The Democrats Stumble to the Finish Line, Part II

(Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part entry about the important decisions facing the Democrats with the final phase of the primary season. To read the first part, please go here.)

by Tony Romm*
Special to iVoryTowerz

The second, equally tumultuous solution to the dilemma posed by the dispute over delegates from Florida and Michigan would be to permit both states’ delegates a place at the convention, albeit at a major price. In addition to halving their size, the committee would have to respect Sen. Clinton’s gains while accounting for Sen. Obama’s absence — never an easy task when protestors believe their candidate deserves to win.

The 50-50 split is one idea, although it’s not a very good one. There isn’t much to suggest Barack Obama would have won either Florida or Michigan by a sizable margin, even if he did campaign aggressively in both states, so Hillary Clinton stands the most to lose in that arrangement. A second, more widely approved Michigan variation would instead award delegates based on a 69-59 split, providing Clinton a 10-delegate advantage (down from her original 18-delegate lead; even farther away if the Democratic National Committee halves the original figure).

But a better variation comes straight from the DNC's memo. At least in Michigan’s case, the Obama camp can argue that “uncommitted” voters, which comprised 40 percent of the state’s total base, were partially his supporters. So too can John Edwards, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, all of whom also campaigned at that time. Thus, as reported by the Politico:

Therefore, following the principle of fair reflection of presidential preference, it can at least be said that the “Uncommitted” delegate positions should be considered as being allocated collectively to the candidates whose names did not appear on the ballot: Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, Senator Joseph Biden and Governor Bill Richardson.
In other words, the Rules and Bylaws Committee could halve and split evenly the state’s uncommitted delegates among the four contenders absent from the Michigan ballot (at least in name). And by the principle of “right of approval,” the three candidates who exited the primaries months ago could allocate their delegates through endorsements (both Richardson and Edwards have already endorsed Obama). Then, Clinton could use the precedent to take the lion’s share of the available Floridian delegates, albeit slightly less than she would like. Both sides would receive less than they anticipated, but the compromise could reduce the possibility of a floor fiasco later this summer at the Democratic convention.

Then again, the debate itself might be moot. According to the Politico, the once silent Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has expressed a desire to prevent further infighting. She, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have already taken to the phones to encourage uncommitted superdelegates to make up their minds, almost contrary to the Pelosi Club’s original intentions. Nor would her pursuit be a lone one: It is possible, though somewhat unlikely, that swaths of superdelegates could defect to Obama should Clinton act too aggressively (or gain too much) this weekend. But even then, amid the outpouring of faux-support — the escape that Democratic National Committee Chair Dean and the DNC secretly hoped for as early as 2007 — it might be too late for the party to nail itself back together. Then again, unity has never been the defining characteristic of the Democratic party.

*Tony Romm is currently an intern at Slate.

(To read the first part of this post, please go here.)

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
(Political graphic © copyright Conservative Punk; this conservative blog allows use of its graphics with the appropriate credit.)

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