Hillary Clinton's campaign has a secret weapon to build its delegate count, but her top strategists say privately that any attempt to deploy it would require a sharp (and by no means inevitable) shift in the political climate within Democratic circles by the end of this month.
With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate.
Using the Rules and Bylaws Committee to force the seating of two pro-Hillary delegations would provoke a massive outcry from Obama forces. Such a strategy would, additionally, face at least two other major hurdles, and could only be attempted, according to sources in the Clinton camp, under specific circumstances:
First, this coming Tuesday, Clinton would have to win Indiana and lose North Carolina by a very small margin - or better yet, win the Tar Heel state. She would also have to demonstrate continued strength in the contests before May 31.
Second, and equally important, her argument that she is a better general election candidate than Obama -- that he has major weaknesses which have only been recently revealed -- would have to rapidly gain traction, not only within the media, where she has experienced some success, but within the broad activist ranks of the Democratic Party.