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Progressive Opinions

Author: Meghan Ross

Obama Campaign Fails to File Delegate Slate for New Hampshire Primary

For obvious reasons, most news coverage of the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primaries focuses on the Republican contest. With rare exceptions, incumbent presidents seeking re-election enjoy a nearly insuperable advantage in their party’s nomination process.

So it’s business as usual in the Granite State, with only one candidate in the Democratic running. Or maybe not quite so usual — because that one candidate isn’t President Barack Obama.

Wait… what?

Section 655:51 of the New Hampshire Election Code required candidates for their party’s presidential nomination to submit slates of national convention delegates to the Secretary of State no later than November 18th, 2011. Only two Democrats did so, and one — Aldous C. Tyler — has since dropped out and endorsed the other, author and political historian Darcy Richardson.

At first blush, that means Obama appears to have surrendered New Hampshire’s national convention votes for his re-nomination.

Unlike the incumbent Democrat, fifteen of the thirty candidates running in New Hampshire’s crowded Republican primary on Tuesday, including all of the major GOP candidates, filed full or nearly complete slates of delegates and alternate delegates.

“I’m sure this was merely an oversight by President Obama’s re-election team,” says Richardson. “Like a bloated bureaucracy, in a billion-dollar campaign like President Obama’s — one that’s literally drenched in Wall Street money — it’s easy to imagine that the left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing.”

Not that he’s complaining, mind you. Richardson, 56, of Jacksonville, Florida, launched his anti-war, anti-Wall-Street, pro-Occupy campaign last fall after his pleas to more well-known progressives to run — former Labor Secretary Robert Reich topped his list — fell on deaf ears.

“The President has very obviously forgotten what the Democratic Party stands for,” he says. “So I can’t say I’m really surprised that he forgot he needs the help of real flesh-and-blood Democrats to get re-elected as well. I haven’t.”

Richardson is on the Democratic primary ballot in several other states, including Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas and will be launching a petition drive for a spot on the Wisconsin ballot tomorrow. “I’m happy to take all the delegates he wants to leave on the table,” says the long-shot challenger. “We’ll be waiting to have a talk with him when he gets to Charlotte next September.”

The Unbearable Consequence of Iowa

So Mitt Romney “won” Iowa by eight votes, giving him the “Big Mo” (that’s momentum) as he marches forth into the primaries. What happened to Rick Santorum’s surge? Did a Dodge Caravan full of supporters break down on the way to the gymnasium? I mean, world history has pivoted on less.

About 123,000 people participated in the Iowa Republican caucuses. That’s only 19 percent of the state’s registered Republicans, who make up only 29 percent of Iowa’s 2.1 million registered voters. The Iowa total accounts for less than 2 percent of America’s 137 million registered voters.

Meanwhile, the caucuses are not especially democratic. A primary lets voters arrive at a convenient time and cast a secret ballot. The caucuses require an hour or more in the evening. Participants gather in a meeting space, where they jostle with friends and neighbors over their preferences. Whom they support is everybody’s business.

The caucuses favor those who don’t work evenings, don’t have babies to breast-feed and can drive in the dark or have others who can drive them. They empower the strong-willed and turn off the privacy-minded.

The heavyweight given the caucuses is not the people’s fault, but that of media in need of “news” in the political quiet of the holiday season. They turn what should be an inconsequential and flawed expression of the people’s will into a rocket on which may ride the future leader of what we used to call the free world.

Santorum’s hopes were hardly dashed by Romney’s one-short-of-a-baseball-team margin of victory. He had the good fortune to have been completely written off a few weeks ago, thus helping his performance land in the coveted “better than expected” category.

In such circumstances, one must always ask: better than expected by whom? In this case, it’s the fraction of a fraction of likely caucus-goers who had been polled over the last month. At various points, the surveyed few had rotated their affections among Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. Perhaps Santorum entered the final days as the man-of-the-hour because it was he the minute hand was passing on caucus day. “Santorum will now head to the next phase of the campaign with momentum,” reports Politico. Oh-kay.

With more journalists dissecting the caucuses than voters for Romney, the commentators deserve commentary. The most potent review of the bunch comes from The New Yorker’s George Packer. He marvels at how political reporters quickly began to regard Santorum’s loony remarks — about Obama “siding with evil” in Iran or engaging in “absolutely un-American activities” — as simply routine rhetoric. At that point, Packer observes, “there isn’t much for the political journalist to do except handicap the race and report on the candidate’s mood.”

And that they did and will continue doing until the 270th electoral vote is counted.

My mood darkened considerably in the run-up to Iowa, as the few plausible Republican candidates felt obliged to disavow every position that I admired. For example, the individual mandate requiring almost everyone to buy health insurance makes supreme sense.

The mandate was a necessary piece of Romney’s health-care plan for Massachusetts, but the former governor abandoned the concept after it became part of the Democrats’ national version. And why did Gingrich have to renounce that nice ad he made with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promoting a bill to address global warming?

In the sad politics of our day, the consequential gets lost in a series of sideshows. Who turns up in the Iowa dark for the caucuses is all-important, not how representative they are. And what they’re turning up for seems to matter even less.

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