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Dems to Decide on Florida, Michigan Delegations

Black America Web.com, News Report, Staff Posted: May 30, 2008

When the Democratic Party's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee meets Saturday to determine how to resolve the thorny issue of displaced delegates from Michigan and Florida who couldn't vote in the presidential primary, four undecided panelists who will sit at the table are black.

"They are the superdelegates: 796 elected officials and Democratic party leaders who will decide if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee for president," Keith Boykin, an African-American political analyst, wrote on The Daily Voice website. "But there is another subgroup we don't know as much about -- the black superdelegates."

Some of the black committee members meeting in Washington, D.C. this weekend include Alexis Herman, a former White House aide to Bill Clinton and Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration; Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; Ralph Dawson, a partner at the New York law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, and Yvonne Gates, a former commissioner for Clark County, Nevada, according to The Daily Voice.

Of the 30 members of the committee, 13 are Clinton supporters, eight are Obama supporters, and nine are undecided.

"They have been under tremendous pressure to declare their support for one candidate or another," Boykin added. "Now, with just two days left until the committee meets to make its decision, the pressure is likely to grow."

Democratic Party officials voted, without much controversy outside those states, to strip Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates as a penalty for holding their primaries earlier than Democratic rules allowed. All the Democratic candidates agreed to the rules and avoided campaigning in either state. Obama removed his name from the Michigan ballot.

Clinton won a majority of votes cast in both the renegade contests, and has been pushing for the Democratic National Committee to seat all 368 delegates from Florida and Michigan, despite having agreed to adhere to party rules.

Clinton strategist Harold Ickes is one of the 30 members of the committee, and he said he'll be encouraging them to base their decisions on the January primaries. "We are urging 100 percent of the delegations be seated and that each delegate have a full vote," Ickes said.

That's an unlikely outcome as even Clinton aides have privately acknowledged they lack the votes on the committee to restore all the delegates.

"We don't think it's fair to seat them fully because we both lived by these rules and pledged to abide by them," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said. "We're willing to give some delegates here, which I don't think should be sneezed at."

Obama is close to clinching the Democratic nomination no matter what happens Saturday. As his delegate lead has widened, the Illinois senator has become more open to a compromise that would count some delegates from the two states even if that puts Clinton closer behind him.

Still, party unity is proving elusive, despite the wrap-up of the primary season.

Clinton supporters plan to protest outside the Washington hotel where the party's rules committee will tackle the vexing question of how to punish Michigan and Florida without completely disenfranchising voters from those states. At least several busloads of people were anticipated from Florida and perhaps scores of people from Michigan, as well as demonstrators from various parts of the country.

Plouffe said his side was hoping to avoid a "scene."

"Obviously, with the click of a mouse it would be pretty easy for us in the mid-Atlantic to get thousands of people there, but we don't think it's a helpful dynamic to create chaos and in the interest of party unity, we're encouraging our supporters not to protest," he said.

Obama supporter David Wilhelm, a former party chairman, echoed that sentiment. "We're not going to have Obama folks protesting. We're not going to turn this thing into a circus."

Some observers, like Michelle Bernard, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Independent Women's Voice, believe Saturday's meeting will be tumultuous, to say the least.

"One can expect complete chaos at Saturday's meeting of the Democratic National Committee regarding whether to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations," Bernard told BlackAmericaWeb.com Thursday. "Most of this chaos is likely to be caused by the supporters of the Clinton campaign and any clashes that may come to bear with Obama supporters."

"Notwithstanding the chaos, on can expect the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to do its best to reach a compromise with both campaigns for the seating of some, but not all, of the Michigan and Florida delegations, even though those states broke party rules by holding their primaries early," she added. "If the DNC reaches a solution that Sen. Clinton disagrees with, one can expect, Sen. Clinton will take her case to the Democratic Convention in August."

Top Democratic leaders expressed their intention to push for a quick end to the battle for the presidential nomination when primaries are over next week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday, adding that he, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and party chairman Howard Dean will urge uncommitted delegates to choose sides.

"By this time next week, it will all be over give or take a day," Reid said of the marathon race between the front-running Obama and Clinton.

Tantalizingly close to the nomination, Obama stands to gain a minimum of roughly 20 delegates in remaining primaries in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota under party rules that distribute them proportional to the popular vote -- even if he loses all three. He would need to enlist the support of uncommitted superdelegates to amass the rest.

Slightly fewer than 200 superdelegates remain uncommitted, including 64 members of Congress.

One, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip in the House, was quoted in a report published Thursday as saying he intended to disclose his preference as the final primaries are held on Tuesday.

Clyburn, who is black and whose district and state voted overwhelmingly for Obama, is widely expected to support the Illinois senator.

Although Obama commands a majority of the delegates, neither candidate has won the 2,026 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without Florida and Michigan. Obama is just about 40 delegates shy of the 2,026 magic number and leads Clinton by roughly 200 delegates.

A number of black Democrats told BlackAmericaWeb.com they are hoping that Clinton bows out of the race after the June 3 primaries have ended and not drag out her fight for the nomination until August.

Clinton insists that her supporters want her to remain in the race even though some of her most staunch supporters, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, now say she doesn't have a chance to beat Obama.

"Sen. Clinton continues to make her case to the voters in the remaining primary states, as well as to the superdelegates," Traci Blunt, a spokeswoman for Clinton, told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

"She is the stronger candidate to beat the Republicans in the general election," Blunt said. "It is important that the delegates are seated from Michigan and Florida and that the votes are counted. Democrats can't win in November without Michigan."

With the nomination in sight, Obama is willing to give rival Clinton the lion's share of the delegates from Florida and Michigan, but is stopping short of her demand to fully recognize the two renegade states.

The DNC could decide to send half the delegates to the convention, uncertain is which half. Another option is to seat all the delegates with half a vote. Then the issue is how those votes should be split between Clinton and Obama.

Committee members interviewed by The Associated Press have expressed little interest in the option of seating all the delegates. And the DNC staff wrote in an analysis sent to members this week that the rules call for the two states to lose at least half their delegates at a minimum for voting too early.

Clinton wrote a passionate letter to superdelegates this week asking for their support in what appeared to be a last appeal in her uphill battle.

"Everywhere I go, people come up to me, grip my hand or arm, and urge me to keep on running," Clinton said in her letter. "That is why I continue in this race: because I believe I am best prepared to lead this country as president."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Articles:

Clinton Crushes Obama in W. Virginia -- Too Little, Too Late?

Divided Party Far Greater Peril to Obama and Clinton than McCain

Superdelegates Can Rock the Vote

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