If you can’t convince your own supporters…

Even some prominent Clinton supporters don’t buy her campaign’s argument that the Michigan and Florida delegations should count toward candidates’ totals at the convention. From today’s Los Angeles Times:

Clinton backers at odds with her on Fla., Mich.

Two leading governors tout the Democratic Party’s rules. Seating barred delegates, they say, is a suspect proposal.

By Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Two prominent Democratic governors, both supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, voiced doubts Saturday about her argument that her victories in Florida and Michigan should count toward her delegate total.

Pennsylvania’s Edward G. Rendell and New Jersey’s Jon Corzine suggested that it would be seen as unfair to award those delegates to Clinton, given the Democratic Party’s ruling that the vote in those two states would not count.

Rendell seems especially skeptical of the Clinton campaign’s arguments, particularly regarding Michigan:

Rendell said the Clinton camp could not make a convincing case that Michigan delegates should be added to her column: “You can’t make any argument in Michigan, because Hillary was the only person who was on the ballot. I’m as avid a Hillary supporter as there is, but I don’t think we can make an argument in Michigan.”

In Florida, Rendell said, the Clinton campaign can mount a “tenable argument” that delegates should be awarded. Obama was on the ballot in Florida, for one thing. And Obama ran a television campaign ad there. It was part of a national cable ad buy. Rendell said it was likely an accident that it ran in Florida:”I believe he just didn’t think to redact Florida from the buy,” the Pennsylvania governor said.

The Clinton campaign has said that by airing the ad, the Illinois senator violated the pledge not to campaign in Florida.

Corzine, at least judging from his quotes in the LA Times, is more cautious, arguing that Florida and Michigan voters should not be disenfranchised, but also saying, “I think actually given how the votes came about, we probably need a revote.”

Ironically, the less difference the Florida and Michigan delegates would make, the more likely they are to be seated. That is, if either Clinton or Obama ends up ceding the race before the convention, then it seems almost certain that the winner will want the Florida and Michigan delegations to be recognized, because they will want to win the hearts and minds of voters in those states for the general election. But if the convention rolls around and there is not a clear winner yet, then the seating of those delegations would be widely seen as undemocratic, and the chances of it happening seem very slim. So one can’t help but feel sympathy for voters in those states — the only way their primary votes will count is if they don’t really count.

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6 responses to “If you can’t convince your own supporters…

  1. Has Clinton already actually made a statement calling for the seating of the MI and FL delegations?

  2. At least twice explicitly, and many times implicitly or through spokespeople like Howard Wolfson. In an interview with Politico.com on Feb. 11, Clinton said, “I think that both Michigan and Florida should count, because these are two states we have to carry,”

    And in more detail, in an interview with Texas Monthly on Feb. 22: “I think it’s important for the DNC to ask itself, Is this really in the best interest of our eventual nominee? We do not want to be disenfranchising Michigan and Florida. We have to try to carry both of those states. I’d love to carry Texas, but it’s usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee. Florida and Michigan are. Therefore, the people of those two states disregarded adamantly the DNC’s decision that they would not seat the delegates. They came out and voted. If they had been influenced by the DNC, despite the fact that there was very little campaigning, if any, they would have stayed home. But they wanted their voices heard. More than 2 million people came out. I mean, it was record turnout for a primary. Florida, in particular, is sensitive to being disenfranchised because of what happened to them in the last elections. I have said that I would ask my delegates to vote to seat.”

    “So your intention is to press this issue?”

    “Yes, it is. Yes, it is. It’s in large measure because both the voters and elected officials in Michigan and Florida feel so strongly about this. Senator Bill Nelson, of Florida, early on in the process actually sued because he thinks it’s absurd on its face that 1.7 million Democrats who eventually voted would basically be disregarded, and I agree with him about that.”

    There is actually some fairly subtle rhetoric there. “The people of those two states disregarded adamantly…” and “they came out and voted…” implies that all the people who would have voted in authorized primaries came out and voted in the unauthorized primaries — and that’s almost surely nonsense. We can only guess at what the results would have been if the primaries had been certified by the DNC and if the candidates had campaigned normally in those states (not to speak of having all of their names on the ballot).

    She told a New Hampshire radio station in October, regarding Michigan: “It’s clear, this election they’re having is not going to count for anything.” In her defense, she also explained why she kept her name on the ballot there by saying the following: “But I just personally did not want to set up a situation where the Republicans are going to be campaigning between now and whenever, and then after the nomination, we have to go in and repair the damage to be ready to win Michigan in 2008.”

    So she has consistently been worried about the damage that could be done in November if Democrats piss off Michigan and Florida too much. I agree with her about that. I don’t think you can retroactively change the rules to make those primaries “count,” but in hindsight the DNC’s decision to “punish” two large swing states looks potentially disastrous.

  3. I can’t understand why reporting on this issue hasn’t tried to shed more light on how we ended up in this dumb situation in the first place. What was the jockeying like, who were the factions, where did the Clinton camp stand, etc.? I’m sure it’s been reported, but casual readers like me could easily miss it…

  4. Eric — I agree. It was probably reported some last fall while it was happening, but few people were paying close attention back then. I know that Harold Ickes — who was recently on a conference call with reporters on behalf of the Clinton campaign, arguing that MI and FL should be seated — was actually on the DNC rules and bylaws committee, and he voted to strip MI/FL of their delegates. When reporters pointed out that he seemed to be arguing for changing a rule that he himself had voted for, his defense was the following: ” ‘There’s been no change,’ Ickes said, adding that he was then acting as a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee ‘not acting as an agent of Sen. Clinton.’ ” I was shocked when I read that, but it wasn’t mentioned in most articles about his conference call (I looked).

  5. Geraldine Ferraro is willing to make the “Seat MI/FL” argument, obscurely:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/opinion/25ferraro.html?scp=1&sq=geraldine&st=nyt

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