The presidential campaigns for Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday weighed in today on how to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida to the Democratic National Convention. The national party stripped both states’ delegations for holding their primaries in violation of national party rules.
With the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee set to meet Saturday in Washington, all eyes are on the somewhat esoteric committee which will hear challenges to their ruling to strip both states of their delegations.
Clinton’s case that she remains a contender in the presidential race would be bolstered by the net delegate gains from her wins in Florida and Michigan. She is presenting a tough line on the issue that, her campaign argues, rest on the bedrock issue of voter rights, that both delegations should be fully seated and delegates assigned by the votes already cast.
With Obama leading in the delegate count, his campaign could allow more latitude. Supporters argued the party should keep its eye on what is reasonable, and should look past the primary to challenging Sen. John McCain in the general election.
Advisors Explain the Positions
Senior Clinton campaign adviser Harold Ickes, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, outlined the campaign’s main criteria for an agreement on the delegations in a conference call Wednesday. He said they must be allocated based on the January primary votes to “fairly reflect the will of the voters, the 2.3 million voters” who participated in the primaries in Florida and Michigan, and must seat all the delegates with full voting power.
“Very importantly, we think it is the position that recognizes the vote of 2.3 million people, which just cannot be blithely swept aside as the Obama campaign apparently has been willing to do, month after month after month,” Ickes said.
He acknowledged that the campaign could take the issue to the Credentials Committee meeting this summer if it is not satisfied with the plan to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations but said they “fully expect and have every hope and every expectation that these issues will be resolved” at the meeting.
“Resolved in our favor,” Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson added.
No one on the Clinton conference call indicated the campaign was offering concessions on their plan.
When asked more specifically about whether the campaign would appeal a decision not in line with its guidelines, Ickes responded, “That’s a bridge to cross when we come to that particular stream.”
Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, focused on compromise. “The reasonable position here is some fair compromise that allows the delegations to participate in November. We’ve said repeatedly we’re open to a result that gives her some delegates, which we think is a pretty major concession as hard as we fought for delegates,” Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe said in another conference call Wednesday.
Obama supporters, including former DNC Chairman David Wilhelm, argued that Obama was demonstrating his leadership by working to keep the party together. “We seek a fair resolution, we want delegations seated, we’re willing to compromise, and any compromise beyond a 50-50 split will cost Sen. Obama . . . but the bottom line is he is acting this weekend in the interest of party unity. That is an important objective, that is an important commitment and we’re going to need that to win in November,” Wilhelm said.
Plouffe said the campaign did not feel it was fair to fully seat the delegations from either state because they (the states) violated party rules. “We both lived by these rules and pledged to abide by them,” he said. Wilhelm asserted that Obama holds “the moral high ground” on the issue because he played by the national party rules in both states.
“I think the Clinton campaign is out there saying. ‘No compromise, 100 percent.’ We’re willing to compromise and I think that’s where most of the party is. I think people want some sort of resolution here that . . . allows us to move on to the general election,” Plouffe said.