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.