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What to Do About Michigan and Florida

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What to Do About Michigan and Florida

Election 2008

What to Do About Michigan and Florida

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To political news now. Democratic Party leaders are meeting this Saturday to figure out what to do with the Michigan and Florida delegates to the Democratic National Convention. You may remember that these two states broke party rules when they held their primaries early. Now rather than having none of their delegates seated at the convention, they could see some on the floor this August. NPR's Ken Rudin is here to explain this all to us and it's quite complicated. What are some of the scenarios?

KEN RUDIN: Well, Madeleine, I think one of the most hoped for scenarios by most Democrats is that the DNC when they meet on Saturday decide that there's going to be an even split of the delegates or a split that would be acceptable to both the Hillary Clinton and the Barack Obama camps, and Hillary Clinton signs off on it and Barack Obama signs off on it. Hillary Clinton ends her candidacy after Tuesday's primaries and then also the Washington Nationals will win the World Series. In other words, not much is likely to happen in that way, in that regard.

BRAND: I see. Well a legal analysis came out this week by Democratic lawyers saying that cutting in half the numbers of delegates from both those sates is the best that Senator Clinton can hope for. That's not what she wants though?

RUDIN: No. Obviously not. She wants all of the delegates seated from Michigan and Florida. She'll make the case that she won the primaries in - the January primaries in both Michigan and Florida. Look, Barack Obama can be magnanimous. He can suggest that, look, Hillary Clinton deserves to get most of the delegates from those two states. But Hillary Clinton obviously needs more than just 50 percent of the delegates seated. It's her last chance, her only chance really, to win the Democratic nomination. And her argument is, according to some in her campaign, is that if she does not get a favorable decision on Saturday she can appeal that decision to the party's credentials committee which will meet later in July or August. And that could obviously precipitate a fight before the full convention in August in Denver.

BRAND: And is she also hoping that even if she doesn't get all of the delegates seated, maybe half the delegates seated, that that would give her a close enough margin for her to say that the remaining superdelegates who are out there, to say look, I'm still the better candidate to beat John McCain in November.

RUDIN: Polls do show that she is leading John McCain by a bigger margin than Barack Obama in some key states like Michigan, like Pennsylvania, like Florida. But we've seen since the Pennsylvania primary that Hillary Clinton won, Barack Obama is still picking up superdelegates every day. We expect Barack Obama to win handily in South Dakota, Montana on June 3rd which is the last day of the primaries. And there's this feeling that the Barack Obama people have a lot of superdelegates up their sleeve that if Hillary Clinton tries to force something coming out of Saturday's meeting he will release these superdelegates on his behalf and come very close to clinching the nomination on June 3rd, June 4th.

BRAND: So what is the scene there in Washington? I know that some Hillary Clinton supporters are going to protest outside the hotel where this 30-member Rules Committee is meeting on Saturday.

RUDIN: Her argument from the beginning is that, make every vote count. It's not fair to the voters in Michigan and Florida that disenfranchised. Whosever fault it is, it should not be the voters' fault, they should have their say and of course since Hillary Clinton won these two primaries it's to her benefit that these delegates get seated.

BRAND: Well what does she say to the argument that Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan?

RUDIN: Well, she says it's his fault. I mean he didn't have to withdraw from the race. But it's interesting that when these rules were first decided, when Michigan and Florida moved up to January against Democratic National Committee wishes and rules, the Clinton people on the Rules Committee, including Harold Ickes, all signed off on this. They all agreed that the two states should be punished. But now that Hillary Clinton is losing the battle, now that she realizes that this could be her last chance to win the nomination, the campaign's tactics have changed now she wants these delegates seated, rightfully seated in her view.

BRAND: So, Ken, do you expect that she'll take this all the way to August, to a floor fight?

RUDIN: Well, it depends, well, look, if she really, really thinks that this could make a difference in her getting a nomination and she gets a disappointing ruling on Saturday, then certainly she could take it to the credentials committee meeting this summer. But at the same time, there's tremendous pressure on her to say that if Barack Obama is the likely nominee, a floor fight at the convention in Denver will only make their problems worse, their chances for unity worse, and it's going to hurt Barack Obama's chances of winning in November. So, there'll be a lot of pressure on her not to extend a challenge into August at the convention.

BRAND: NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin, thanks.

RUDIN: Thanks, Madeleine.

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