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Clinton camp: All the way to convention

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones and NBC's Domenico Montanaro
The
Clinton campaign held a conference call, led by Harold Ickes, a top
aide, to discuss the superdelegates issue and expectations for the
upcoming contests. 

Ickes, a DNC member and superdelegate himself,
said the campaign expects Clinton to "hold her own" in Wisconsin, to
win Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania and to have come close
to closing the delegate gap with Obama by March 5th. He said by the end
of the process on June 7th, when Puerto Rico votes, she would be "neck
and neck" with Obama and would wrap up the nomination soon after. Ickes
said the nomination would be settled "before we get to the floor" of
the convention but that the campaign would take this fight all the way
to Denver.

Ickes argued the "superdelegates" should be
called "automatic delegates" instead, because the former makes it sound
like they have "superpowers." The DNC itself refers to them as
"superdelegates" and as "unpledged" delegates.

"Automatic delegates don't have superpowers.
Their vote isn't given any extra weight," Ickes said, explaining it was
still a one-person, one-vote scenario, though they already get the
opportunity to vote in primaries and caucuses like regular voters.

The effort to change the terms journalists use
to refer to the superdelegates was particularly interesting as a
political ploy. The word "automatic" has implications that would seem
to fit well with the arguments the Clinton camp has been making, namely
that superdelegates should exercise their independent judgment.

On Florida and Michigan, the campaign again
said voters in those states should not be "disenfranchised" and that
the states were important to the Democratic Party's fortunes. Ickes
also said Clinton didn't vote on the DNC rules.

But Ickes did. And he voted in August to strip
Florida and Michigan of their delegates as a sitting member of the
Rules and Bylaws Commission.

"There's been no change," Ickes said, adding that he was then acting as a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee "not acting as an agent of Sen. Clinton. We had promulgated rules -- if Florida and Michigan violated those rules" they'd be stripped of their delegates. "We stripped them of all their delegates in order to prevent campaigns to campaign in those states."

In fact, however, that was not why Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates. They were stripped of their delegates because they violated party rules by moving up their contest dates before Feb. 5. A pledge to not campaign in those states did not come about until one was put forward by the four early states allowed to go before Feb. 5 by the DNC -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Clinton was the last to sign this pledge.

"Those were the rules, and we thought we had an obligation to enforce them," Ickes acknowledged today on the call even while trying to convince members of the media that Florida's and Michigan's delegations should not only be seated at the convention, but should also have full voting rights and that delegates should be allocated based on voting that took place in those states -- even though in Michigan, Obama's name did not even appear on the ballot and uncommitted got 41% of the vote to Clinton's 55%.

Despite polls showing Obama doing better against McCain than Clinton in a general election, the campaign argued that Clinton would actually do better and that "polls change." Ickes and spokesman Phil Singer argued that while Obama has carried red states, those would be states that would never go for Democrats in November. Clinton carried swing states like Nevada and Tennessee, they said. There was no mention of Virginia, which Obama won handily.

They also argued that Clinton's base voters -- women and blue-collar Democrats -- are more reliable. Obama has "voters who might not be as reliably there," Singer said. While that could be argued for the record numbers of young voters who have come out to vote for Obama, Singer made no mention of African Americans, one of the pillars of the Democratic Party.

Ickes repeated earlier contentions that there was no reason to "re do" the votes in Florida and Michigan and didn't directly answer if they would participate in a re-vote in Michigan. Ickes also acknowledged that it would be possible for Clinton to lose pledged delegates but control a majority of the credentials committee, which ultimately decides if and how Florida's and Michigan's disputed delegations would be dealt with.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified spokesman Phil Singer as Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson.