The increasingly negative tone of the exchanges between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, their staffs, and their supporters, isn’t the only bullet the Democrats need to dodge to avoid tipping the odds in John McCain’s favor. The brewing storm over the issue of whether the delegations from Michigan and Florida should be seated at the Democratic convention is the other obvious factor that could drive a wedge into the party that could cost them votes in November.
Florida and Michigan held their primaries early in clear defiance of the rules laid down by the Democratic party. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those states. Four candidates, including Obama, took their names off of the ballot in Michigan. Now the Democrats are concerned about alienating voters in those states if they are not represented at the convention.
If the delegates who were elected in those states' primaries are seated, it is clearly to the advantage of Senator Clinton, who “won” both primaries. If she were to get the nomination, helped by this sort of maneuver, there is absolutely no doubt that a sizable number of Obama’s supporters would not support her in November.
The primary discussion of what to do about this situation has focused on allowing some sort of “do-over” — mail-in ballots, caucuses, or even new primaries in both states. This is a bad idea for at least a couple of reasons.
First of all, any of these options will cost the party, at either the state or national level, a lot of money that could otherwise be used to try to win the general election.
In addition to the cost, a re-vote of any sort not only removes the punishment, stated in advance, for violating party rules, it actually rewards the renegade states. Florida and Michigan jumped the gun hoping to have added impact in determining the party’s nominee for president. With the contest for the nomination too close to call, giving them a re-vote at the end of the process gives them exactly what they were seeking to begin with - an out-sized role in determining the nominee.
Of course the Dems could simply let the credentials committee hash the matter out in August, but that is a recipe for disaster. No matter what they decide, if their decision is the deciding factor in determining the Democratic candidate, the losing candidate and his or her supporters are going to cry “foul” with good reason.
The Democratic party is really stuck between a rock and a hard place. The best way out of this dilemma has been offered by Jerry Meek, the chairperson of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Meek’s proposal is that after all of the other primaries and caucuses are over (around mid-June) the convention credentials committee would allocate delegates for Florida and Michigan based on each candidate’s percentage of the total popular vote in other states. That might not make the renegade states happy, but it is the best solution possible under the circumstances.