WASHINGTON — With the nomination in sight, Barack Obama is willing to give rival Hillary Rodham Clinton the lion's share of the delegates from Florida and Michigan but is stopping short of her demand to fully recognize the two renegade states.
The Democratic National Committee is trying to work out a compromise to the long-running dispute over Michigan and Florida. In violation of party rules, the two states held primaries in January and were stripped of their delegates. The DNC's Rules and Bylaws panel meets Saturday.
The DNC could decide to send half the delegates to the convention, uncertain is which half. Another option is to seat all the delegates with half a vote. Then the issue is how those votes should be split between Clinton and Obama.
Whatever decision is made during a party meeting Saturday delays a resolution of the Democratic contest, just as Obama is within reach of the 2,026 delegates needed to win the nomination.
"Our magic number could increase kind of at the 11th hour here," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Wednesday. He told reporters: "If it's raised a little bit based on the Rules Committee, we'll have to go get some more superdelegates. But at some point we're the nominee."
Clinton wants all delegates seated
Clinton has been pushing for the Democratic National Committee to seat all 368 delegates from Florida and Michigan. She won both contests — after all the candidates agreed not to campaign in either state and Obama wasn't on the Michigan ballot.
Clinton strategist Harold Ickes is one of the 30 members of the committee, and he said he'll be encouraging them to base their decisions on the January primaries. "We are urging 100 percent of the delegations be seated and that each delegate have a full vote," Ickes said.
That's an unlikely outcome as even Clinton aides have privately acknowledged they lack the votes on the committee to restore all the delegates. Thirteen of the members are publicly committed to Clinton, eight have endorsed Obama and nine are undeclared.
"We don't think it's fair to seat them fully because we both lived by these rules and pledged to abide by them," Plouffe said. "We're willing to give some delegates here, which I don't think should be sneezed at."
Committee members interviewed by The Associated Press have expressed little interest in the option of seating all the delegates. And the DNC staff wrote in an analysis sent to members this week that the rules call for the two states to lose at least half their delegates at a minimum for voting too early.
Two options for half the delegations
The analysis said there are two options to include half the delegations — either allow half the number of delegates from each state into the convention or allow the full delegations to attend, but give them each half a vote. The analysis cautions that there are no easy ways to distribute the delegates, especially in Michigan where Clinton won 55 percent of the vote and 40 percent went to "uncommitted." Superdelegate sampling
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If the Florida and Michigan delegations get half their votes back, the number needed to secure the nomination would grow to 2,118. There are myriad ways the committee could then divide the delegates between the two candidates.
If, for example, the "uncommitted" vote in Michigan was awarded to Obama but the half-delegates were otherwise awarded according to the primaries, Obama would need an additional 26 delegates to clinch the nomination.
If the pledged delegates are divided evenly between the two candidates, Obama would need an additional nine delegates to clinch. The number still increases because of uncommitted superdelegates from the two states.
Plouffe said seating the full delegations according to the January votes is not fair or acceptable to the campaign, especially since he wouldn't get any delegates out of Michigan. Democrats in the two states are not asking for that resolution either.
Florida Democratic officials said they were open to getting half their vote — but they would like the full delegation to be seated. Allan Katz, who serves on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, said he thinks the committee is leaning toward giving Florida half its delegates, but some members have told him they don't believe Florida shouldn't get any delegates.
"It's just very difficult to categorize. You have a lot of people who look at this differently," said Katz, who supports Obama and can't vote on the Florida measure because he's from the state.
Jon Ausman, a DNC member who raised the challenge that's before the committee Saturday, said he'd be happy if the committee gave them half votes.
"It's just a question of whether we can get them all eventually," Ausman said. "It's not like Florida hasn't felt the punishment. The bottom line is we certainly have taken it on the chin."
Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who is on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, said he won't support a plan that would give half delegates for Florida. He's presenting a plan that would split Michigan's pledged delegates 69 for Clinton and 59 for Obama, although he can't vote on it.
He said he didn't know what the rules committee might do and will just make his best case possible.
"You can come up with all of legalistic reasons not to do our proposal ... (but) we've been punished enough," he said. "We haven't had candidate visits for nearly a year, up until recently. Continuing to punish us could cause us to lose Michigan in the fall."
Florida suit dismissed
A federal judge has dismissed an attempt from a Democratic strategist who wants the party's Florida delegates to be seated at the presidential convention.
Court records show U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara in Tampa dismissed the case Wednesday. Victor DiMaio had argued in his lawsuit that the national Democratic Party had discriminated against Florida's voters by stripping the state of its delegates.
Florida and Michigan both lost their Democratic delegates because they held primaries earlier than national party rules allowed.
Lazzara rejected DiMaio's arguments once, but an appeals court in Atlanta sent the case back to him because suit was filed before the primary actually occurred.
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