PUMAs Without Claws…

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I know a rock-ribbed Republican operative who was a key Reagan sergeant back during the heated Reagan – Ford primary in 1976. He is still so mad that the Mississippi delegation switched to Ford that he promises physical violence should he ever by chance run into the guy who chaired that delegation. No doubt, these convention emotions die hard. But one has to ask; does it really amount to much in the big picture, after the convention is over? Some thoughts:

First, keep in mind that every single Hillary Delegate here at the Pepsi Center could decide to stay home rather than cast their vote for Barack Obama and the end result would be …. totally insignificant. It’s a big country. There are only a flyspeck of votes in that hall and they are mostly semi-pro politicos, not regular voters.

Second, most of the delegates doing all this “I’m just not ready yet to put on an Obama t—shirt” talking to the media have – sorry – no real power. There is a huge mythology about “organization” but 85% of it is just fantasy. A year ago we all heard about Hillary Clinton’s big edge in “organization” and her fearsome “machine.” But who has the nicer hotel rooms here in Denver now? It’s a message, money and media game these days; true organizational power died with Boss Pendergast. The people who wind up as delegates to the modern convention tend to be local party or interest group chieftains who spend much of their energy feuding with rival local Pooh-Bahs over turf inside their interest group, local yard sign printing contracts or the seating arrangements with for the local Jefferson-Jackson (or Lincoln) Day dinner. Most can’t deliver a pizza, let alone a swing vote. The internet Moveon.og crowd is even less effective as organizers. Ask President Howard Dean or Senator Ned Lamont.

Third, history makes a strong case that in the end most of the people who voted for Hillary in the Democratic primaries will vote for the Democrat nominee. The truth is that people who vote in Democratic primaries are, well, solid Democrats.

What is true – and very important – is that there are a ton of Democrat leaning voters who didn’t vote in the primaries, but look demographically a lot like the Hillary primary voters we’ve been paying all this attention to. They’re older, white, often blue-collar. And many have big doubts about Barack Obama. Hillary can really hurt Obama among this crowd if she shows hostility, maybe even enough to throw the election. That’s why the Obama campaign is acting like a bunch of nervous yes-men at one of Stalin’s birthday parties. But Hillary is a good, tough party soldier. Her speech tonight will be very good. So will her endorsement deliver the vote Obama really needs? Nope. Obama has to earn it on his own; many are more anti-Barack than pro-Clinton. Hillary will help a little tonight with her speech and scepter wave. Then later, in the privacy of the voting booth, she will do what the smart money already knows: cast her vote for her pal John S. McCain.