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Why Florida has become a sideshow for the Democrats

  • Story Highlights
  • Democrats stripped Florida of delegates for moving up primary
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton is currently leading in Florida, according to polls
  • Clinton says Florida delegates should participate in national convention
  • Delegates could become key if no candidate has majority going into convention
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(CNN) -- Florida has often played an over-sized role in presidential politics -- for proof you need not look further than the 2000 presidential race.

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Hillary Clinton says she wants the Florida delegates to participate in the Democratic national convention.

But the Florida Democratic primary has been relegated to a "beauty contest" because the Democratic party stripped the state of its delegates. Thus, Florida Democrats may have little impact on who eventually becomes the Democratic nominee.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider provides answers to questions about the Florida primaries.

Q: Why did the Democratic Party strip Florida of its delegates?

Schneider: Did you know that the primary season has not officially started yet? It doesn't actually start until February 5. Any primary held before that date is breaking party rules.

The Democrats have said that only four states can go ahead and break the rules -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. But nobody else!

What about Florida, which is holding its primary Tuesday? Off with their heads! Or more precisely, out with their delegates! The Democrats say the party will refuse to seat any Florida delegates at the convention in Denver in August. So there!

Q: What are Hillary Clinton and the other candidates doing about it?

Schneider: Clinton has already told Florida Democrats not to worry. If she is the Democratic nominee, she will make sure Florida delegates are not left out on the street. And you can expect any other Democratic nominee to do exactly the same thing. Really, can you imagine the Democratic Party going out of its way to insult Florida voters by telling them their votes don't count -- after what happened in Florida in 2000?

Q: Who benefits from the situation?

Schneider: One punishment has held. The Democratic candidates have all refused to campaign in Florida. Without a campaign, who wins? Probably Hillary Clinton, the best-known contender. She will be in Florida Tuesday night to collect her "prize." Which is what? Momentum, she hopes, heading into Super Tuesday on February 5.

Otherwise, Barack Obama can claim the "Big Mo" coming out of his impressive victory in South Carolina on Saturday -- the last officially sanctioned primary before Super Tuesday.

Q: So, if Clinton wins Tuesday it will mostly be symbolic, right?

Schneider: Not necessarily. If the Democratic race remains close and no one has a majority going into the convention in August, we could see a showdown over seating the Florida delegates -- and the Michigan delegates, too. Michigan also held an unofficial primary that Hillary Clinton won without a campaign on January 15.

Suppose Clinton needs the Florida and Michigan delegates seated to put her over the top. The Obama delegates will insist that the party enforce its rules and exclude them. Until Obama gets the nomination. Then all Democrats will be welcome to join in the celebration.

Q: What about Florida delegates on the GOP side?

Schneider: Somehow it's not as big a deal to the Republicans who are penalized in Florida by losing half the state's delegates. The candidates are campaigning in Florida like any other primary. Mitt Romney has spent millions of dollars there.

A McCain victory in Florida will be particularly significant because only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. It will be a way for McCain to prove his bona fides with the base. If Mitt Romney wins Florida, it will be a clear signal that the base is not happy with McCain. The Arizona senator could be facing a conservative revolt.

If Rudy Giuliani wins Florida, he will be the latest "comeback kid" in a year when there seems to be one of those every week. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About FloridaDemocratic PartyHillary ClintonBarack Obama

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