Confusion spreads around Florida and Michigan

The more Democrats are seeking to find a solution to allowing Florida and Michigan, the more confusing the situation is starting to look. And just as a consensus was forming about a mail-in re-vote, new developments have made that option now very unlikely -- and with it the possibility of any do-over!

The state of Florida intervened today, with state officials saying that there is no governmental authority that can verify signatures and the identity of voters in a primary election conducted over mail.

Particularly frustrating to proponents of a do-over is that this was revealed just hours after the state Democratic Party released a draft of a new voting plan that went as far as to propose a date (June 3rd) for this election. But with no mechanism to verify signatures and thus to prevent voter fraud, all of the actors in this controversy intervened to signal the probable death of the mail-in scenario, leaving Florida with no back-up option for now. And this scenario already had many critics before this, including all of Florida's House representatives.

Unwilling to help FL and MI find a solution, the DNC better recognize that they have to find a way to seat Florida and Michigan's delegate or risk a backlash in the polls in November... to McCain's benefit. Most polls are showing McCain leading or very competitive in Michigan, to say nothing of Florida, and the Florida Democratic Party cited a poll today that said that more that a significant number of Democratic voters in the state would not stand by their party in the general election if they don't get their vote for the Democratic nomination counted.

These latest developments are thus in no way a win for Barack Obama. Insofar as the primary is concerned, no re-vote and the January votes not counting is certainly the ideal scenario... but it would be disastrous in the general election. What is the back-up plan, then? There is now talk of a plan that is being discussed that would sit the delegates without a revote:

  • Michigan's delegates would be seated... but split 50-50 (78 for each candidate).
  • The Florida delegates would be allocated according to the January 29th vote, but they would only have half a vote each... which means that Clinton would derive a 19-delegate (rather than 38) edge.
  • The superdelegates from both states would also be reinstated, which should be good news for Clinton who has more support, especially in Florida.
The Clinton campaign is said to be ready to agree to such a plan, with Obama having to decide whether he would also agree (no plan would be implemented, it looks like, without the support both campaigns). But it is very puzzling as to why Clinton would be so eager to endorse this and Obama so reluctant this proposal, which is as good a plan as Obama can hope for! Here's why:

First, Clinton only getting 19 delegate more out of Florida and Michigan would be a great result for the Obama campaign, as it is less than the Clinton campaign could hope to get in do-over and (more importantly) much less that what the Clinton campaign needs to get to cut in Obama's pledged delegate margin in any meaningful way.

Second, the Clinton campaign would be deprived of the opportunity to contest two big states in early June and -- in case they win for a second time -- to argue once again that Obama has a problem with large states that Democrats need to win. It is undeniable that if Clinton gets two solid victories in Michigan and Florida at the end of the primary process, they will go into the summer with big momentum and more proof that they own the most important states --- and that would complicate Obama's efforts to secure the nomination, whatever his pledged delegate lead.

But the third concern about this compromise plan should worry Democrats: How can they tell Michigan that they got to have their say in the Democratic primary if the state's delegates are just slit 50-50? If McCain decides to use this issue to blast his opponent in Michigan in the fall, Democrats will have nothing to respond.

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  • Taniel, here are a few questions that aren't answered in the proposal. Do the superdelegates get a full or half vote; how many superdelegates are there and how many are committed to Clinton or Obama; and what happens to the all important popular vote? If the popular vote is not counted it's a big plus for Obama and if the supers are given a full vote it's good for Clinton.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 17:53  

  • I agree that splitting the delegates in half for FL is good for Obama. It is what the GOP decided to do from the start and was probably, in hindsight the best decision.

    Clinton may be happy to go along with it because the other option are Caucuses, especially in MI and Obama would probably win that. Also she only got 55% of the vote when Obama was a relative unknown (compared to now) so she would likely get less than 55% which would be a defeat even if she won.

    Even with FL included in the popular vote Obama is ahead of Clinton (Michigan totally excluded). But it might be fairer not to include FL popular vote in any totals.

    This way also stops Clinton saying she won Michigan!

    By Anonymous Guy, At 13 March, 2008 18:24  

  • Maybe that third point explain's Obama's reluctance. There's a plausible chance that Obama could win a Michigan re-vote -- which could provide him with the elusive death-blow to Clinton's campaign and shore up support for him in a state he actually needs. (He doesn't particularly need Florida.)

    If Obama rejects this plan, I suspect it will be on grounds that "we shouldn't disenfranchise Michigan because Florida can't get it together."

    By Anonymous Chicago Joe, At 13 March, 2008 18:45  

  • If Obama does reject this plan and press for revotes then it follows on from his actively contesting every state in the nation. Which is more than Clinton has done - how a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination can blow off Wisconsin, Maryland, DC, Minnesota and Washington is beyond me. Either indifference or poor planning, neither is a good explanation.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 13 March, 2008 20:31  

  • Latest rumor is that there is consensus in MI for a full-blown primary do-over...


    By Blogger Dan, At 13 March, 2008 23:28  

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