Ignore the Minority Report

A campaign blog.
March 31 2008 5:11 PM

Ignore the Minority Report

As the Democratic race drags on, expect to see more and more hypothetical scenarios emerge as journalists dig deep into party literature, scouring for clues to how this mess will turn out. Chances are you'll hear about the "minority report" scenario.

Short story: When the DNC’s credentials committee meets in July (a date hasn’t been set), whichever candidate controls more of the committee’s 186 members will decide whether Florida and Michigan are seated. That’s because states allocate committee members proportionally based on their primary votes, so whoever wins more pledged delegates (Obama) essentially controls the committee. (DNC Chairman Howard Dean gets to appoint 25 members as well, so he could also hold sway.) However, if 20 percent of the members disagree with the committee’s decision, they can draft a minority report, which then goes to a vote at the convention in August.

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This is an option Clinton’s supporters would no doubt take, since it could be her last lifeline. And this is what Clinton probably meant when she told the Washington Post that "we’ll resolve [the Florida and Michigan question] at the convention—that’s what the credentials committees are for."

The problem with the minority-report scenario, though, is that it changes nothing. Even if the Florida and Michigan question makes it to the convention floor, whoever has more delegates will instruct them on how to vote. And realistically, we’ll know who has more delegates long before the convention. The only scenario in which the minority report could actually make a difference is if we go into the convention with a sizable chunk of superdelegates uncommitted. But think about how implausible that is. Once all 50 states (and Puerto Rico) are done voting in early May, superdelegates will face enormous pressure to pick sides. Whether or not there’s an official " superdelegate primary " that forces them to vote, most superdelegates will have to get off the fence.

And once that happens, Florida/Michigan will become a moot point. Whoever has more delegates will decide whether to seat them, which means that whoever has more delegates (without counting Michigan and Florida) will be the nominee. Period. To cling to the minority report as a Hail Mary solution to the Florida/Michigan question ignores the facts of the process.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.