Obama Catching a Break in Florida

031808 obama3 web Obama Catching a Break in FloridaFlorida will not hold a do-over primary and, while the public haggling between campaigns will continue for weeks and maybe months, this final compromise is looking increasing likely: A delegation based on the results of January’s "outlaw" primary will be seated at the convention, but with each delegate only receiving a half-vote.

What this would mean, in terms of the zero-sum nomination contest, is that Barack Obama will have dodged a bullet.

In real terms, such a compromise will cost Obama about 19 delegates – half of the 38 delegate advantage Hillary Clinton racked up when she won the January primary by 17 points. (The final figure could be altered slightly, depending on how the 17 percent of the vote that John Edwards won is treated.)

That’s not a huge deal for Obama, since he will likely end the primary season in early June with a lead of around 125 pledged delegates–and it doesn’t seem probably that a do-over primary would have yielded a radically different result. It’s true that turnout, in comparison to other states with legitimate primaries, was very low in Florida, but polls for a prospective do-over vote showed that Clinton’s 17-point edge was likely to hold. This way, Obama would cut Clinton’s delegate gain in half.

Moreover, the lack of a do-over primary – and the likely Clinton victory it would bring – spares Obama time, money, and the embarrassing headlines that would follow a defeat, possibly a lopsided one. Unlike in Michigan, where polls show Obama in potential position to win in a re-vote, voters in Florida seem to have held Obama’s stance on their primary against him, not just in polls that pit him against Clinton, but also in general election match-ups with John McCain.

Here’s the other reason why avoiding a do-over in Florida is probably fine by Obama: The state is a stretch for him in the fall. This is partly to do with the controversy over the primary (it’s one of the few states where Clinton runs stronger than Obama against McCain in general election polls) but also because the state continues to move toward the G.O.P. Recall that George W. Bush dramatically expanded his Florida margin between 2000 and 2004 and that in 2006, the best Democratic year in a generation, the state still elected a Republican governor, and by a solid margin.

A do-over in Florida would only cost him time, money, grief and delegates.