By contributor
updated 3/9/2008 2:06:28 PM ET 2008-03-09T18:06:28

Former Sen. Tom Daschle and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” called for a do-over of the Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan and sparred over the role of superdelegates as they struggled to assert a front-runner in the increasingly tight race for their party’s presidential nominee.

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Daschle, as co-chair of the Obama campaign, conceded that as a superdelegate he would vote with the electorate, even if that meant voting against his candidate, while Rendell said that he would use his superdelegate vote to select his candidate, Clinton, even if she came in second overall.

Setting a tone of civility that has been largely absent among campaign staffers and advisers this week, Daschle, D-S.D., and fellow Democrat Rendell were in agreement that funding for new primaries would have to be raised by private citizens. Rendell said he has teamed up with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine to raise half of the $30 million they say will be necessary to finance the contests.  Ironically, putting Florida and Michigan back into the primary race renders moot the Democratic National Committee’s efforts to punish the states for pushing their primary elections to January, as their combined 366 delegate votes become far more important in a re-vote, possibly determining the race overall.

Rendell sought to establish Clinton as front-runner in a race where she holds fewer delegates than Obama and is behind in total votes. Calling her the “winner” in Florida and Michigan in January (the candidates did not campaign in Florida, and in Michigan, Obama stayed off the ballot), he also stated that the Clinton campaign would not accept a caucus in place of a primary in Michigan, calling caucuses “undemocratic.”  Pressed by host Tim Russert to label Iowa and Nevada caucuses undemocratic as well, Rendell said, “Compared to primaries, yes.”

As Saturday’s presumed 7-5 split of Wyoming’s 12 delegates in the state caucus demonstrated, the delegate tally (1,374 for Obama and 1,232 for Clinton) has become a numbers game that clearly divides the Obama and Clinton camps on the role of superdelegates.  The prevailing philosophy will likely determine the outcome of the race. Rendell put forth the Clinton campaign strategy that if Clinton were able to claim victories in crucial November election states Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, then the superdelegates bear the responsibility of choosing the stronger candidate, not the more popular one. Daschle disagreed, saying that “the strongest candidate wins the most elections.  Obama has 29 victories, Clinton only 13.  That’s the bottom line.”

Rendell reiterated Clinton’s comments from earlier in the week that a Clinton-Obama ticket wouldn’t just be acceptable; it would be unstoppable.  “I think it would be a dream to Democrats all over this country.  It would give America the rare opportunity to experience something incredibly wonderful.”  Backing down from Clinton’s comments Thursday suggesting that presumed Republican nominee Sen. John McCain was more qualified than Obama to be president, Rendell called Obama a talented and dynamic politician who would make a fine president.  “But nobody is as experienced as Hillary Clinton,” he said, “She is the best prepared candidate that I’ve ever talked to … more prepared even than Bill Clinton in 1992.” 

Daschle, in response, pointed out that it was indeed a rare occurrence when “the person running No. 2 would offer the person running No. 1 the No. 2 position.” Claiming that Obama was the inevitable nominee, Daschle said that Obama doesn’t have any interest in being vice president but that he would certainly consider Clinton — among other qualified candidates — to serve under him in that capacity.


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