Hillary Clinton's Nuclear Option

Tom Edsall at the Huffington Post has a piece today in which he writes the Hillary camp is considering using the nuclear option to secure, or should I say steal, the nomination if she wins Indiana but loses North Carolina by a slim margin and can convince the super delegates that she’s a better general election candidate:

With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party’s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could — when the committee meets at the end of this month — try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate.

Using the Rules and Bylaws Committee to force the seating of two pro-Hillary delegations would provoke a massive outcry from Obama forces. Such a strategy would, additionally, face at least two other major hurdles, and could only be attempted, according to sources in the Clinton camp, under specific circumstances…

When I mentioned this scheme to my husband, his first response was “why would they commit political suicide for Hillary.” But if Hillary can convince her supporters in the RBC that she can win the general, and depending upon which poll you look at – the Clinton camp is pointing to this one that has Clinton leading McCain in a head to head general election match up – this may not be political suicide; there’s a chance that this could be political life-saving. Just imagine what Hillary would owe these folks should they implement the nuclear option, giving her the nomination and she then goes on the win the general election in November. But this is a huge and very complicated risk that would require the political planets aligning just right, as Mr. Edsall points out.

Marc Ambinder, however, doesn’t see things in the same way as Mr. Edsall:

Not to the belabor the metaphor, but it’s not clear to me that Clinton really has this weapon in her arsenal. The rules and bylaws committee may or may not be comprised of a majority of Clinton supporters (many of its members remain uncommitted), but they’re not going to be asked to vote on any challenge that would award Clinton her entire delegate haul from Michigan and Florida. The two challenges they’ve been asked to consider would, at most, award Clinton an extra 30 delegates — half of her margin from Florida and half from Michigan. One of the challenges, if successful, would allow 23 superdelegates from Florida to make known their preferences, and Clinton would net a few.

In any event, whatever the RBC decides, the party’s credentials committee, which won’t spring into existence until late June, has final say. And Obama will probably have a majority of members on that committee, enough to send a majority report to the convention with whatever recommendation arises from that deliberation. (Clinton’s backers would send a minority report.)

Dave at Political Machine weighs in as well:

But on the other hand, Hillary knows that this is her one chance at the presidency. The stars were aligned, it was hers, and I think she sincerely believes that Obama will lose, and she will only be doing her party a favor. Even against majority wishes. If push comes to shove and we come down to continued muddle results, as in a split victory between Indiana and North Carolina, I think she could do it.

I Have No Words...