Reacting to the Fla. and Michigan Decision

Weekend Edition Sunday Soapbox blogger Faye Anderson discusses this weekend's meeting of the Democratic National Committee and the decision to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations.

AUDIE CORNISH, host:

As the Democratic primary season winds down, all eyes are on Puerto Rico, which elects its delegates today, and on Montana and South Dakota, which hold their primaries on Tuesday. WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY's own blogger Faye Anderson will be writing about these events just as she did yesterday when she attended the Democratic Party's rules and bylaws committee meeting in Washington.

She was on an Amtrak train heading home at the day's end when she found out the committee decided to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates. And she joins us from her home in Brooklyn where she's gearing up for her breakfast bagel. So, what was the mood like inside the rules committee meeting?

FAYE ANDERSON: Inside the committee room you had the obligatory hisses and boos. But with five hours of the testimony and Q&A, it was fairly muted. But I had to say the witnesses from both Florida and Michigan, they presented their cases well. Whether you agreed with them or not they were very, the states were very well represented. The testimony was very impassioned.

CORNISH: And on our own political blog, Sunday Soapbox, we had postings. For instance, one person said I'm sick of what the press and the party officials will do to keep a woman from becoming a nominee of the Democratic Party. Quickly, what were your thoughts about yesterday's decision?

ANDERSON: Well, it was clear that they were going to seat the delegations. The issue was whether it would be a full strength or at 50 percent, which according to one report, that's what their rules require. But I have to tell you I am, as was - I think it was Tina Flinoy(ph), one of the committee members noted how do you apportion delegates to Obama and Michigan when he was not on the ballot?

So, they're like divining voter intent and just arbitrarily willy-nilly giving him 50 percent of the delegates when he wasn't even on the ballot. And that really is not consistent with count every vote. And one's vote is one's voice.

CORNISH: Well, obviously, there's still a long ways to go in this race. We heard Clinton campaign adviser Harold Ickey saying that they reserve the right to contest this decision further along the road. But citizen journalist and WEEKEND EDITION blogger Faye Anderson, thank you for joining us.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

CORNISH: To read Faye Anderson's blog on our Web site and find out more about the Democratic race, click on NPR.org/SundaySoapbox.

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DNC Strikes Deal on Florida, Michigan Delegates

Harold Ickes and other Democrats vote at the rules and bylaws committee meeting. i

Committee member and Clinton strategist, Harold Ickes, raises his hand alongside other committee members during a vote on the Michigan delegates on May 31, 2008, in Washington D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Harold Ickes and other Democrats vote at the rules and bylaws committee meeting.

Committee member and Clinton strategist, Harold Ickes, raises his hand alongside other committee members during a vote on the Michigan delegates on May 31, 2008, in Washington D.C.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile i

Committee member Donna Brazile told the committee that changing the rules in the middle of the game was "cheating," in reference to the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegates. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile

Committee member Donna Brazile told the committee that changing the rules in the middle of the game was "cheating," in reference to the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegates.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton watch as the votes are counted. i

Supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton watch as votes are counted during a DNC meeting at the Marriott Park Wardman hotel May 31, 2008, in Washington D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton watch as the votes are counted.

Supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton watch as votes are counted during a DNC meeting at the Marriott Park Wardman hotel May 31, 2008, in Washington D.C.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Protesters outside of the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting i

Supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton rally in her support as the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee prepares to meet on May 31, 2008, in Washington, D.C. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Protesters outside of the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting

Supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton rally in her support as the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee prepares to meet on May 31, 2008, in Washington, D.C.

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Saturday brought a dramatic end to a critical day in the 2008 presidential contest.

The Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee decided to seat all the disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan, but to give each one only half of a vote.

The day began with several hundred demonstrators lining the street outside the hotel where the committee met. The demonstrators primarily were supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, with only a handful of exceptions, but their message was all about counting votes.

Donna Harrell of Celebration, Fla., traveled to Washington, D.C., with her daughter. "It's sad that this is what we're teaching our young kids — that they have to come out and fight to have their vote counted," she said.

But the presence of the demonstrators and Clinton supporters inside the meeting room was not enough to move the Rules and Bylaws Committee. In a process that remained orderly — despite noisy onlookers and a heavy media presence — the 30-member committee slogged through five hours of speeches and questions before taking a lunch break.

Three hours later, the committee members re-emerged at 6 p.m. Some of them had smiles on their faces. It was clear that they had worked out a solution, and it was soon clear that the committee would stick to its guns.

The committee convened to decide the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegates. The two states were stripped of them when they violated the wishes of the national party and moved up the date of their primaries.

Bottom Line on the Committee's Decision

As was widely predicted, the committee did not insist on their original penalty of banning the two states entirely.

But the committee did impose the 50 percent reduction in votes, allowed under long-standing Democratic Party rules. The reason was summed up by Donna Brazile, a member of the committee and a CNN commentator who is not committed to either campaign. Brazile also managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. She put the emphasis on the importance of rules.

"My mama always taught me to play by the rules and to respect those rules," she said to the audience's applause. "When you decide to change the rules, especially middle of the game and end of the game, that is referred to as cheating."

In Florida, Clinton walked away with a net gain of 19 delegates. The committee also re-apportioned the delegates from Michigan, giving many to Obama in Michigan, despite the fact that his name did not appear on the ballot in that state. There, the Clinton camp only picked up a net gain of five delegates.

Remaining Points of Controversy

The arguments are most likely to continue over the Michigan delegates. The committee agreed that Obama was not on the ballot because he withdrew in deference to this committee's own ruling, as did the other major candidates, apart from Clinton.

This move was not acceptable to the Clinton campaign, since they did not believe that Obama should receive any delegates from Michigan. When the committee rejected that plan, one of its members, Harold Ickes, a top strategist for the Clinton campaign, cut loose.

"There's been a lot of rhetoric during this meeting about democracy and on and on," he said. "One final word: Ms. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her right to take this to the credentials committee."

It is possible that Clinton will make an appeal this summer to that group. There is also the possibility that the Clinton camp will campaign past the final primaries on June 3.

The next few days should be crucial, if Obama's lead among the superdelegates continues to widen.

The magic number to now clinch the nomination, with the seating of Michigan and Florida, is 2,118 delegates. Obama is just 65 delegates away from that number.

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