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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.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:
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.
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.