The DNC’s Florida and Michigan problem

The debate over what to do about the Florida and Michigan delegates continued to rage on over the weekend with the the talking head shows weighing in with their .02. I think Hillary is actually gaining some momentum with her case for either seating the delegates as they stand now from the original primary votes, or holding a new vote to determine how many delegates each candidate will get. Obama is reluctant, I think, because he stands ahead at this point in the delegate count, and perhaps feels that he wouldn’t win in FL and MI.

Hillary, you remember, won both Florida and Michigan but there is an asterick beside her wins in both states. In Michigan, Obama’s name wasn’t on the ballot where as it was in Florida it was. As per an agreement by the candidates last September after the DNC’s decision was made to punish the two states, there was no campaigning in either state by any of the Dem candidates. However, with Florida there was a record turnout for Democrats in spite of the no campaigning pledge, which has led Hillary to plead her case that even without the campaigning the voters were informed enough to show up in record numbers to vote for the candidate they wanted to be their nominee. Also keep in mind though that the agreement both Hillary and BO (as well as the other Dem candidates) signed last September promising to not campaign in either MI or FL didn’t say anything about whether or not they agreed with how the DNC had chosen to punish Florida and Michigan on the issue of delegates.

Hillary and her supporters have even pulled out the big “d” word (disenfranchisement) into the mix to throw in a bit of emotional appeal into the mix. Florida Dems already feel “disenfranchised” after what happened in 2000, and Hillary knows this and is capitalizing on it now. She wants a primary held in both states rather than a caucus, because primaries have tended to benefit her more than they have BO.

Even before his win in the Wyoming caucus this weekend and his expected win in tomorrow’s Mississippi primary, Barack Obama was (and is) understandably hesitant to commit to any re-vote in either Michigan in Florida unless it’s a caucus-like vote which would benefit him.

One of the issues, in addition to the disagreement over how to conduct the re-vote, is how to pay for it, because holding a re-vote isn’t cheap:

Two of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biggest supporters, who are also two of the Democratic Party’s most successful fund-raisers, have offered to help raise millions of dollars to stage new primaries in Florida and Michigan.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said Sunday that they would be willing to raise half the $30 million it would take to run new contests in those two states. Mr. Corzine and Mr. Rendell submitted their proposal to The Washington Post.

The two governors argue that the Democratic National Committee, and not taxpayers in Florida and Michigan, should pay for a re-election in those states.

Democrats have been struggling to find a way to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida, who were excluded when those states held primaries in January, violating national party rules.

With a virtual tie in both convention delegates and the nationwide popular vote, the dispute over the two states has the potential of deciding the overall race.

Mrs. Clinton won in both states, though Senator Barack Obama’s name did not appear on the Michigan ballot and neither candidate campaigned actively in Florida. Her supporters at first pressed for the disputed delegates to be seated, but both campaigns and Democratic Party leaders have been searching for an alternative solution.

Talk of the problem dominated the Sunday morning political television programs.

“I think it’s very unlikely that Florida and Michigan, given how close this race is, are going to be seated as is” said Howard Dean, the Democratic national chairman, on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “But everybody’s going to work very hard to find a compromise within the rules that’s fair to both campaigns that will allow Florida and Michigan in the end to be seated.”

Mr. Rendell raised the fund-raising proposal on “Meet the Press” on NBC as he pressed for re-votes in the two states. Former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, speaking for the Obama campaign, also appeared on the program and said he would go along.

“We don’t have any problem with that” Mr. Daschle said.

Mr. Rendell said that, in the submission to The Washington Post, he and Mr. Corzine offered to “help raise the approximately $15 million which would be half of the $30 million it would take to run those two contests.”

There’s also talk of the candidates helping to pay for the re-votes. I don’t see either campaign contributing a nickel unless the DNC decides to do it the way the candidates want them to, which means it’s highly unlikely we’ll see the campaigns helping to fund the re-votes, because Hillary wants it one way, and BO wants it another.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson has suggested a mail-in re-vote for Florida. The Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, appears to be on board with this idea, but it is meeting with opposition from some Florida Democrats:

A new proposal for seating Florida’s Democratic delegates at the party’s convention in Denver has emerged, this time from a Republican. The state’s Republican governor — Sen. John McCain’s number one Sunshine State buddy Charlie Crist — said he would “oversee” a mail-in re-vote for Florida’s more than five million Democrats.

“He must be kidding,” says Ann Zucker, chair of the Council of Presidents of all Democratic clubs in Greater Fort Lauderdale. “Does Gov. Crist think we are stupid? He actually signed the bill causing this problem, and we all know this is merely part of his quest to be on the Republican ticket.”

Crist, often mentioned as a potential running mate for McCain, held a press conference over the weekend in which he said that if the Democratic National Committee would pay for a new election, his Elections Division would oversee it “to ensure the integrity of the process.” He then reiterated his pledge Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulus in tandem with DNC leader Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), whose state has a similar early primary punishment.

Gov. Dean however, said it was up to the state to fund a re-do election. Florida legislative leaders from both parties, meanwhile, say “not a penny” of public funds will be used for an election that was “settled last January.”

Crist’s recommendation would mean only limited expenses to the state if the DNC paid the lion’s share, he indicated. He said this would be an alternative but he still preferred seating of the delegation based on the Jan. 29 primary results.

Obama was on the news this weekend stating that it would be unfair to seat the delegates as they stand now, considering that his name wasn’t on the ballot in MI and there was no campaigning by either candidate in FL. The Rev. Al Sharpton has thrown himself into the fray by threatening to sue Florida if they seat the delegates based on the Jan. 29th primary:

Laying the groundwork for a court battle that could divide the Democratic Party, the Reverend Al Sharpton is threatening to sue the Democratic National Committee if it counts Florida’s primary results in the official presidential delegates tally.

Rev. Sharpton is traveling to Florida today to compile lists of residents who skipped the January contest because they thought their votes would not count. He plans to have those residents sign affidavits saying they would be disenfranchised by the seating of the Florida delegation, in the event the Democratic Party allowed that to happen.

The party had promised to exclude Florida and Michigan from the nomination process after the states scheduled their primaries in January, earlier than party rules had allowed, but the close contest between senators Clinton and Obama has turned attention toward those primaries, prompting debate between the campaigns and party leaders over how to handle the lockout.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has said it wants the Florida and Michigan primaries to count, while Mr. Obama’s campaign has said it will support the Democratic National Committee’s rules.

Needless to say, all this infighting within the Dem party is welcome news for the GOP, who no doubt are enjoying the fact that the word “disenfranchisement,” something the GOP is always being (falsely) accused of, is being used this time around as it relates to the mess the Dems find themselves in regarding Florida and Michigan. One way or another, I think both states will have a re-vote, but depending on how the re-vote is done (caucuses or a new set of primaries, or a mail-in vote), there will be some resentment when it comes time to actually seat the delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and we could see some real fireworks as a result.

Grab the popcorn – this is getting really interesting.

Via Memeorandum.

Update: Read related thoughts via Captain Ed.

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