News from the Votemaster
Question: which is more important: the primary election with the largest number of delegates to be awarded during the rest of the campaign or a meeting of an obscure committee of the DNC that is almost never in the news? If you chose #1, click here. For all you rules geeks, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) met yesterday. The bottom line is that Clinton netted 23 delegates, far fewer than she wanted. Now for the details.
The RBC had the hot potato of seating Florida and Michigan handed to it because both states violated DNC (and RNC) rules and moved their primaries up before February 5, 2008, the earliest date states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada are allowed to vote. The reason for this rule is simple: unknown candidates, like Gene McCarthy (1968), Gary Hart (1984), Paul Tsongas (1992), Howard Dean (2004), and others can mount a serious campaign in these small states by just trudging through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire to meet the voters one at a time and then use wins here to springboard into Nevada and South Carolina. If big states like Michigan and Florida went first, step 1 for running for President would be first raise $50 million, then start running TV commercials in those states. As a matter of principle, the DNC does not want to eliminate the possibility of anyone with less than $50 million running for President. That is why the dates of the primaries are so important. Interestingly enough, this is an issue the DNC and RNC agree on.
Florida and Michigan knew this full well when they moved up their dates, but the thought of all the publicity and money an early primary would bring in made the temptation too great and they succumbed, thinking the DNC and RNC wouldn't have the guts to do anything about it. Surprise. The DNC stripped both states of all their delegates. The RNC was more merciful and stripped the two states of only half their delegates.
In the case of Florida, the move to an early primary was initiated by the Republican-controlled state legislature and the resulting bill was signed by Republican governor Charlie Crist, but the Florida Democrats didn't really protest. In Michigan, it was entirely the Democrats fault because changing the date to mid-January was done by the Democratic controlled legislature and signed by Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm. The Democrats could not have stopped Florida from changing the date although they could have howled to the moon about it. In Michigan, the plan (largely due to Sen. Carl Levin) would never have gotten out of the starting gate without the Democrats full support. Consequently, the situation in the two states was quite different.
The RBC started out at 9:30 A.M. in the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in D.C. hearing testimony and presentations from the Clinton camp, the Obama camp, the state parties, and others. The proceedings, which were broadcast live on the Internet, were intense, emotional, and highly partisan. The Clinton camp reminded the RBC that in Florida in 2000, Democrats argued to let every vote count and that should hold now, too. The Clinton spokespeople wanted to seat the entire Florida delegation at full voting strength as determined by the results of the Florida primary. The Obama camp argued that Florida results didn't mean anything because the candidates didn't campaign there and many people didn't vote because they knew the results wouldn't count. It favored a 50-50 split of the delegates. A motion was made to seat the full Florida delegation at full voting strength but it failed. Then a second, compromise, motion was made to seat the full delegation but give each delegate only 1/2 vote and that passed 27-0. The feeling was while the election was flawed, the two candidates had the same disadvantage. The result is that Clinton was awarded 52.5 delegates, Obama was awarded 33.5 delegates, and Edwards was awarded 5.5 delegates. Since Edwards has since endorsed Obama, his delegates are likely to vote for Obama at the convention although they do not have to. This penalty (loss of half the delegates) is the same one the Republicans applied to Florida for violating their rules. The unamimous vote by the RBC, which includes 13 Clinton supporters, suggests there is broad agreement on this compromise.
Michigan, which voted Jan. 15, is a whole different kettle of frozen fish. Barack Obama removed his name from the ballot. Neither DNC rules nor Michigan law required this. Obama (and several other candidates who did the same thing), said that they were doing this to comply with the spirit of the DNC ruling to strip Michigan of all its delegates and to discourage people from voting in an election that would not count. Clinton supporters said this was a strategic decision by Obama because he expected to lose Michigan and now he has to live with the consequences of his decision. They also said Obama supporters were free to vote for "uncommitted" on the ballot. Obama supporters said that you could hardly expect very committed Obama supporters to vote for "uncommitted."
Enter the Michigan Democratic Party, which was largely responsible for the mess. Party chairman Mark Brewer testified before the committee and made a proposal. He agreed that not having Obama's name on the ballot made the election unfair. In fact, he noted that 30,000 people (out of 600,000 voters), wrote in a candidate, probably almost entirely Obama. However, under Michigan law, write-ins don't count unless the candidate has authorized a write-in campaign, which Obama did not. Brewer further said that a team of party experts had looked at the exit polls and other data and concluded that in a fair election, Clinton would have won by 54% to 46%, so he proposed splitting the state's 128 pledged delegates in that proportion, giving Clinton 69 delegates and Obama 59. There was a huge objection from the Clinton camp saying that statistical models cannot replace the actual votes of 600,000 people, to which the Obama camp replied that last year, months before the voting, Clinton agreed that Michigan would not count and now that she desperately needs the delegates, it is essential that an election in which her opponent wasn't on the ballot count fully. There was a lot of acrimony in the room, with sharp questions from the committee members to the speakers and frequent partisan jeers from the audience.
After all the presentations, the committee met in closed session and debated for three hours. Accepting the Florida election but penalizing the state by a 50% loss of voting strength was straightforward. However, with Michigan, there were (at least) three proposals: Clinton's proposal to seat all the delegates at full strength, Obama's proposal to ignore the election and split the delegates 50-50, and the Michigan Democratic Party's proposal to use a 69-59 split. In the end, the RBC adopted the MDP proposal but also reduced the voting strength of each delegate to 1/2 as punishment for jumping the gun. This decision, which was widely booed by Clinton supporters when it was announced, gave Clinton 34.5 delegates and Obama 29.5 delegates. Thus adding up the two states, Clinton got 87 delegates, Obama got 63 delegates, and Edwards got 5.5 delegates.
The reaction by the candidates camps was swift. The Obama people said it was a reasonable compromise under the circumstances (English translation: I'm still going to be the nominee). The Clinton people were furious and Harold Ickes, Clinton's chief delegate counter, threatened to take this fight to the credentials committee in Denver (English translation: if we don't get our way, we'll destroy the party). Of course, if enough supers commit to Obama in the coming week, even a credentials fight won't help and the Clintons are smart enough to realize that wrecking the party is not the way to get the nomination in 2012. Their best hope is to work hard for Obama and secretly pray he loses. Then they will have demonstrated their good will and have earned Democrats' respect.
There is zero chance that Clinton could win a credentials fight at the convention. Technically, the injured party is the Michigan Democratic Party, which is being penalized for violating the rules. While Brewer would prefer full voting strength for his delegates, he realizes full well there has to be a penalty for violating the rules or all hell will break out in 2012. The most important part of his plan, the delegate split, was accepted by the RBC. A credentials fight in which the aggrieved party sides with the accepted compromise is not going to fly.
Virtually every news outlet has a story about this meeting, including:Washington Post
There is an election today, in Puerto Rico. In the May 26 posting here, this primary, in which 55 pledged delegates will be chosen, was discussed in detail. The most likely outcome there is about 31 for Clinton and 24 for Obama. It is doubtful that Puerto Ricans will pay much attention to yesterday's battle. This is the first time in decades that they have had a chance to vote in a contested election, and large numbers are expected to turn out and vote.
No primary polls today, but we have general election polls for Washington and New York, where either Democrat wins easily.
We also have a Senate poll in Lousiana, where incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is being challenged by former Democrat and current Republican John Kennedy. Landrieu is ahead 47% to 44% according to a new Rasmussen poll. There is also a poll for the Wyoming at-large House seat being vacated (under duress) by Barbara Cubin (R). Democrat Gary Trauner appears to be slightly ahead of Republican Cynthia Lummis 44% to 41%, although this is within the margin of error.
Below are the delegate counts. The NY Times hasn't updated its count yet, so if we average the other five, we get 2050 for Obama and 1874 for Clinton, a difference of 176. Now let's assume Clinton wins Puerto Rico and gets 31 delegates to Obama's 24, so we have 2074 for Obama and 1905 for Clinton. Let's go a step further and award Clinton 14 delegates for Montana plus South Dakota to Obama's 17. Thus as of Wednesday morning, we might have something like Clinton 1919 and Obama 2091 with 225 supers yet to be accounted for. To win the nomination, Obama will need 27 supers (12%) and Clinton will need 199 (88%). It is hard to imagine that virtually all the remaining supers will suddenly break for Clinton. If they wanted to help her, Friday, just before the RBC meeting, would have been a good time. Waiting until it is over is too late. There is a good chance that many of them are actually Obama supporters who have kept quiet so far as a favor to Bill Clinton, who probably helped them in the past.
Needed to win: 2118
Here is another source for delegate totals.
-- The Votemaster