take them to a meeting?” And then you make the case that my candidate is the one that’s most likely to get elected in the general election.
JAY: And is there horse trading going on during these meetings?
SHEARER: Absolutely. All kinds of deals. This is the return. We haven’t seen this for a long time, roughly since summer of 1968, there’s been this kind of horse trading at a national convention. So everyone’s making deals. Everyone is looking out for themselves.
JAY: The delegates that Edwards has won so far, are they going to play a role? Does Edwards play a role if he holds onto these delegates right to the convention?
SHEARER: Well, I’m not sure the number of delegates that he will have will be that instrumental and that important by the time the convention rolls around. But, no, there’s a lot of trading. You know, will Al Gore endorse anyone in the next two months? What will Senator Edwards do?
JAY: Is there anything that can happen? And there’s still primaries left to be voted on. Is there anything that can happen in these primaries that would avoid this train moving to the convention?
SHEARER: Well, it’s unlikely that either Obama or Clinton is going to break out in any dramatic fashion.
JAY: So could you then argue, then, that this drama of the Clinton-Obama contest is good for the Democrats? It keeps all the attention on them. All the media coverage is on them. If they’re able to keep this sort of friendly composure they had in the last debate in California, maybe this plays to their advantage.
SHEARER: I don’t think so. I think the civil tone is going to disappear, unfortunately. This is ground-to-ground combat, this is delegate-to-delegate fighting here. And so the tone is going to get really nasty, and I think it’s going to get very personal, which doesn’t add to the best image of the party. I mean, what’s going to happen here in the next two weeks, two to three weeks, these are Obama’s weeks. The contests that are taking place in February all favor Barack Obama.
JAY: Go through them quickly.
SHEARER: Well, this coming Saturday there’s a contest in Washington State and Louisiana and one other one—I can’t quite remember at this point, but these next few contests. And then, next Tuesday, a week from Super Tuesday, we have what they call the Chesapeake Primaries. This is the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Now, all of those three locations favor Obama. Clinton will do well. She’ll win a number of congressional districts. So once again this is all about getting delegates, and so the race will be very tight, even though some of them may come out very much further ahead in terms of the popular vote.
JAY: Something happened here in California, which is–there are a great number of provisional votes, which won’t change/decide who wins California, but at one point last night there were as many as 39 percent of the vote was actually hung up in provisional voting, which should take three, four weeks before they count it. It won’t change who wins California, but it might change the delegate count. So eyes may well be on this provisional count in California if we’re getting down to small numbers of delegates deciding who gets to be the nominee.
SHEARER: It could be, but these are long-term legal fights. This particular fight most likely will go to—there’s a special delegate committee that meets before the convention begins in Denver. And so all of these basic procedural and fights over electoral discrimination during the primaries will all be battled out in Denver.
JAY: In terms of what’s going through the minds of people heading to the convention—and I guess people are already mind-set looking at the convention in Denver—is winnability going to be the whole issue?
SHEARER: Absolutely. It has nothing to do with who’s going to be a better president. It’s all about who can win. That’s what it’s all about. And the big fights are going to be in regards to Florida and Michigan in terms of the Democratic convention. You know, are these delegations going to be seated in the convention? I mean, the Clinton people didn’t really campaign, but they spent, you know, money in these states, and so there’s going to be fights on the floor. Do we seat these people? I mean, this is a lot of delegates to be fighting over. And so these are going to be really nasty, ugly fights.
JAY: And if Obama loses at the convention after a bitter fight, the air goes out of this Obama movement, and do they actually get up and campaign for Clinton?
SHEARER: Well, who knows? I mean, if the scenario you described takes place, it could very well be that Clinton may be forced to offer Obama the vice president’s nomination. He may now want it. So then what happens? I mean, you have to realize that the Democratic convention takes place at the end of August. This is going to be a two-month campaign in the general election. That’s not much time to recover from a very divisive and bitter convention. I mean, I know it’s very difficult to say, but it does not look good today for the Democrats.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.