What to do about Florida (and Michigan)'s delegates

The results of South Carolina are not yet in, but the Democratic campaigns are already looking forward to Florida. The Obama campaign has been accusing Clinton of trying to use Florida despite its being a rogue state, while the Clintonites charged that Obama had broken the pledge by running a national ad last week.

As we noted a few days ago, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the press to ignore the contest the way they did Michigan given that absentee ballots and early voting on the Democratic side are beating records and that turnout will likely be much bigger than expected. The NYT's Nagourney just weighted in. After reviewing the early turnout numbers, he offers a first indication of where the media is heading come Tuesday. And his pronouncement of Florida's importance is amazing news for Hillary Clinton: "The level of interest, if it is matched by turnout at the polls on Tuesday, could make the results in Florida more important for Democrats than they had assumed, given both the absence of candidates here and the fact that no delegates are at stake."

Now, Clinton has chosen to rush to the rescue of Michigan and Florida and proclaim herself the defender of their delegate rights. She released a statement yesterday saying that, "I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan." Clinton would obviously benefit from the delegate influx from these two states given her win in MI and her probable triumph in FL.

Now, there is no question that if the Democratic nominee is decided in the spring there would be no suspense at the convention and it would not matter whether FL and MI delegates were seated. In such a case, the delegates would be restored whether the nominee is Obama or Clinton.

The problem, of course, is what would happen if the party reaches a brokered convention and delegate count actually ends up mattering. How can Clinton convince the DNC and her fellow candidates to restore seat Michigan and Florida's delegates if that would give her an important advantage -- and perhaps guarantee her nomination? In any case, we already know what the first fight would be about in Denver, and if it comes to that expect raucous votes on the convention floor on what to do with Michigan and Florida.

This also opens up the truly terrifying possibility for Dems that no resolution is reached and the delegates are not seated after all. Michigan and Florida are both very important swing states and the image of their not being representated at the convention could be disastrous for Democrats. You can be sure the GOP would seize on that to pound Dems in Florida and Michigan and the Democratic nominee would have a lot of work to do to restore voter good will in these states.

The Obama campaign wasted no time to respond to Clinton's new-found commitment to work for Florida's delegates via David Plouffe, Barack's campaign manager:

When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she made it clear that states like Michigan and Florida that wouldn’t produce any delegates, ‘don’t count for anything.’ Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary, she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred.

To be fair to Clinton, she did leave her name on the Michigan ballot while Obama and Edwards knew they were on unfavorable terrain and use the opportunity to run away (and it's completely silly to say that this was done to respect the early states), so there is some prior evidence of Clinton being more reluctant to dismiss the rogue states. And she already reaped a benefit from her new stand: Senator Nelson of Florida is about to endorse her, praising her commitment to restore the state's delegates. In a Florida campaign that will be very low on news given that no candidates will appear in the state, such small developments could matter more than usual.



  • Obama and Edwards did not run, they followed the rules to not alienate the early voting states.
    Clinton was an idiot for keeping her name on the ballot, 45% of people came out and voted against her, most of them for uncommitted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 January, 2008 15:43  

  • Dean is hoping Clinton or Obama wins outright so he can seat the delegates without changing who wins.

    At least that's what I would want if I were him.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 26 January, 2008 17:50  

  • Well ain't this just grand. First I get angry at Howard Dean for not counting my vote. Now three days before our primary I learn that Clinton is pushing to count our delegates, contrary to the pledge she made to the earlier voting states. She reminds me why I disliked the Clintons (both of them) in the 90's, even though overall I approved of Clinton's presidency. As much as I would hate to see another Republican administration, this act also underscores the fact that I cannot in good conscience vote for Clinton, should she be the nominee. I'll vote some random third party candidate instead.

    By Anonymous Dave in Tallahassee, At 26 January, 2008 18:54  

  • I just don't understand how a party can label themselves as Democrats when they are denying delegate support from two of the largest states in America. What kind of a democrat disenfranchises millions of people because of the decisions of a few? Maybe they should have done what the Republicans did, and docked half the delegates.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 January, 2008 20:03  

  • I agree with CS. If somebody wins outright, Dean will seat the delegates from these two general election swing states.

    By Anonymous Andy, At 26 January, 2008 21:00  

  • Democrats tried to change the election rules after the fact in the 2000 Presidential election and too late in the New Jersey Senate race, when they got the NJ (Democratic) Supreme Court to let the Democrats cheat. Why is anyone surprised that one Democrat would try to cheat again, even if it is against other ones?

    By Blogger Woody, At 26 January, 2008 21:50  

  • "Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it."

    I am a resident of Tampa Florida and am ashamed of what may very well be the most incompetent state Democratic Party in the country: the Florida Democratic Party. The present early state primary system lessens the influence of wealth, media conglomerates, and large state political machines. In small states grassroots support has a much greater impact on elections than in large states.

    To be competitive in large state-wide contests requires a great deal of money. The discourse is mostly that of 30 second ads, because it is impossible to speak with as large a percentage of the population directly in the way you can in small states. Bringing large states up in the primary calendar would mean that presidential candidates would be even more dependent on large contributors than they are now. The likelihood of what Huckabee did in Iowa would be even less likely. As much as I disagree with Huckabee's positions, I am glad that outsiders can still upset big party boss favorites.

    In early states local papers and media personalities can have as much if not more influence than the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or major tv network programs. It must be really frustrating for the big media players, who are accustomed to greater influence in the national political scene, to have to endure playing a smaller role in the presidential primaries. I'm not surprised that so few of these media conglomerates are educating the public about the importance of early small state primary schedule.

    How unfortunate for large state political machines, used to commanding so much national attention normally, to watch small states have a chance at influencing who the next president is. How much time and attention would small state issues get, if the presidential candidates had all state primaries even closer together? It is a frightening thing for me to see a United States Senator actually sue the national party for having the integrity and wisdom to preserve the small state preference. That a major candidate act to endanger this system should make plain where their priorities are and what kind of president they would be. As a resident of a large state, where the impact of every voter is proportionally less than in small states, I am overjoyed that the DNC is is preserving the influence of citizens over these other interests.

    The horrible thing is that there so few understand the importance of the early small state primary system. I really had hoped the the Republican Party elders would have shown greater fortitude against this foolishness. I am amazed that the Florida Democratic Party machine is so stupid as to allow itself to aide and abet in the disenfranchisement of the voters of so important a state. That more are not outraged by what Florida Democratic Party did is at the heart of what is wrong with American politics.

    By Blogger Edwin, At 27 January, 2008 22:37  

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