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DNC faces big challenge Saturday

  • Story Highlights
  • DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting to rule on Michigan, Florida
  • Members to decide how many delegates to seat, then apportionment
  • Schneider: Either way, Obama would be ahead in delegates
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By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With just three contests left in the Democratic primary season, Sen. Hillary Clinton is making a big push for votes. But her presidential hopes may now hinge on a meeting of a Democratic Party panel.

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Protesters voice their concerns outside the DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill in April.

At issue: Will Clinton's wins in the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries count at the convention?

On Saturday, the Democratic Party has to make two big choices: The first is how many delegates from Florida and Michigan to seat.

CNN.com/Live will stream live coverage of the meeting from start to finish on Saturday.

Right now the number of delegates is zero, because those states were penalized for holding their primaries too early.

The Florida and Michigan parties are appealing that decision, with encouragement from Clinton.

"So Florida, let's keep going. Let's make sure your votes are counted. Let's make sure your delegates are seated," Clinton has recently said.

Sen. Barack Obama supports seating some disputed delegates. Video Watch analysts weigh in on the Democrats' challenge »

"Rest assured that when we meet in Denver for the Democratic Convention in August, Florida Democrats will be seated ... they will be participating ... your voices will be heard," Obama has said.

So what's the choice?

"Obviously there are some that would like to see it reinstated to 100 percent ... there are some who say that a 50 percent sanction was automatic and therefore perhaps they could reinstate to 50 percent," said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney.

Once the committee decides how many delegates to seat, it has to make a second decision. Interactive: View a timeline of the Democratic delegate dispute »

"If you then agree to seat delegates, how do you then apportion those delegates to the candidates?" Finney said.

With no campaign, Florida Democrats voted 50 percent for Clinton and 33 percent for Obama. So that's one option.

In Michigan, however, Obama's name was not on the ballot. Clinton got 55 percent of the vote, and 40 percent of Michigan Democrats voted for an uncommitted slate.

"Some would take the position that perhaps they were, their intention was to vote for Sen. Obama ... some would take the position that you can't know what the intentions of those voters were," Finney added.

Right now, with no Michigan or Florida delegates included, Obama leads Clinton by 199 delegates. He needs 45 more to win.

There's another scenario Clinton would probably prefer: All the Florida and Michigan delegates are seated and Obama is given no uncommitted Michigan delegates.

As a result, Obama would be 81 delegates ahead, and he would need 155 more to win.

But there's a scenario that might be acceptable to Obama: Half the Michigan and Florida delegates are seated and all the uncommitted Michigan delegates are given to him.

Then Obama would be 167.5 delegates ahead and he would need 72.5 more to win.

Either way, Obama would be ahead in delegates.

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If the party seats Florida and Michigan delegates, then those states' popular votes can be included in the totals.

The question then: Would that put Clinton ahead in popular votes? Only if you give Obama zero votes in Michigan, where nobody could vote for him because his name was not on the ballot.

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