Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The dreaded Puerto Rico scenerio

I know I'm not the first one to say this but, after Super Tuesday, McCain is a lock for the Republicans and Hillary has a slight advantage in the Democratic contest. Although the former First Lady's edge is somewhat mitigated by what could be serious cash flow problems.

No matter what, the Democratic race looks like it will go into May, if not all the way to the convention.

Here is where things could get crazy. According to Michael Barone, who is the dean of all electoral knowledge, the Democratic race could hinge on Puerto Rico, whose residents don't even vote in the general election.

For some strange reason the Democrats have given Puerto Rico 63 voting delegates, as many as Arizona gets. And PR's delegates effectively come winner take all, as opposed to all of the other Democratic primaries and caucuses which are at least somewhat proportional. Meaning the candidate who captures the semi-autonomous island territory nets more delegates than Hillary did after she beat Obama by eight points in the mammoth, full-righted state of California yesterday.

Furthermore, while technically PR has a caucus in early June -- right in time to decide a deadlocked nomination race -- really the party boss in PR gets to choose who gets all the delegates. And, if it is still close back in the States, this decision could trump the votes of about 15 million mainland Democrats.

Of course the Democratic party could (and probably would) have the super-delegates distributed in a way that lessens PR's influence on the final decision. But that won't be an easy process. Especially when the party would also be dealing with what to do about Florida and Michigan (about 8 percent of the United States' population) not having any delegates seated at the convention.

There have been brokered conventions before, but never one under the all-access 24/7 glare of twenty-first century media. Add the explosive mix of identity politics and disenfranchisement baggage that would come with the debate and it would be quite a show indeed.

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