Florida and Michigan

As the Democratic Party approaches a situation where neither candidate for President may have the number of delegates needed to win the nomination the fate of the delegations from Florida and Michigan has taken center stage. With both states being penalized by the national party for holding primaries outside of the allowed time window the issue of what happens to the delegations (who have been disqualified by party rules)now becomes a thorny problem. With Hillary having “won” both primaries her supporters are now agitating for the seating of these state delegations. But Hillary and Obama both promised to abide by the rules in place, and Obama in fact removed his name from the Michigan ballot, and did not campaign in Florida. While the rules were clear the political cost of simply ignoring the voters of two critical states has now become clear. From the Wall Street Journal:

But the alternative of sticking with the status quo and excluding the two states is equally risky. Michigan is a reliably Democratic state with big African-American and union populations. Florida is a toss-up state that the Democrats hope to win this year. If nothing is done now, the resolution of the issue would likely be left to the convention. That’s perhaps the riskiest scenario of all, should New York Sen. Clinton remain neck and neck with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, or nearly so. Sen. Clinton’s edge among the two states’ 366 convention votes would likely clinch the nomination for her in that case. An ugly fight could break out, leaving scars that could cost the Democrats the presidency.

With the very obvious mishandling of this issue by the national party clear, what are national leaders saying now?

National party leaders for now are trying to avoid the question. “At the end of the day we want to unify the party, including Michigan and Florida, and that will be my job,” Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, said on CNN this past week. “But right now thats not on my horizon.”

Well maybe it should be on his horizon, as the potential for some real damaging mischief is quite apparent.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, laid firm claim to Florida’s delegates after her win in the states primary two weeks ago. She promised voters that “I will do everything I can to make sure not only are Florida’s Democratic delegates are seated, but Florida is in the winning column for the Democrats in 2008.”

Obama has indicated some support for a re-vote (or a caucus) to select delegates and through a spokesperson said:

“Senator Obama is disappointed that Florida will have no role in selecting delegates for the Democratic nominee, but looks forward to competing and winning in Florida during the general election,” said Obama campaign spokesperson Bill Burton.

In the case of a divisive coonvention floor fight over the seating of these delegations Senator Obama would be placed in a tough spot.

“If it gets that far , then Obama has to look Michigan and Florida in the eye and say, ‘I don’t want you in my convention.’ That’s pretty powerful stuff,” Mr. Thurber said.

Maybe Obama wraps this thing up and makes this discussion academic, but if he does not then the lack of foresight and planning by the Democratic National Committee and Chairman Dean will place our party in an untenable position. Obama cannot now be penalized for following the rules laid down by the national party, as this will create a division that may be difficult to recover from in the general election. I guess that the strategy of Chairman Dean is to wait and hope. Once more hope plays a role in the campaign.

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6 Responses to Florida and Michigan

  1. Ryan says:

    I think the potential wrath for pissing off the voters in Florida is far more important than making sure the rules were 100% followed. Unfortunately, the voters in Florida didn’t have a say in when the election would take place, so I don’t think it fair they should be penalized. The DNC should seat those delegates, even if there’s some kind of other penalty associated with it (perhaps Florida should lose half its delegates?).

    Michigan is a much touchier situation, because of the fact that Hillary was the only game in town there. Obama probably would have won it, but we can never really now. So, in that case, maybe the correct thing to do is to have a new election held there – which has been done in the past. But, if that’s the case, the state party still broke party rules and they should face the same delegate-penalty as Florida.

    This would be the cheapest, most effective and fair way for the party to deal with this, without pissing off any large constituency… and it shouldn’t determine the fate of the election, since Obama would have plenty of time to mount a challenge to Hillary in Michigan… and they played by the same rules in Florida.

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  2. Bill Manzi says:

    In a perfect world a redo of both would occur, but it is not a perfect world. Both Clinton and Obama agreed up front that FLA would not be contested. Perhaps Hillary should have objected prior to the contest or at the time the National Committee promulgated the rule that barred the FLA delegation, but she did not. My concern is that in a tight race for delegates if FLA or Michigan tipped the scale in Hillary’s favor there would be widespread discontent amongst Obama supporters. I do agree that there will be some angry folks in both states if the delegations are not seated. That is why I am critical of the national committee and Chairman Dean, who have put us in a no win situation. I wish more effort had been made to solve this problem earlier!

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  3. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Sounds like there a potential powder keg here. Could there be a 1968 Chicago Democratic convention redux. Race and gender issues are passionate

    You are right this should have been settled a long time ago.

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  4. Ryan says:

    Then why not schedule a new primary? Isn’t that the perfect-world scenario? It’s really the only way to avoid pissing off voters. If Obama wins and Florida delegates didn’t get there say, I honestly don’t see how we’ll win the state. A whole lot of people will have been turned off because they had no say. At least, if they had a say, they may not be so turned off if Obama is victorious.

    I don’t see the need to actually reschedule an election there, since all three candidates played by the same rules. But if the Dem party wanted to, that would be fine too. Michigan, which would almost certainly vote for Barack, would definitely require a new election, lest Obama supporters in Michigan get pissed off in the general if Hillary were the eventual nominee.

    At the base, there’s precedent for redoing a primary. Delaware did it just a few years ago. So let’s do it again, because there’s nothing more important than being democratic about this process, especially when these are states we are ultimately going to have to win in order to take the White House in ’08.

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  5. Bill Manzi says:

    The Florida Democratic Party is balking at the potential 10 million dollar expense of such a re-do. Michigan appears, from public comments, to be open to such a possibility. I do agree that Florida is a real key state in the general, and I would be supportive of some attempt to recognize them through this process. Obama’s supporters will be key to an overall victory in November and if their perception is that party insiders fixed this for Clinton there will be hell to pay in November.

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  6. D.J. says:

    The rules can’t be changed in the middle of the game. In my opinion, we need to get rid of the delegate / Electoral College systems entirely. The candidate who wins the most votes should be the winner, regardless of the contest.

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