Clinton Camp Erupts as Fla., Mich. Delegates Get Half-Votes

After months of controversy, Democratic Party officials have decided to seat the full Michigan and Florida delegations at the party's convention in August -- but with each delegate getting only a half-vote as punishment for those states defying party rules and holding their primaries early.

The decision netted Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., 29 pledged delegates.

But Clinton campaign officials suggested the political storm over the Michigan and Florida delegates may not be over, amid a tornado watch outside the Democratic National Committee panel's hearing room at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington.

"Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her right to take this to the Credentials Committee [meeting in July]," Harold Ickes, a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, told the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee as it approved the Michigan and Florida plan.


Clinton supporters in the crowd chanted "Denver! Denver!" -- a sign that many want a floor fight at the Aug. 25-28 Democratic National Convention in that city.

Obeying a DNC directive, the leading Democratic presidential candidates did not campaign in the Michigan and Florida. Both races were won by Clinton -- though unlike Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and other top Democrats weren't even listed on the Michigan ballot.

That made Michigan a tricker problem than Florida -- where Obama's name remained on the ballot -- and Obama and Clinton supporters clashed openly at the hearing.

The Clinton campaign wanted to allot Clinton 73 delegates and give Obama zero, with the remaining ones going to "uncommitted."

Another proposal called for a 73-55 split based on giving Clinton her share of the Jan. 15 vote and assigning Obama the day's "uncommitted" vote.

Senior Michigan Democrats devised a compromise that allocated the delegates at a ratio of 69 for Clinton, 59 for Obama.

At half strength, that netted Clinton five delegates in Michigan, a result that left Ickes irate.

"Not only will this motion hijack four delegates from Mrs. Clinton, it will take 55 delegates from uncommitted status … and convert them to Barack Obama," Ickes said. "I am stunned that we have the gall, the chutzpah, to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters" in Michigan.

"There has been a lot of talk about party unity," he added. "'Let's all come together, wrap our arms around one another,'" he added. "I submit to you ladies and gentlemen that taking four delegates is not the way to start down the path to party unity."

In Aberdeen, S.D., Obama was asked what he thought of the threat to keep the fight going through July and perhaps even to the Democratic Convention in August.

"I'm not gonna do anything to dissuade Sen. Clinton to do what she thinks is best," Obama said.

"I think that Sen. Clinton and former President Clinton love this country, they love the Democratic Party," he added. "I think they deeply believe that Democrats need to win in November so I trust that they're gonna do the right thing. ... I think that they will be motivated by an interest in bringing the party together and making sure that we're in a position to win Florida, Michigan and the presidency."

An Obama adviser, Anita Dunn, said the Obama campaign was not particularly worried about Ickes position at the DNC meeting.

"He said 'reserve the right,' not that he was going to do it," Dunn said. "They have to get through the next three days. I've been there before."

Some observers have pointed out an apparent Clinton campaign shift on what to do about Florida and Michigan.

At the time of the Michigan and Florida primaries, Clinton knew the delegates wouldn't count. In fact, although Ickes now favors representation for Florida and Michigan's delegations, he was one of several Clinton supporters at 2007's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee hearing to vote not to recognize any delegates from either state because the they were about to violate party rules and hold their contests early.

But now, Clinton may need any delegates she can get to erode Obama's substantial lead in the delegate count -- 2,050.5 to 1,872.5 after factoring in Michigan and Florida, with 2,118 total delegates now needed to clinch the nomination. So Clinton's campaign demanded all the Michigan and Florida delegates be seated at full strength.

"If you turn your back on the voters of Michigan or Florida, you will be flirting with a McCain victory," former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard told the DNC panel on behalf of the Clinton campaign, citing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

However, just last month at a private fundraiser in North Carolina, former President Bill Clinton took a different tack.

"Probably the only option then is to seat them under our rules as half delegates," he said in an April 29 audio clip posted on YouTube.

That's what the DNC committee ultimately decided to do.

The Obama campaign said it could go along with it. An Obama advocate at the hearing, Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., said said seating all of Florida delegates with half a vote was a generous concession by the Obama, the Democratic frontrunner.

"This action will involve extra delegates, up to 19 delegates, being awarded to Sen. [Hillary] Clinton, [D-N.Y.]," Wexler said. "Sen. Obama should be commended for his willingness to offer this extraordinary concession in order to promote reconciliation to Florida voters."

The Clinton campaign disagreed. Clinton's Florida representative, Florida State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, told the DNC panel, "I want it all" -- meaning a full seating of Florida's delegates with full voting power -- and Ickes later ridiculed the Obama campaign's talking point of a concession.

"Concession?" Ickes said. "Gimme a break. Under their formula, Hillary Clinton loses delegates, not gains delegates. It is just a perversion of the word to call that a concession."

It got heated outside the hearing room, as well. At one point, as a group of both Clinton and Obama allies called "Florida Unity" described the proposal to give Florida delegates half votes, representatives of the Clinton campaign from outside Florida interrupted the group's press conference.

Clinton campaign surrogate Lanny Davis denied the Clinton campaign had agreed to anything less than a 100 percent seating of the delegates at 100 percent of their strength.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a Clinton supporter and member of the "Florida Unity" group, noted that he was speaking "on behalf of the voters of Florida," not on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

"They're misrepresenting our stance," Davis said repeatedly.

Davis and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a fiery supporter of Clinton's, exchanged some heated words with DNC member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee, Fla., after Ausman suggested they had no business speaking.

"Are you from Florida?" Ausman asked Davis. "Are you a designated representative of a campaign?"

"I am a designated representative of the Clinton campaign," Tubbs Jones said to Ausman. "Why don't you go about your business?"

The tension reflected high stakes were for both candidates, analysts said.

"You have Hillary Clinton feeling this is her best shot of getting the nomination," said ABC News' Cokie Roberts on "Good Morning America." "And you have a bunch of women who will be protesting outside, saying women's voices have not been heard."

DNC Chairman Howard Dean kicked off the DNC meeting with what may have been an olive branch to such women -- noting that the Democratic Party is about to pick a female or African American as its presidential nominee.

He also lamented the campaign's "blatant sexist comments," which he pinned, in comments interrupted by applause, on "some members of the media," as well as the campaign season's "blatantly racist remarks."

"We know those comments have no place in our society and certainly no place in our party and that will stop," Dean added. "And we need to come together and unite this party. And each one of us has a responsibility to ensure that that happens."

Obama adviser Dunn suggested a key to such healing rested with the Clinton campaign.

Obama's campaign expects to win around 38 delegates in the final three contests of Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana. If he hits that mark, it would leave him about 30 superdelegates away from his party's nod.

The Obama campaign is pushing superdelegates to come on board by Tuesday so that Obama can claim his party's presidential nomination when he speaks that evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The site was chosen because it is the same place where McCain will formally receive the GOP's presidential nomination in early September.

Asked if Obama would wait to get a concession call from Clinton before claiming the nomination, Dunn said the onus was on Clinton now that the Democratic Party has firmed up the number of delegates needed to claim the party's nod.

"He's not going to wait by the phone like a high-school girl waiting for a date," said Dunn. "That's not Barack Obama."

"After Tuesday," Dunn added, referring to the final contests of South Dakota and Montana, Clinton "can decide how united she wants this party to be."

ABC News' John Santucci, Karen Travers, Sunlen Miller, Sarah Herndon, Gregory McCown and Stephanie Dahle contributed to this report.