DNC Meets to Discuss States That Broke Rules

This weekend, Democratic Party leaders are meeting in Washington, D.C., to plan for their convention in Denver this fall. At the top of the list is what to do about the Michigan and Florida delegations. Those states broke rules by holding early primaries. David McDonald, an uncommitted superdelegate and Democratic National Committee Rules Committee member who will attend the meeting, talks with host Alex Chadwick.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up. Senator John McCain says Senator Barack Obama will change his mind on the war if he comes to Baghdad with Senator McCain. We'll hear more in our weekly chat with Juan Williams.

BRAND: First, sorting out the Democrats. Party leaders from across the country are gathering in Washington tomorrow for a meeting that can resolve the long battle for the presidential nomination. At stake, nearly 400 delegates from Michigan and Florida, two states that broke party rules by holding primaries ahead of schedule.

CHADWICK: Senator Clinton won flawed victories in both contests, and now, what to do? The Democratic Party has a Rules Committee to sort out these disputes. A prominent Seattle attorney, David McDonald, is on it. He's also an undeclared superdelegate. David, we spoke by phone late yesterday. You said you'd just gotten to Washington, that you were learning a lot and that things are evolving. What can you tell us?

Mr. DAVID MCDONALD (Attorney, Democratic Superdelegate): They have not evolved very far as far as I can I tell you. It sounds like there is no clear consensus emerging anywhere at this point, and we'll be probably addressing this most of the day tomorrow.

CHADWICK: So, there will be a meeting, and there are no deals yet going into it.

Mr. MCDONALD: Not that I'm aware of.

CHADWICK: Here's from the Huffington Post today from long-time political reporter Tom Edsel writing there, quote, "The major dispute over the Florida and Michigan delegations to the convention has now boiled down to Hillary Clinton's demand for full seeding with no sanctions." And he goes on, "the Clinton proposal now faces tough, if not insurmountable, odds." Is that how you read things?

Mr. MCDONALD: I think it's very unlikely that we would simply say never mind about Florida and Michigan.

CHADWICK: So what do you then say?

Mr. MCDONALD: I think the issue is whether we can lift part of the sanction in recognition of the fact that eventually these two state parties did actually try to get into compliance, and we may be able to lift part of the sanction on the basis of simply acknowledging that effort. I don't know whether that's going to work.

CHADWICK: Here's something I've gleaned from looking around political websites today, this is from First Read at MSNBC. It says the most likely compromise would give Senator Clinton most of the Florida delegates but split Michigan 50-50. Have you heard about this compromise, and what is appealing about it?

Mr. MCDONALD: I don't think I've heard about it. What would be appealing about at least part of it is when all else fails, people tend to simply divide things. I don't mean to be flip, but putting aside all of the other rules and issues, the difficulty in states that did not hold a process that met the rules, is trying to estimate what would have happened if they had held a process, and that's part of the problem. If you decided you would do something, how would you select the people, and who would they be pledged to, and so on.

CHADWICK: Well, what are you thinking about? What could you offer to this group of people tomorrow as a compromise, as a way out of this?

Mr. MCDONALD: Assuming that the two state parties actually did make good faith efforts to try to get themselves into compliance, I would consider lifting part of the sanction, and give them some delegates. I personally would probably prefer to do it with fractional votes in order to have more people come and see the convention, rather than have fewer people with full votes. I do not see giving full votes to the full delegation though.

CHADWICK: But what about that issue of where did those votes go? I mean that's really the crucial thing, isn't it?

Mr. MCDONALD: I still need to listen to arguments on that. It's a difficult issue because there's no data to base an answer on. I suppose one could say if there's no data, then just treat it as the average state, and see what the other 48 did on aggregate, but I don't know what that result would lead to.

CHADWICK: You're having lunch today with one of your law partners there in Washington.

Mr. MCDONALD: Yes.

CHADWICK: And you told me he's going to be talking about the same thing that everyone you talked to for the next 24 hours. How many meetings do you have scheduled today with other members of the Rules Committee, and what are you doing to get together, and try to figure out what to do?

Mr. MCDONALD: I don't have any meetings scheduled with other Rules Committee members. Most of them are in transit today. I believe we'll probably get together for dinner generally tonight, and it's possible some type of discussions would go on there. One-on-one is the way they normally do at dinner, but I'm not aware of any formal settings, and I don't have meetings set up myself until people land and I can get them by phone.

CHADWICK: You don't have a dozen people calling you up and say, David, how about, you know, cocktails later this afternoon?

Mr. MCDONALD: Well, I have all kinds of calls or emails of that kind, just not from Rules Committee members. And at the moment, they're the ones I need to talk to.

CHADWICK: David McDonald, one of 30 people meeting in Washington tomorrow, trying to resolve the key problem for now in determining who will win the Democratic presidential nomination. David McDonald, good luck.

Mr. MCDONALD: Thank you, Alex.

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