From time to time, someone in the Clinton campaign will reference the possibility of pledged delegates won by Obama flipping for Clinton before or at the convention. Pledged delegates from a particular state are supposed to vote for the candidate who “won” them in that state’s primary or caucus, but they are not bound by party rules to do so. It’s generally viewed as over-the-line for a candidate to try and flip a pledged delegate because doing so means subverting the will of the voters. That’s why the Clinton campaign has always responded to these mini-snafus with strong statements. “We have not, are not, and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama,” said Clinton’s communication director Howard Wolfson in one such instance.
So how to explain Hillary Clinton’s statement yesterday to the Philadelphia Daily News?
“And also remember that pledged delegates in most states are not pledged. You know there is no requirement that anybody vote for anybody. They’re just like superdelegates.”
I second Chris Orr’s endorsement of Josh Marshall’s “fog of nonsense” theory. The idea is that Clinton has an incentive to keep everyone confused about the status of the delegate count, because it hides how difficult the math currently makes it for her to get the nomination. She doesn’t have to suggest she’ll pursue pledged delegates, just remind everyone that the pledged delegate count is not a hard-and-fast number. I think that’s right. Every time her campaign floats something like this, the media has another reason to keep the back-and-forth of the campaign in the headlines for another day or two, creating the perception that Obama and Clinton are equally matched opponents.
And if she’s waiting for Obama to make a catastrophic mistake or for the superdelegates to swing her way, she needs that time.