Mario Cuomo, for one, can envision a scenario in which Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates, states won and total votes—and emerges from the convention as a nominee for vice president.
The superdelegates, he said, could realistically make up for "any number” of elected delegates supporting Obama.
“That’s what the superdelegates were designed for,” Cuomo, who is officially neutral, said in a phone interview. “If 100 percent of the delegates had voted the other way, and they thought it was the wrong candidate, they wouldn’t have to follow it."
He said that the Democratic primary rules were so complicated that ordinary voters wouldn’t be overly hung up on math, or on how the eventual nominee won, whoever it is.
“You are not going to get a clear victory, and that’s the problem,” he said.
As he recently wrote in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe, Cuomo fears that there could be a backlash against whichever candidate wins, and that the only effective way to keep embittered Democrats in the party tent will be to create a joint ticket.
"The politics are such that whoever wins in this process will lose the votes of many of the constituents in the other side unless we do something different," he said.
He also said Clinton "never has to drop out" as long as superdelegates were free to vote for her, the Michigan and Florida votes could one day be counted, and previously committed delegates were free to change their minds. He said he didn’t understand why Obama backers and senators Pat Leahy and Chris Dodd had called on Clinton to leave the race before it had reached its conclusion, and said that either candidate could avoid splitting the party if both were on the ticket.
"What I’m saying is forget about fair—fair shmair, all that. I’m interested in our candidate winning whoever he or she is," he said. "It doesn’t make any difference to my idea who wins, Hillary or Obama, and how they win."
Cuomo did say, in an echo of the Clinton campaign, that one worthwhile metric to consider was "the states that win the [general] election," and that "she has a better chance of getting those—she just proved that."
He also said (in another echo) that Obama’s popular-vote edge would be tainted if it included numbers from "caucuses, which are kind of strange things which do not give old people and working people the kind of opportunity that brilliant young people who travel great distances to be there, and are excited by the whole contest, have."
When pressed, Cuomo did say that some Democratic voters might simply refuse to accept a result achieved by superdelegates overriding the delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses.
"That is the problem," he said.
Clinton, in other words, needs Obama. And Obama needs Clinton.
"If you win, Obama, you are going to need those old people. You are going to need those old people, you are going to need those women, you are going to need those Hispanics, you are going to need all those people who think that you are all poetry and not enough prose. And you, Hillary. Remember even if you win Pennsylvania, and you win North Carolina and you dazzle everybody and maybe even Indiana and the superdelegates who seem to be driven by political winds anyway start coming back to you, even if that’s true—unless you mollify [Obama supporters], you are not going to beat McCain."