One of our local papers, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, is now endorsing Barack Obama just in time for his visit to...well, to Dallas, where he's seeking to pick up a delegates in his effort to take Texas. The Clinton camp now appears to be worried about the delegate selection process in Texas, but to me it sounds like an effort to game expectations as Obama appears to be gaining momentum in Texas:
Under rules described in the 37-page Texas delegate selection plan, two-thirds of the state's 228 delegates will be chosen based on the vote in each of 31 state Senate districts. The remaining delegates will be chosen based in part on the outcome of caucuses held on election night after the polls close.
Texas Democratic Party officials said there is a good reason that some senatorial districts yield two or three delegates while others yield seven or, in one Austin district, eight. The numbers are determined by a formula that is based on the number of voters in each district who cast ballots for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) in the 2004 presidential campaign and for Chris Bell, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006.
The higher the turnout in each district in those years, the more delegates the district will get to select this year, explained Boyd Richie, the state party chairman.
"It's not that anyone's trying to penalize anyone," Richie said. "That's the last thing I want to do. What I want to do is encourage people to come back and vote. We want to have everybody participate."
But Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Clinton supporter who represents the heavily Hispanic southern tip of Texas, said the party's formula fails to account for areas where general-election turnout may have been low but turnout for competitive primaries was much higher.
He said his district, which will yield three delegates on March 4, fits that description. Sen. Mario V. Gallegos Jr., another Clinton supporter whose largely Hispanic district will yield just three delegates, says his follows that pattern as well.
"We usually don't have contested general-election contests here," Gallegos said. "I've always questioned that formula, but I've always been given the same answers: 'That's the rules.' I think we need to look at it. I think there's a disparity there that we need to work out for future races."
Phillip Martin over at Burnt Orange Report explains why the system is fair:
The party rules are established to promote those who come out to vote regularly for Democrats in the general election. This year, on March 4, in the Democratic primary, the areas of the state that vote Democratic when it's most needed (the general election) will have a larger delegate strength.
The truth is, many South Texas Hispanics only vote in primaries (as Sen. Mario Gallegos mentioned in the article) and don't vote in the general elections. South Texas Hispanics didn't vote for John Kerry in large numbers in 2004, and they didn't vote for Chris Bell in large numbers in 2006. The urban areas of Austin, Dallas, and Houston did. Instead, many South Texas Hispanics have voted for Republicans in the general election (for President Bush or Governor Perry) believing that the Republican Party provided an answer. Ironically, their leanings towards the Republican party may prevent them from having as big a voice in the TX Presidential primary as their fellow Democrats in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
In other words, the system is set up to rewards Democrats who turn out to vote for Democrats in the general election. That sounds pretty fair to me even if it does have a disproportionate effect on Texas Hispanics, and it's hard to imagine that the Clinton camp didn't see this coming (though as Phillip says, maybe they didn't because they expected to have wrapped up the nomination at this point.) Either way, things are looking very good for Obama down here in our home state. It's shaping up to be a very, very interesting couple of weeks.
UPDATE: For our pro-Obama readers, he'll be at Reunion Arena this Wednesday.
UPDATE II: More numbers. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows Obama and Clinton dead even in Texas. A tie favors Obama, for reasons discussed above and for the purposes of momentum in the campaign in general.