Bill Clinton: Florida, Michigan Penalty “Appropriate”

By Nitya

May 22, 2008 11:30am

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Sarah Amos Report: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday flatly rejected a proposal by Sen. Barack Obama to penalize Florida by seating only half of its convention delegates — despite the fact that former President Bill Clinton and other top Clinton campaign officials have floated that idea as a possible compromise.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Obama, D-Ill., called the idea of cutting Florida’s delegation in half "a very reasonable solution" to the party’s stand-off over how to treat a primary contest that was not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.

Sen. Clinton dismissed the suggestion, saying she would insist on 100 percent representation for Florida.

"I think that is disingenuous but it’s also insulting to the 1.7-million Floridians who actually turned out to vote," Clinton, D-N.Y., said of Obama’s proposal, according to the newspaper.

But just last week, Bill Clinton called giving Florida half its delegates — similar to how the Republican National Committee penalized the state for holding an earlier-than-allowed contest — an "appropriate penalty."

"The Republican Party said ‘OK, we’d like to win Florida in the fall so we are gonna invoke our rule, they got out of turn, we will seat their delegates as half a delegate and seat their superdelegates,’ " Clinton said at a campaign event in Missoula, Mon. "That is an appropriate penalty."

Later in the same speech, he pointed out that the same penalty was applied by the GOP to Michigan, which also held a primary earlier than the party allowed.

"The Republican Party knows that John McCain is popular in Michigan and would actually have a chance to win, notwithstanding the fact that it is the most hard-hit state in America, so they did what the rules permit, they are sitting the Michigan delegates as half delegates," he said. "But the Democratic party because — for a lot of reasons, they decided to destroy the Michigan campaign."

Two weeks ago, Clinton campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" said the campaign "certainly might" agree to a compromise whereby the primary results would be used to award half of the Michigan and Florida’s allotted number of delegates.

McAuliffe, a former DNC chairman, noted that such a penalty would be in accordance with the DNC’s own rules.

"The rule is 50 percent," McAuliffe said. "Had they done that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion."

Top Clinton adviser Harold Ickes was among the DNC members who voted last year to strip all of Michigan and Florida’s delegates, though he has more recently insisted that the delegates be awarded to the two states.

"Both delegations should be seated," Ickes said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "All delegates should be seated. And all delegates should have a full vote each."

Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, said Sen. Clinton’s statement is accurate: The campaign is insisting that Michigan and Florida receive their full allotments of delegates.

"Our position is pretty clear and consistent," he said. "100 percent."

The Clinton campaign will make its case to seat the full Michigan and Florida delegations May 31, at a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington.

Getting full representation for those states is critical to Clinton’s campaign strategy: Seating the delegations in full in accordance with the election results in those states would allow her to make up 71 delegates in her race against Obama, according to ABC’s calculations.

It would also change the magic number needed for the nomination.

On the trail of late, Sen. Clinton has asserted that the number of delegates needed to secure the Democratic nod is 2,210 — the number that assumes full delegate representation for Florida and Michigan. The DNC’s official number — and the number used by the Obama campaign — is 2,026.

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