Fla., Mich. Delegates Each Get Half a Vote
Sunday, June 1, 2008
After hours of emotional testimony and sometimes contentious debate, Democratic Party officials agreed yesterday on a pair of compromises to seat Florida's and Michigan's delegations to their national convention. But a part of the deal drew an angry reaction and the threat of a subsequent challenge from the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The compromises by the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee called for both delegations, originally barred from the convention for violating party rules, to be seated in full in Denver but with each delegate casting only half a vote.
The actions by the committee were aimed at bringing the long and sometimes-bitter Democratic nomination battle between Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Clinton (N.Y.) to a close and to ensure party unity as the Democrats head into the general election. But the decisions prompted bitter and sometimes-tearful reactions from some members of the audience, who repeatedly shouted over the committee members as they voted.
Obama remains the heavy favorite to win the nomination, with his campaign hoping that he can secure enough delegates over the next week to do so. Puerto Rico's primary will be held today, and the last two states, Montana and South Dakota, will vote Tuesday. The committee's decisions represented a significant setback to Clinton, who had passionately called for seating both delegations with full votes.
The net result was a gain of 87 delegate votes for Clinton and 63 for Obama. Until yesterday's action, the magic number for winning the nomination was 2,026 delegates. Now the winner will need 2,118. According to a count by the Associated Press, as of last night, Obama controlled 2,052 delegates to Clinton's 1,877.
Obama campaign officials said they will redouble efforts to win over enough superdelegates to put their candidate over the top as quickly as possible, but Clinton hopes to emerge with more popular votes and continues to press the case that she would be a stronger general-election candidate than Obama.
"We're extremely gratified that the commission agreed on a fair solution that will allow Michigan and Florida to participate in the Convention. We appreciate their efforts, and those of the party leadership of both states, to bring this resolution about," said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
The Florida agreement included a provision calling for the delegates to be allocated on the basis of the state's Jan. 29 primary, a decision that would net Clinton 19 more delegates than Obama. Clinton's campaign had pushed for a proposal to seat the full delegation with full voting power, but when that failed, her supporters on the committee relented, and the compromise was approved without a dissenting vote, 27 to 0.
But it was the Michigan plan, approved by a 19 to 8 vote, that drew sharper opposition because of the way that state's delegates will be awarded. Under the plan, Clinton will be given 34.5 delegate votes in Denver to Obama's 29.5 delegate votes, a percentage distribution recommended by leaders of the Michigan Democratic Party but opposed by the Clinton campaign officials, who said it violates the results of Michigan's Jan. 15 primary.
"This motion will hijack -- hijack -- remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton," said Harold Ickes, who oversees delegate operations for the Clinton campaign and is also a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee. "This body of 30 individuals has decided that they're going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters."
Arguing that the Michigan compromise "is not a good way to start down the path of party unity," Ickes warned that Clinton had authorized him to note that she will "reserve her rights to take it to the credentials committee" later. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson later affirmed that Clinton will reserve her right to challenge the outcome.
Don Fowler, another Clinton supporter on the panel but not formally tied to the Clinton campaign, voted for the Michigan plan. "It does not represent the first choice of my candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton," he told the panel. "But I think [it is] in the best interest of the party."