Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama not coming to Texas Democratic convention

Well, it looks like Sen. Barack Obama won't be able to make it to the Texas Democratic Convention. But he is sending Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a national co-chair of the campaign, to speak on his behalf. “I look forward to traveling to Texas this weekend and seeing firsthand the grassroots movement for change that has inspired men and women of all ages all across the Lone Star State to get involved in the political process,” said Kaine. “It is time for all of us to come together and focus our efforts on winning in November. Voters in Texas and across the country have the opportunity to unite behind Senator Obama and his vision for bringing people together and his effort to move this country forward.” Kaine is estimated to speak at the Friday evening session. No official word yet on what the Hillary Clinton campaign will do.

Obama's decision is fascinating, considering that the convention will actually award delegates to the Democratic National Convention. This is a critical difference between the GOP and Democratic state convention. All GOP delegates must vote based on the results of the primary. About one-third of the Texas Democratic delegates, however, are either superdelegates (and can vote for whom they please) or are pledged based on the presidential preferences expressed by state convention delegates on the sign-in sheets at the beginning of the convention. In addition to delegates pledged via sign-in sheets, the convention will also elect the Texas delegation to the Democratic National Committee, all of whom are superdelegates. In short, the Texas Democratic Convention matters in the presidential race. I guess Obama believes the press headlines that he's clinched the nomination.

Even though Obama himself will not be attending the convention in person, some tribute is in order for his campaign staff. The national media, last February, had assumed Hillary Clinton would win Texas in a runaway. Obama's people read the rules. They noticed that the Democratic Party's rules award high numbers of delegates to parts of the state where they are strong (Austin, Houston, Dallas), whereas the parts of the state where Clinton ran strong (South and rural Texas) had fewer delegates. Thus, even though Clinton numerically won the popular vote, Obama -- by running a smart and aggressive campaign here -- achieved near parity in the delegate count.

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