Clinton Gets Voting Rights Fever

Trailing in delegate count, Clinton presses for including Michigan and Florida.

ByJAKE TAPPER via via logo

MARCH 20, 2008 — -- Having long pushed, unsuccessfully, for the disqualified Florida and Michigan primaries to count, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is now advocating revotes in those states.

Her path to the Democratic presidential nomination becomes much tougher without one of those scenarios happening, though it does not currently look like either one will.

Demonstrating the first law of vote counting -- politicians who are trailing get voting rights fever -- Clinton swooped into Detroit, Wednesday, to push suffrage for the Wolverine and Sunshine states.

"Sen. [Barack] Obama speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the America people," Clinton said. "Today I'm urging him to match those words with actions to make sure the people of Michigan and Florida have a voice in this election."

Florida and Michigan disobeyed Democratic Party rules and held their contests early. The party punished those states by not recognizing their delegations and candidates agreed not to campaign in either state before their primaries. Clinton won both contests, but they did not count; Obama had even taken his name off the Michigan ballot.

But with Obama currently leading Clinton by 128 delegates, those combined 368 Florida and Michigan delegates -- which the party currently does not recognize -- are more important than would have been predicted.

Clinton needs them to narrow the gap and to help press her case to superdelegates that she's the stronger general election candidate who can win big industrial states.

Two Clinton-backing governors, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey, have even lined up donors to help pay for the contest because Michigan's and Florida's governors say the states will not foot the bill.

But officials from both states now say that revotes seem unlikely.

Brian Schaffner of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University says the numbers are not adding up for Clinton.

"You can never say never, but it's close to too late," Schaffner said. "Certainly if neither Michigan nor Florida revotes, it seems very unlikely that she could catch up in terms of pledged delegates."

Michigan officials worked hard to propose a plan for a revote that officials of the Democratic National Committee said passed muster, but the Obama campaign has been reluctant to bless the new proposal.

Which brings us to the second law of vote counting -- politicians in the lead fear change.

Obama has said revotes would be OK.

"If there's a way of organizing something in those states where both Sen. Clinton and I can compete and if we have enough time to make our case before the voters there then that would be fine with me," he said Feb. 7. "I think that's up to the DNC, that's not up to me."

Michigan officials have devised a plan for a revote and the DNC Rules Committee ruled that the proposal "would fit within the framework of the National Party's Delegate Selection Rules."

But the Obama campaign has expressed serious reservations about the revote proposal, arguing among other things, that the private donations Clinton supporters have drummed up to pay for it may not be legal.

However it turns out, Democratic strategist Brian Duffy says the party will be hurt.

"No one wins out of this. I think the Democratic Party looks bad, I think the Clinton campaign looks bad, it doesn't help the Obama campaign," Duffy said.

All sorts of plans are still being made to recognize the Florida and Michigan delegations at the Democratic convention -- perhaps by just seating them and allocating half for Obama and half for Clinton, an idea floated by the Obama campaign since it essentially supports the status quo.

Either way it's a mess for those important battleground states and Republicans are loving every minute of it.

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