Clinton Adviser Ickes Assesses Delegate Deal

The Democratic National Committee's decision to grant Florida and Michigan delegates half a vote at the presidential nominating convention is seen as a blow to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, a member of the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee, weighs in on the deal.

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GUY RAZ, Host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz in for Andrea Seabrook. The political playing field is slightly re-jiggered today. The Democratic Party agreed to seat the disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida at this summer's party convention except at only half strength.

The deal gives Hillary Clinton a net gain of 24 delegates, but that still puts her far behind rival Barack Obama. The Clinton camp is angry over the party's decision to award Obama delegates from Michigan even though the senator wasn't on the ballot.

Now, yesterday's meeting was supposed to resolve the dispute, but the bare-knuckled brawl between the two campaigns continues, and one of those brawlers is Harold Ickes. He's a senior advisor to Senator Clinton, and he joins us now. Welcome, sir.

HAROLD ICKES: Hi, good to be there.

RAZ: Now you don't like these decisions made by the party. Why not?

ICKES: I like some of them. I like the ones that seated the delegates, preferred to have full votes rather than half votes. So for the voters of those states, it was a good day yesterday, and they will be represented at our convention.

Where we disagree very profoundly is that one of the decisions by the Rules and Bylaws Committee, of which I'm a member, literally took four delegates, stole four delegates from Hillary Clinton that she had won fair and square in Michigan and gave them to Barack Obama. In addition, they took 55 delegates from the uncommitted preference, which is a recognized status under our rules and gave them to Barack Obama. So he ended up with 59 delegates that he, in our view, did not win.

RAZ: Mr. Ickes, you say that Senator Obama's campaign stole four delegates from the Clinton camp, but Senator Obama voluntarily removed himself from the Michigan ballot, abiding by the party's own bylaws.

ICKES: The bylaws did not require any candidate to remove themselves from the Michigan ballot. Senator Obama and Edwards did this for strategic and tactical reasons: one, they didn't think they were going to win Michigan. Number two is they wanted to curry favor with the Iowa voters.

The pledge that was signed by the five states and the eight presidential candidates did not require removal of any names from the ballot. He removed his name.

RAZ: Mr. Ickes, I want to play some tape for you from your own party leaders. They were speaking earlier this week. We'll hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then Senate Leader Harry Reid.

NANCY PELOSI: I will step in because we cannot take this fight to the convention. It must be over before then. I believe it will be over in two weeks.

HARRY REID: We all are going to urge our folks next week to make a decision very quickly.

RAZ: Mr. Ickes, your own party leaders want to wrap this up. They want to get behind one candidate very soon. Is the Clinton campaign prepared to heed their wishes?

ICKES: Mrs. Clinton has reserved her right to appeal this very adverse decision to the Credentials Committee.

RAZ: So you...

ICKES: There's plenty of time. You know, there's five months left. There's June, July, August, September, October, five months to go before the general election. That's a lot of time to...

RAZ: So you're prepared to take this all the way to the Democratic convention?

ICKES: No, I didn't say that. This will be Mrs. Clinton's decision. She's reserved her right to take it to the Credentials Committee and, ultimately, to the national convention. She has not made that decision yet. There's a series of states that we need to win to round out 270 electoral votes that she is stronger in against McCain than Obama, and that is our case.

We're about winning the White House.

RAZ: Harold Ickes, do you believe Senator Clinton has earned a place on a possible Obama ticket as his running mate?

ICKES: That is something that we don't discuss at this point because we still think, although it's a steep hill, that she has a reasonable shot at the nomination. She has women, Hispanics, Catholics, families under $75,000, elderly and rural voters. Those are big constituencies that are needed to win a general election, and we think she has a bigger reach than he does.

RAZ: If she doesn't win the nomination, could she help Senator Obama win...?

ICKES: Oh, I think she could be of enormous help, starting with women and Hispanics. John McCain will have a big call on Hispanics because of his position on the immigration bill. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated now in primary after primary her depth and reach with Hispanics, and if you have to win the likes of New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Florida, Hispanic vote will be critically important, and Obama will not have the appeal to Hispanics against McCain that Hillary Clinton will.

RAZ: So if she is on the ticket, she can help him win?

ICKES: There's no question in my view. I think she will be on the ticket at the head of the ticket.

RAZ: Harold Ickes is a senior advisor to the Clinton campaign. Mr. Ickes, thanks for being with us.

ICKES: Okay, terrific.

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