Disenfranchised Decision Makers? Fight for Fla., Mich.

Punishment for Rogue States

The panel is being forced to revisit its August 2007 decision to strip Florida and Michigan of 100 percent of their combined 368 convention delegates.

The decision was designed to punish state legislators who broke national party rules last year by scheduling their primary contests earlier in January.

At the time, the national party was trying to bring order to what was becoming a messy primary calendar, with numerous states jockeying to be among the first four primary states.

Unhappy with the national party decision not to include their states among the four early voting states, legislators in Florida and Michigan defiantly scheduled their primaries for January, prompting traditional first-in-the-nation-states Iowa and New Hampshire to leapfrog their contests even earlier.

Adding their support, Obama and Clinton signed a party pledge not to campaign in either state -- and they honored that pledge. The Obama campaign even pulled his name from the ballot in Michigan. When voting occurred, Democratic turnout was low and the results were considered insignificant at the time. Clinton won Florida and also beat "uncommitted" on the ballot in Michigan.

But now, five months and 53 contests later, neither Obama nor Clinton has achieved the 2,026 delegates needed to secure the party's nomination.

That has placed the spotlight squarely on the Democratic committee -- forcing it to revisit its earlier decision.

"I must have received about 1,000 e-mails in the last two weeks about this," said Don Fowler, a panel member and former committee chair who is supporting Clinton.

"We've been talking to the campaigns regularly and we each receive somewhere on the order of 1,000 e-mails a day, not to mention phone calls and hard copy letters," said Roosevelt, the panel co-chair, CEO of a Massachusetts health-care company and the grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Party Rules Revisited

When it comes to politics, rules, it would seem, are sometimes made to be broken.

"When we made the rules, none of us could have predicted the kind of primary that we've had, and the importance of those states," said Alice Huffman, a member of the rules and bylaws committee and a Clinton supporter.

"We thought that it would have been over on Super Tuesday like in most races," Huffman said.

Under pressure from party leadership, the campaigns and Democratic influentials from these two important battleground states, Democratic sources tell ABC News the Democratic National Committee is advising panel members to seat 50 percent of the delegates from the Sunshine and Wolverine states.

"There will be some seating from Florida and Michigan. We certainly want to have a 50-state convention," said Alice Germond, the committee secretary and a longtime member of the rules and bylaws panel.

"Whatever we do will be fair to both campaigns, will not advantage one over another," Germond said.

A 50-50 split of the disputed delegates would keep Obama's edge over Clinton in the delegate race where it is today -- but a decision to tilt the Florida and Michigan delegates in Clinton's favor would put Obama further from reaching the so-called "magic number" that secures the nomination.

Also at stake, the goodwill of two important battleground states. Eyeing presumptive Republican candidate Sen. John McCain's general election head start, the Democratic Party doesn't want to alienate Florida and Michigan going into the fall campaign season.

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