That unorthodox approach could put her in striking distance of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) over the next month.
Harold Ickes, Clinton’s chief delegate strategist, said in a telephone interview that the senator is likely to finish the primary and caucus season on June 3 “substantially less than 100 delegates behind” Obama’s total if those two states are included.
“We don’t believe that this party is going to go forward into a presidential race without seating both Florida and Michigan,” Ickes said.
But the Democratic National Committee had declared those delegates should not be counted as punishments to the states for moving their contests so soon in the process.
So Clinton’s argument depends on the actions of the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee when it meets May 31 to consider pro-Clinton challenges that would seat those delegations.
Clinton’s new magic number to clinch the nomination is 2,209 delegates, compared to the 2,025 that would be needed without Florida and Michigan.
“The Obama people keep talking about 2,025, which implies they don’t intend to seat Florida and Michigan,” Ickes said. “We think that’s a mistake on the part of the party – it’s foolish.”
Working a second track, the Clinton forces are putting increased pressure on the superdelegates, the party insiders who get a vote on the nomination and are likely to be the decisive factor in the contest.
“As of midnight June 3rd, neither Obama nor Hillary will have enough delegates to clinch the nomination,” Ickes said. “Therefore, they’re going to have to persuade enough of the uncommitted, automatic delegates to come their way. And we think at the end of this process, we will be successful in persuading them that Hillary is, in fact, the stronger general election candidate.”
Ickes said Clinton’s victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania “really started refocusing these remaining uncommitted, automatic delegates on the general election.”
“They are increasingly concerned about whether Senator Obama can bring in the key swing or purple states,” Ickes said. “Clearly there are increasing concerns about whether or not he has the reach to win.”
The Obama campaign, anticipating a defeat in Indiana, released a spreadsheet Tuesday showing that Clinton would need mammoth margins in every remaining contest in order to move ahead in pledged delegates, the ones chosen by caucus- and primary-goers.
But the Clinton campaign said that isn’t a meaningful figure. Her advisers insist that superdelegates, which Ickes calls “automatic delegates,” must also be considered.
“We don’t buy the pledged-delegate argument,” Ickes said. “That’s a straw person they’ve set up. It meets their political calculation. But when you call the roll at the convention, nobody says ‘pledged delegates’ or ‘automatic delegates.” It just says how many delegate votes.”