What's on Tap for Michigan and Florida? Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving tells Scott Simon about what's ahead Saturday as the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to discuss the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegates.
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What's on Tap for Michigan and Florida?

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What's on Tap for Michigan and Florida?

What's on Tap for Michigan and Florida?

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Democratic primary season is finally drawing to a close. The last primaries will be held tomorrow in Puerto Rico, Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota, but before these last votes comes a meeting in Washington, D.C., to decide what to do with the ballots that were cast months ago in Michigan and Florida.

Hundreds of delegates are potentially at stake. Hillary Clinton's campaign is looking for what amounts to a political miracle to revive her hopes for the nomination. NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving, joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And outline for us, please, the meeting that's happening today.

ELVING: Scott, this is the most dramatic meeting possibly ever held by a committee with a name this dull. It is the Rules and Bylaws Committee. It's a panel of about 30 people of the much larger Democratic National Committee, and last year, they stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates for the 2008 convention because those states defied the party rules, and they moved their primaries up into January, and now they want their seats at the convention back, and the committee is meeting to rule on those petitions.

SIMON: And remind us why this means so much to the candidates, probably one candidate more than the other.

ELVING: One candidate more than the other because despite the party rules and all the rest, they actually had votes in these two states in January, and even though the candidates did not campaign there, and Barack Obama was not even on the ballot in Michigan, there was a vote, and Hillary Clinton won a majority in both those states, and if you rule these results to be legitimate, and you allow all the delegates that she theoretically won in these states, she would take a big chunk out of Barack Obama's delegate lead, which is now about 200 delegates, and she would create a sense that the contest was not yet over.

SIMON: Could she catch him, though?

ELVING: No. He would still be well over 100 delegates ahead.

SIMON: The nub question, I guess: How likely do you think it is the committee would essentially overrule itself and seat all these people?

ELVING: Not likely. It has received a report from its staff, its lawyers, telling them that what they can do, if they wish, is they can restore half the voting power of these two states, and let's face it. This is a committee under great pressure because the party needs these two states in the fall. Michigan is part of the Democratic base now for 20 years. It's absolutely essential to any majority for the Democratic candidate. And Florida, of course, would be the Holy Grail for Democrats trying to break the Republican lock on the Electoral College.

So most people now expect the committee is going to play Solomon and just split this thing right down the middle.

SIMON: But who gets the head, and who gets the feed?

ELVING: Well, I think it would probably be two identical halves of the same thing. Now, there are about 313 pledged delegates from the two states. One expects that what they will do is let all these people go to the convention, but each one will only get half a vote, and there are precedents for this in the Democratic Party and in their rules, and then the superdelegates, which would be another 53 people between the two states, would either go as full or as half. That's one of the little things that they have to decide today.

SIMON: And does this change the number Barack Obama has to win to be nominated?

ELVING: It will raise the threshold because if you add a couple hundred or 150 or however many they decide to actually add, then that's going to raise the number that would be half the overall delegations in the convention in Denver.

So if they raise it by 150, he'll need another 76 more than he would've had before, but you know, he's going to get some out of this compromise because he got some votes in Florida, and they're going to give him something out of Michigan as part of the compromise. He'll get some in Puerto Rico, and he'll get some in South Dakota and Montana, and one expects that on Wednesday, when all the primaries are finally finished, we'll see quite a tidal wave of superdelegates coming out, making their alliance plain, and at that point, most everyone expects Barack Obama will go over the threshold of half the total delegates, no matter where you set that number.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

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