Friday, February 15, 2008

Harkin Calls for Revote

Harkin Calls For Florida, Michigan Revote

Senator Tom Harkin said Thursday that Florida and Michigan Democrats should vote again, as a way to seat their delegations at the Democratic National Convention without recognizing their calendar-violating primaries.

“They were sanctioned. They were told not to do that,” Harkin told a press conference call. Party rules said only four approved early states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- could hold primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5, but Michigan and Florida went early anyway. As a result, the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee stripped the two states of all their delegates.

Now, the DNC is stuck having to either stick by its ruling and alienate those two key swing states, or seat the two delegations and alienate the four early states. One option that's emerging is a caucus, near the end of primary season. But Monday, Michigan Democratic chair Mark Brewer rejected that idea. "The Obama and Clinton campaigns have to agree. It takes one year to prepare for a caucus. It takes money,” Brewer said. “It is not a viable option.”

In addition to the questions of rules, fairness, and disenfranchisement, the issue is also deeply caught up in nomination politics. Most observers expected the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated by a winning who had decisively clinched the nomination in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries. Instead, the nomination fight is dragging on, and seating the Florida and Michigan delegations would give Hillary Clinton a boost.

Thursday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its "delegate allocation," even though their official delegate allocation is still zero. Based on results from their renegade Jan. 15 primary, Clinton would have 73 delegates and 55 would be uncommitted.

Barack Obama and most other candidates took their names off the Michigan ballot on Oct. 9 because of the calendar violation, but Clinton stayed on the ballot. At the time, she said Michigan's delegates wouldn't count, but on Jan. 25, after winning Michigan easily, she called for seating the Michigan and Florida delegates.

Candidates did not have the option of taking themselves off the Florida ballot. Clinton won with 50 percent to 33 percent for Obama and 14 percent for John Edwards, who dropped out immediately after Florida. All the leading candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in Michigan or Florida. That pledge was largely honored, though Clinton pointed a finger at Obama for running national cable TV spots in Florida, while Obama drew attention to two Clinton fundraisers in Florida, technically allowed under the pledge, two days before voting. As soon as the polls closed, Clinton flew to Florida for a victory rally.

Some observers are calling for treating Florida and Michigan differently. Chris Bowers at Open Left calls for seating Florida. "The DNC's punishment has achieved its goal, as Florida has been denied a major role in the horse race to date," he writes. "The sentence for changing the primary date has been served." But he argues Michigan is a different matter, since Obama and otheres weren't on the ballot.

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