"The first day of the campaign for the crucial" IN primary on 4/23 "turned largely into a fight" over MI's disputed primary. Hillary Clinton "claimed before a cheering [Indianapolis] audience that she now holds a lead in the popular vote" over Barack Obama.
Clinton: "I'm very proud that as of today I have received more votes ... than anybody else. It's a very close race, but if you count as I do the 2.3 million people who voted in Florida and Michigan, [I'm winning]."
The Obama camp "criticized Clinton's numbers, which include the controversial contests" in MI and FL. Obama manager David Plouffe: "For the Clinton campaign ... to try to count the results of an election you would all agree bears no resemblance to the rest of these contests is not going to work."
"Counting all the contests -- including estimates from caucus states that do not release actual vote totals," and MI and FL -- "Clinton leads" after PA by about 13K votes, out of nearly 31M cast. "Subtracting" MI and FL, "where none of the major candidates campaigned," Obama's lead is more than 600K votes. "Even counting" FL, "where Obama appeared on the ballot," he leads by more than 200K votes.
"Obama has said he pulled out" of MI "to fulfill a pledge not to campaign in the states that broke party scheduling rules." Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee: "That was his decision. The people of Michigan should not be penalized for a political calculation that he made" (Trowbridge, Detroit News, 4/24).
Clinton "is renewing talk of not only counting the results from the disallowed primaries" in MI and FL, "but giving more weight to the popular vote than to the number of delegates pledged to each candidate in an attempt to court uncommitted superdelegates."
Pro-Clinton MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D): "When you count Michigan and all the other votes, Hillary Clinton will have won the popular vote. That should be a sign to the superdelegates that she is, in fact, the strongest candidate to win the general election in November."
Granholm's rationale, however, is a bit dubious since Sen. Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the Michigan ballot. Univ. of Virginia prof. Larry Sabato: "There is no chance that she's going to be ahead in popular vote or pledged delegates unless you manipulate the vote" (Gray, Detroit Free Press, 2/24).
The Underground Railroading
Detroit News's Demas writes, "If you punched your ballot for 'uncommitted'" in MI's 1/15 primary to back Obama, "your vote might have essentially gone to [Clinton] anyway.
While all eyes were locked" on PA "for the last six weeks, Clinton was quietly amassing delegates" in MI. And she was rewarded this past weekend with a significant victory at the district conventions."
Clinton will arrive at the convo "stronger than most people realize, thanks to her aggressive ground game" in MI. "Buoyed by party elder support, Clinton seems likely to capture" more than 60% of the state's 128 pledged delegates," even though she received just 55% of the vote on 1/15 ("uncommitted" received 40%).
"It's becoming apparent that Obama should have consented to a revote here. He certainly wouldn't have lost by 15 percentage points or more; polls have pegged the pair in a dead heat. But Obama seemed spooked that Clintonites put forth the plan and the money, so he quashed the do-over last month."
"Now Obama is paying the price in delegates, starting with" the MI Dems' 15 district convos held on 4/19. "The Clinton battle plan was flawlessly executed with an eye toward a contested convention." Blanchard: "We wanted to pick people who would be loyal to Hillary, who would commit to her through multiple ballots."
"Michiganders for Obama, a ragtag group of new volunteers, triumphed in turnout" 4/19 "but were steamrolled by the Clinton machine. Obama has proved to be a master of organization, but he made a tactical error not to plump up his skeletal apparatus" in MI.
"As a result, he will almost certainly fall short of the 36 uncommitted delegates selected. Volunteers argued that only Obama supporters should be uncommitted delegates, but they were outmaneuvered. About half of the uncommitted delegates reserved the right to vote for Clinton, depending on whom their unions eventually endorse" (4/25).
Hooray, More Lawsuits!
"For the first time," the DNC "has been slapped with a formal challenge for stripping" MI of its delegates. Pro-Clinton superdelegate/DNCer Joel Ferguson filed the challenge 4/23 "in an effort to seat this state's superdelegates and allot half-votes to its pledged delegates" to the convo.
Ferguson's 10-page document "cites the national party's own rules, saying the penalty for holding an early primary is half" of MI's "committed delegates." Ferguson: "This has nothing to do with Obama-Clinton now. Why are we irrelevant? Someone overreacted. I'm about getting the delegates seated."
He has petitioned the Rules and Bylaws Cmte for a "prompt ruling." DNC spokesperson Stacie Paxton "said the staff has two weeks to make a recommendation" to the cmte. Paxton: "They're currently reviewing the challenge."
"The Obama camp, which has repeatedly called for simply splitting" the MI delegates "down the middle, is unlikely to support this proposal." Pro-Obama state Sen. Tupac Hunter "called Ferguson's position 'slick' and tilted toward winning" the nod for Clinton. Hunter: "Joel Ferguson has an agenda and he's angling to increase Hillary Clinton's delegate count."
Plouffe: "We think the fairest outcome is a splitting of the delegates 50-50, but we're listening to other proposals. And the Clinton campaign seems to be not in favor of any resolution except the most extreme one."
"Ferguson's challenge appears to be similar to one filed" by FL DNCer Jon Ausman, "who has argued that the DNC's rules committee had only the authority to strip the states of half their delegates, and no authority to ban superdelegates. DNC officials have pointed to language in the party rules they say gives the rules committee authority to exceed the 50 percent penalty" (Hornbeck, Detroit News, 4/24).
"Short of one candidate conceding the race," the FL delegation's "best hope for an invitation" to the convo Ausman's appeal. But the Rules and Bylaws Cmte "has yet to schedule a hearing for the appeal, which was filed" on 3/14. Pro-Clinton Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL): "They are refusing to act. The leadership of the DNC is further causing the paralysis of the issue."
Several rules cmte members said 4/23 "that they had not received a copy of the panel's staff recommendation for Ausman's appeal." Cmte Chair James Roosevelt, Jr. "could not be reached for comment" (Bender, Palm Beach Post, 4/23).
Man In The Muddle
As the primary "grinds on," DNC Chair Howard Dean, "once hailed as a 21st century grass-roots fund-raising guru," could now "be held responsible for procedural missteps that could squander the Dems' chance to overthrow" the GOP.
Sabato: "What's going to matter is whether the convention is a big success and a nominee is elected. If those things happen no one will remember the snafu. If, on the other hand, the Democrats managed to blow a good opportunity here, everyone will suffer, and that includes Dean."
"Dean should have pushed to make tweaks" in the Dems primary rules, "Sabato argues, saying the system is so inclusive it makes it difficult to determine a decisive victory." Sabato: "The Democrats have developed a system that is so fair it's unfair."
Roosevelt "defended Dean." Roosevelt: "He has provided really strong leadership that has not been biased in either direction. That's his role. He's also spoken out about importance of resolving this before too late in the season."
"Until the contest is resolved, Dean is powerless to throw the weight of the party behind either candidate." Georgetown Univ. prof. Christopher Hull: "Howard Dean is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. As long as there is a shooting war between two high-profile candidates for president, Howard Dean is going to be stuck in the middle" (Chabot, Boston Globe, 4/24).
This article appears in the April 24, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.