Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pledged Delegate Switches to Obama

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at http://www.DemocraticConventionWatch.com

In a move that is likely to cause some controversy, a Maryland pledged delegate has announced he is switching from Clinton to Obama:

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democratic convention delegate pledged to support Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, said yesterday that he thinks Sen. Barack Obama has "in a real sense" won the Democratic nomination and that he now plans to support Obama at the August convention.
This is Johnson's second change of heart in the race. He had allowed his name to be listed as a supporter by the Obama campaign in December.

Unlike superdelegates, who are free to endorse either candidate, Johnson is one of 28 pledged delegates who have agreed to represent the 36 percent of Maryland Democrats who voted for Clinton on Feb. 12.

Some Clinton delegates were chosen by voters at the ballot. Others, such as Johnson, were selected in consultation with the Clinton campaign by the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee, party spokesman David Paulson said.
A few thoughts here: First, as we've noted often, pledged delegates are free within the rules of the convention to vote for anyone they want. From the Call to the Convention:
All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.
but they are not required to. Whether they should is another matter, but they are allowed to.

Second, we've stated how this was unlikely to happen as pledged delegates are vetted by the campaigns and tend to be the most committed, the most loyal of supporters. But that seems to have broken down here. As noted in the article, Johnson was an Obama supporter until December of 2007. Doesn't sound like the definition of "most loyal of supporters".

And the article says he was appointed by the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee (to a state at-large position) in consultation with the Clinton campaign, which also does not sound like the normal process.

This presents a bit of a problem for the Obama campaign. While they would certainly welcome the vote in general, it does legitimize the Clinton proposed theory that pledged delegates can switch their votes, and therefore enables an argument that all delegates to the convention should be considered open to changing their vote.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama camp responds to this.

Update: On the Romer conference call David Plouffe just said that Mr. Johnson made this decision on his own and that they had nothing to do with it. He also mentioned that the Clinton Campaign has said that pledged delegates could switch. He said their focus is on reaching 2025 total delegates and that it is in reach.


Michael said...

FYI: D.C. state party chairman Anita Bonds announced her endorsement of Obama last night (second bullet point in post).

Matt said...

The link you cite does not support your claim. The link says "Bonds says she’s “leaning heavily” toward Barack Obama, pending a meeting with the Illinois senator."

Sounds like an endorsement is coming, but hasn't happened yet.

We're aware that she has been reported as making a verbal endorsement last night, but we can't move her based on anecdotal reports.

Blame said...

I would imagine Obama will be amused. Clinton was perfectly corect. There is no such thing as a pledged deligate. What she hasn't realised yet is that deligaates are only fliping one way - to Obama.

Blame said...

I would imagine Obama will be amused. This is poetic justice.

Matt said...

FYI, we will not be changing our pledged delegate count unless the Green Papers does, and I don't know what their policy is on this.

Demabob said...

Intentionally or not, Jack B. Johnson is a Trojan Horse to the Obama campaign. The Obama camp should stay as far away from this "gift" delegate as possible. They don't need him, and by acknowledging that "pledged" delegates can switch, they will just give Hillary an excuse to keep fighting until the convention despite the results.

If they make any mention of him at all, the BHO campaign should say, "while we agree with Johnson that Obama will win the nomination, we believe that the pledged candidates should continue to reflect the sentiments of those who elected them until the process is complete."

DocJess said...

Not that anyone in the Obama campaign actually reads comments to blogs -- but they should say and do NOTHING. Not a word of "thanks" not a word of "no thanks" -- NOTHING.

There are a lot of strategic reasons for silence in general, but THIS guy might switch back and forth innumerable times between now and August.

Ignore him and just plain focus on the General. HHHHMMM and isn't that what ObamaNation is doing as regards Hillary????

Woodward's Friend said...

The Obama campaign shouldn't say anything except that elected delegates should respect the wishes of the voters who elected them and that this is a matter for the Maryland Democratic Party to consider.

If Maryland Democrats wish to replace this guy with a true blue Clinton delegate, Obama shouldn't stand in their way.

Oliver said...

Of course Obama should say something. He should wait until he's asked, but clearly he will be asked. The last thing he needs to do is leave it for others to promote the 'Trojan Horse' meme. Demabob's suggestion is on point.

Hellmut said...

Jack Johnson was only added to the Clinton delegation on May 3rd.

KCinDC said...

The Obama campaign shouldn't legitimize the idea that pledged delegates in general can switch, but it seems like it should be okay for Clinton's pledged delegates to switch because she's effectively released them by saying they can vote for whoever they want. Obama has made no similar statement, so his delegates are still pledged to him.

Gordon G said...

KCinDC provides an interesting point, but I think the subtlety would be lost on both the main stream media and the general electorate when this is spun by (both?) campaigns.

I think Demabob is exactly right on how to deal with this.

Aaron said...

Jack Johnson is an opprotunistic slimeball who wanted to go to the Convention, and knew there was less competition on the Clinton Side. He used Party rules to get on the delegation, and then turned tail.

I am an Obama supporter, but what he is doing is wrong. Obama can win this fair and square.

Galois said...

As was noted in that slate article on the subject, the word "shall" does generally mean required. The point of the rule is not that pledged delegates aren't required to reflect the sentiments of those who elected them. Rather it is an acknowledgment that those sentiments may change. If Johnson is switching because he believes in all good conscience that that's what those who voted for Clinton in Maryland now want (the thought being they want to unite and rally around the nominee), that's one thing. If he just now prefers Obama, though, he is violating his pledge and is not following the rules. There is such a thing as "pledged" candidates. Jack Johnson signed a pledge.

craig said...

There is no need for the Obama campaign to recognize this shift. At this point, it is a numbers game, and with this delegate, it should be played as if it is only a change in numbers.

Kcindc makes an excellent point. The Obama campaign should continue to do what it is already doing. There is simply no need to address this issue.

Independent voter said...

My question is this, if the guy originally put his name in to go to the convention as an Obama delegate, how and why would anyone from Clinton's side vote to have him represent her?

It seems that they would have "vetted" these pledged delegates beforehand.

As an avid Obama supporter, I'm happy to see the addition of another delegate to the Obama campaign, but I think that this guy should have kept his word, at least until after the last primary or even the first round at the convention. He would at least have another chance 4 years from now to represent someone, but as it stands now nobody will ever trust him to be a representative again.

I hope for his sake he doesn't plan on making a run for public office because this wouldn't look good on his resume.

Blame said...

When faced with a no-win question,it can be polite to hand it to your opponent. Obama should publicly ask Clinton if it is still OK for Pledged Delegates to switch.

If she says yes, I would bet there will be more. So far the only other switchers have been Super Delegates, all for Obama. It would be the case for Pledged Delegates too.

If she says no, it will be another case of changing the rules. In this case changing her own rules.

Oreo said...

Post updated with Plouffe's comments about the switch.

Yousri said...

I don’t agree with Pledged delegate switch his/her vote to another candidate. They were elected to represent the voters who voted for a certain candidate.

I think Sen. Clinton campaign should have the right to replace him/her with another delegate who would honor the voter of MD that they thought their votes count and cast it to their candidate.

This is just my personal opinion.

Oreo said...

I completely agree and think that he's being an attention whore (pardon the term).

That said... Clinton said it was ok that pledged delegates switch. The Obama campaign has commented on it now what does Clinton say after she said this in the past:

"Every delegate with very few exceptions is free to make up his or her mind however they choose," Clinton told Time's Mark Halperin in an interview published Wednesday.

"We talk a lot about so-called pledged delegates, but every delegate is expected to exercise independent judgment," she said.

I don't think she can say anything against it.

Yousri said...

Oreo siad.

"We talk a lot about so-called pledged delegates, but every delegate is expected to exercise independent judgment," she said.

Well, in that case, we should forget about primaries and caucuses and select "Random Numbers" of people and tell them exercise your independent judgement.

This is wrong on many levels.

Oreo said...

You may be on to something. You should send your idea to Howard Dean ;)

DocJess said...

Now, now -- how you see this depends on your perspective. If you're neutral, like Oreo, it doesn't really matter since it's "fair" under the "Clinton rules".

If you're a Clintonista, it's a real problem of rats from a sinking ship.

HOWEVER -- the real thing here is that pledged delegates are required by some state legislation (in some of the states) to hold to their pledges. In other states, it's the state parties that make them sign paperwork.

BUT -- no one has EVER been prosecuted for changing one's vote. The law just never took it up. (Although it would be an interesting case from a Constitutional perspective).

Therefore -- anyone who is supposed to be pledged and changes his mind (twice so far)is just a simple turncoat. Can't be trusted one way or another.

He legally can do what he did. Morally, he lacks ethics.

Let it play out --- it will not actually matter in August.

Bobert said...

"shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them."

If a majority of the people who elected him as a delegate feel the same way, then that is fine. He lives in that county and should know what the current general sentiment is. Considering the strong Obama support in that county, the change in sentiment wouldn't surprise me too much.

Bobert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yousri said...


I am a very strong Obama Supporter and I am on the DCW team as well.

My posts have nothing to do with which candidate I support.
That was just the issue of Pledged delegate switch in general.

DocJess said...

Listen, Yousri -- I think it's a degenerate, lousy, disingenuous thing also -- but I'm having trouble functioning....it is all SO CLOSE and while I agree in principle with EVERYTHING you say on the switcher, in my heart, all I hear is the beat of "one more, one more" and I know I shouldn't feel that way.

I believe in PROCESS (which is why I agree that he shouldn't switch) -- and I believe PROCESS trumps the candidates, because if the process fails, we're all toast.

But it's SO CLOSE....so apologies.

tmess2 said...

I know in my state and in most of the rules in other states that I have looked at the campaigns have the right to reject candidates for the delegate slots. There are reasons -- mostly not wanting to tick folks off -- that they rarely use this power.

My experience is also that -- by the time you get to the state level -- there tends to be unofficial "official" slates that the campaign has approved to assure meeting all of the diversity goals and other interests of the state party (e.g. unions, trial attorneys, major local democratic organizations).

Based on that experience, it does not seem unusual that Johnson was the result of coordination between the Maryland party and the Clinton campaign. However, if Johnson had previously been leaning toward Obama and switched to Clinton, someone in the Clinton campaign was asleep at the wheel.

As a result of the 1982 changes, Clinton would not get to replace Johnson.

Dink said...

I'm not sure why you said:
"And the article says he was appointed by the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee (to a state at-large position) in consultation with the Clinton campaign, which also does not sound like the normal process."

The normal process is set out in the Maryland Delegate Selection Plan:
III.D.3. Presidential Candidate Right of Review
a. The State Democratic Chair shall convey to the presidential candidate, or that candidate’s
authorized representative(s), not later than April 21, 2008 at 5 pm, a list of all persons who have filed for delegate or alternate pledged to that presidential candidate. (Rule 12.D.)
(Reg. 4.22. & 4.27.)
b. Each presidential candidate, or that candidate’s authorized representative(s), must then
file with the State Democratic Chair, immediately after the selection of pledged PLEO
delegates, a list of all such candidates he or she has approved, provided that, at a
minimum, two (2) names remain for every national convention delegate or alternate
position to which the presidential candidate is entitled. (Rule 12.E.(2) & Reg. 4.23.)"

This is pretty much the same process used in every state and while not quite a "consultation", it's pretty close, especially since, in Maryland, the candidate's filing was scheduled to take place during the State Central Committee meeting on May 1.

KCinDC said...

Bobert, since Johnson is a pledged at-large delegate for Clinton, the people who elected him are effectively those who voted for Clinton in the primary in the whole state of Maryland. I doubt a majority of those people are supporting Obama now, though a fair number may have changed their minds.

Amot said...

I think this switch is something wrong. I agree with Yousri that should not happen. I agree with Oreo that guy just want some attention! I agree with Jessica that he can de jure switch his vote. But I don't see the necessity.

And I think Galois had the best remark on that case. We have to ask this guy the questions:
1. Who do you represent? - 'Maryland Dem voters supporting Clinton' should be the correct answer
2. Do you think the people you represent don't support the same candidate anymore? - Maybe some do, but most still support her/him - the correct answer
3. Why the hell you want to switch then? Did anyone asked you to?- hhhhm, no one asked me to...

I think there are only handful of delegates that have the right to switch: AA delegates, that where insulted by Clinton campaign and come from predominantly AA districts; ID delegates, because of the elk comment; and probably some other delegates whose states or districts were threated bad from any of the campaigns - latte-drinkers for example...
That MD guy - he has no reason! Shame on him!!!

DocJess said...

Amot --

On this day when the waiting is oppressive, I think your comment was not only spot on, but insightful and meaningful.

On top of all that -- you know the difference between "de facto" and "de jure". My heart swells with joy.....


KCinDC said...

Amot, wouldn't Johnson fit into the category of "AA delegates, that where insulted by Clinton campaign and come from predominantly AA districts"? Johnson is African-American, as is two thirds of the population of Prince George's County, which he represents (in his office, not as a convention delegate).

Yousri said...

KCinDC and Amot,

There is no excuse for a pledged delegate to defy the Voters whom he/she should represent.
If a delegate feels that he/she was treated badly or offended by any campaign and can’t keep their pledge in good conscious, then they should ask the campaign to replace them.

They suppose to “REPRESENT” the voters, not their personal feeling!!!

KCinDC said...

Yousri, I don't agree with what Johnson did, and I think he's an opportunist. I only say that he's a Clinton delegate following Clinton's own interpretation of what "pledged" means.

I also disagree with your statement that "There is no excuse for a pledged delegate to defy the Voters whom he/she should represent" -- at least if you mean that any change of vote is defying the voters. I can imagine circumstances in which changing the vote would be necessary to represent the voters properly rather than stubbornly attempting to represent what the voters believed months previously. I don't think those circumstances apply now, however.

Yousri said...

“I can imagine circumstances in which changing the vote would be necessary to represent the voters properly rather than stubbornly attempting to represent what the voters believed months previously.”

May be I should’ve stated “Represent the voter at the time of the primary”.

If we are going to look at the general mode now and say many voters might have a change of heart and they probably will change their vote now. Then the accurate and right thing to do is to repeat all the primaries and caucuses.

I also strongly disagree with Sen. Clinton's own interpretation of what "pledged" means.

And, as an Obama supporter, I was very happy that he had a net gain of 2 with this switch. Which made his nomination a little closer, hopefully by May 20. :-)

Amot said...

if the pledged delegate is elected and approved by the campaign he can change his vote to uncommited or to other candidate. However 10 days look too short time for good reasons to emerge! 'The unity of the party' is not good reason for any pledged delegate. If he personally thinks he must support Obama he could endorse Obama personally and resign as pledged! So I agree with you on that!


KCinDC is aboslutely right - if with time the voters change their minds and the pledged delegate share their feeling, he is allowed to switch, sometimes he must switch, and sometimes he must not resign and allow the campaign to keep a delegate they don't deserve anymore. Again my point - the elk state! If ID pledged delegates were chosen by now (unfortunately they are not and Clinton will vet them very carefully if she is in the race until June 10th), those ID delegates would have the full right to switch, they would be obliged to switch in order to represent the voters! Do you [Yousri] think that Hillary would win more than 10% if ID recaucus? Do you think she deserves any ID delegates at the moment? I don't believe in the infinite and unquestionable support...

Yousri said...

I think I answered your question in my previous comment.
I also want to remind you that we are on the same team!

KCinDC said...

Yousri, if there were some horrible revelation about a candidate between the primary and the convention that clearly was leading most of the candidate's voters in a state or district to change their minds, then I would have no problem with pledged delegates changing their votes. It's not the sort of thing I expect to have happen often.

Aaron said...


Jack Johnson is an African American, who is the County Executive of the weathiest Black Majority County in the United States.

He did this to garner attention, and to try to have it both ways. The Obama Delegate slate was incredibly competitive, while the Clinton Slate was not. DNC rules say that you need a certain % of minorities on your State Delegation, and he filled that % by becoming a Clinton Delegate.

Jack Johnson is not a trusted figure and his association with Keith Washington (Google "Keith Washington" under Google News) and other peopel make him smarmy.

Finally, I will say that he is just trying to be an attention monger, and what he is doing is absolutely wrong.

I am glad the Obama Campaign has distanced themselves from this action.

Aaron (Obama supporter)

Yousri said...


I do understand you point view.
And to be honest with you that will not matter anyway.
I have been looking at all news media, the campaigns, CSPAN, and bloggers and every thing on the net, and I can say for certainty , that Sen. Obama will lock up the nomination within 3-7 days from the last primary, which should be around Jun. 5-10, 2008.

MacDaddy said...

Interesting post. But the switching speaks ill of the superdelegate process itself, which militates against the democratic voting process and sets up democratic candidates against each other.

Amot said...

I agree with you. First, I don't think in Maryland voters changed their minds a lot since February. Haven't heard about riot in maryland and angry AA on the streets. Second, if this guy had issues with Clinton why did he accept the position? Really, with a very few exception due to scandals connected with a candidate, pledged delegates should remain pledged...

BTW, if Mr. Johnson likes Obama so much, why didn't he apply for Obama's pledged?

I am Obama fan; just like Yousri in my heart I am pleased he is one delegate closer to the nomination; but most of me is unpleased with this guy and I am glad that the campaign did not encourage similar actions from other pledged delegates!

Mike in Maryland said...

Johnson is a very interesting case.

He is the elected County Executive, the highest county office. Prince George's County is the second largest (in terms of population) county in Maryland, with the largest AA population in the state, and the county went overwhelmingly for Senator Obama.

On the other hand, Johnson was not selected from the 4th Congressional District, but on a state level, which means he (theoretically) goes to the convention representing all of Senator Clinton's supporters in the entire state.

The politics of PG County are crazy, and are usually the laughing stock of the entire state. So for this to come from PG Count is not at all surprising.

However, it is ironic that this puts Senator Clinton in a real bind. No matter what happens, she loses.

If nothing is done, she loses the delegate.

If she pushes to replace him, she loses her argument that pledged delegates can change their vote.

Nice trap she set for herself.