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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Early Word On Michigan and Florida

[Updates below] Second update is the full text of Carl Levin, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Ron Gettelfinger and Debbie Dingell's op-ed as to why they think Michigan MUST be seated.

Sam Stein over at Huffington Post claims to have some early reports about a deal regarding the Florida delegates, saying that they will all be seated according to the primary results, but each will be given half of a vote as penalty for moving the primary forward against the DNC rules.

Michigan is another story and Marc Ambinder is saying that Carl Levin is insisting that Michigan's full delegation be seated or he will take the challenge to the credentials committee when it convenes, "unless the rules and bylaws committee promises to strip Iowa and New Hampshire of their privileged status in 2012.."

This morning's post, just published minutes before I saw this, asked what it truly is that Hillary Clinton wants, go read it, and decide if this will play right into her hands or not?

Whether we, as a country, get to see a full out floor fight at the Democratic National Convention in August, all depends on Hillary Clinton and how far she is willing to take this.

Democratic party leaders can insist they will "step in" all they want, but if Hillary Clinton wishes to appeal to the credentials committee and take it to the convention for an all out floor fight, there is not much that anybody can do to stop her.

Will she go that far or won't she?

That is the $64,000 question!

[Update] Some initial reports about the protesters and what they are saying outside the committee meeting:

"Half Votes in Fla. and Mich.=No Votes in Nov." read one sign. It was not too difficult to get the message: unless there was some compromise at the panel that would permit more than half the delegates from Michigan and Florida to be counted at the national convention this summer (and thus increasing the total number required for Barack Obama to overcome Clinton), the Clinton backers would not be there in November.

When I asked demonstrator and former Clinton campaign staffer Renee Hope of Virginia what she would do if the committee keeps more than half the delegates from Michigan and Florida from voting, she replied: "For the first time in my life, I won't vote for the Democratic nominee. It's not because of Sen. Obama, but because of the disenfranchising of voters."

"Would a compromise satisfy you?" I asked Hope.

"It depends on the compromise," she replied. Hope said that "they should be counting every single vote" and "Michigan voters should not be penalized for what the delegates [she obviously meant the Democratic committee that would decide the two states' votes] do."

"All votes need to be counted," echoed Trudy Mason, a member of the Democratic State Executive Committee from New York who was here for the meeting and demonstration. "In 2000, the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida." Diane Weiss of Boca Raton, another Democrat here for the events, chorused: "They [Michigan and Florida Democrats] voted in good conscience. Why should they be disenfranchised?"

In my opinion, what it is going to come down to is not really the decision today, but Clinton's reaction to whatever decision is made.

I say this because if Clinton comes out and gracefully accets whatever the R&B Committee decides, her supporters initial reaction will be mellowed out a bit.

If, on the other hand, Hillary disputes the decision made today, that will make a lasting impression on her supporters and will almost guarantee that many of them will become angered and keep their word about not voting in November OR as some have threatened, vote for McCain.

She does have a certain amount of power to decide whether to take this opportunity to heal the party or fracture it horribly.

What will she choose to do?

[Update #2] Carl Levin, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Ron Gettelfinger and Debbie Dingell's op-ed as to why they think Michigan MUST be seated:

This morning in Washington, D.C., we will present the case for seating Michigan's delegates to the Democratic National Convention to the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee.

We have found that when the sequence of events that brought us to this position is known and understood, it affects people's opinion about a wise and fair outcome.

For many years, Michigan Democrats have sought to reform the system where in 9 out of 10 elections our party's nominee for president is selected by the handful of states that hold their primaries and caucuses first.

Our fight to open the process before the 2004 election led to the creation of a Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling. After a year of in-depth study, the commission concluded that there were "serious concerns that Iowa and New Hampshire are not fully reflective of the Democratic electorate or the national electorate generally -- and therefore do not place Democratic candidates before a representative range of voters in the critical early weeks of the process."

For the 2008 presidential nominating process, the DNC adopted the commission's recommendations with a new timing rule that permitted four states to hold their caucus or primary in a specific order -- with New Hampshire coming third -- and no earlier than designated dates between Jan. 14 and Jan. 29.

Michigan was not selected as one of the four early states. While we were disappointed, we appreciated the new rule for adding much-needed diversity to the early nominating process and as a first step toward breaking Iowa's and New Hampshire's disproportionate influence on the process. We agreed that we would abide by the rule provided other states did the same.

But in August 2007, the New Hampshire secretary of state announced he would schedule the state's primary before the date specified in the timing rule.

The DNC selectively enforced its own rule. In December, the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to give New Hampshire a waiver to move from third to second place in the sequence. Michigan requested a waiver and was denied.

When the committee itself decided not to follow its own rules and granted a waiver to New Hampshire, it set the stage for the current situation.

The question now is how to promptly apportion and seat Michigan's 128 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention so we can put all our energy into a productive debate on the real issues at stake in this election.

Our reasoning is as follows: The Jan. 15 primary result was flawed because Sen. Barack Obama took his name off the ballot based on his interpretation of the DNC injunction and his pledge to New Hampshire that he would not campaign in Michigan. The Obama campaign has argued that the primary results should be ignored and the pledged delegates should be apportioned 64/64. The Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign, on the other hand, argues that the votes of 600,000 Democrats in the primary should be honored. Their position is that the pledged delegates should be apportioned 73/55 (Clinton/Obama) in strict accordance with the outcome of the primary.

Both campaigns have some basis for their arguments. At the request of the governor of Michigan, the four of us have worked to find a solution for many months. After determining that no "redo" options were feasible, we recommended that Michigan's 128 pledged delegates be apportioned 69 to Clinton and 59 to Obama, which splits the difference between the positions of the two campaigns. Our proposal was overwhelmingly adopted by the Executive Committee of the Michigan Democratic Party. This is what we will present the rules committee this morning.

Both Clinton and Obama understand that penalizing Michigan would needlessly and pointlessly wound their candidacy. If the DNC penalizes Michigan, it would just keep this delegate sideshow alive, distracting from the real issues in the campaign. It would legitimize the selective enforcement of our party rules, fly in the face of the statements of both candidates that Michigan's delegates should be seated with full voting rights, and penalize our candidates and our party, and ultimately our nation, by weakening our nominee's chances of winning Michigan, a state crucial to winning the White House in November.

Michigan's full delegation must be seated at the Democratic National Convention with full voting rights.

Many feel this will be far from over at the end of this committee meeting and that Clinton will take it to the convention after all is said and done.

Would she really divide the party to that point, taking the chance of fracturing it beyond repair in time for the November elections?

More updates as they come out.