Skip to main content

Michigan, Florida votes could be crucial for Democrats

  • Story Highlights
  • Michigan, Florida were stripped of all Democratic delegates after moving primaries
  • Clinton won big in both states, but Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan
  • Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown says he's willing to mediate if necessary
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Ed Hornick
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With a competitive primary race heating up between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, could the ultimate winner be chosen on the convention floor by Michigan and Florida delegates?

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a rally at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Tuesday.

The problem is, the Democratic National Committee stripped both states of their delegates after the state parties moved up primary elections in an effort to be competitive.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, only stripped the two states of half their delegates.

The states' move cost them a voice in the Democratic Party's say for a presidential nominee.

And now there's concern among party strategists that neither Clinton nor Obama could win the magic number of 2,025 delegates to clinch the nomination, possibly putting Michigan and Florida back into play, at least at the convention.

After all, Michigan has 156 original delegates, and Florida has 210 -- numbers that could set either candidate, especially Clinton, over the top to a win.

Clinton won big in both states, garnering 50 percent of the vote in Florida and 55 percent in Michigan. Click here for full Democratic primary results.

Larry King Live
How will the presumptive GOP presidential nominee take on Clinton or Obama? John McCain goes one-on-one with Larry King.
Tonight, 9 ET

But Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan's January 15 primary. And both candidates agreed not to campaign in both states, though Clinton held a victory rally in Florida after the January 29 results came in.

"I don't know, and I don't think anybody else does, either. There's some who are sort of thinking of a re-do," said CNN political commentator James Carville, a longtime Clinton supporter.

"I think that the way the Democrats write their delegate rules is borderline silly, and I hope after this is over, we throw that rule book out and do things in a simple way," he told Larry King Wednesday.

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, an Obama supporter, said the rules are the rules.

Don't Miss

  • Election Center 2008
  • Democrats dread superdelegate fight
  • Why delegates matter

"Michigan and Florida both decided to violate the rules. They were told, 'If you violate the rules, this will be the penalty.' They violated the rules anyway. And so, now, here we are trying to change the rules after the game," he said.

But the rules, according to the DNC, gives the states stripped of their delegates the ability to try other options.

The first course of action is for the state parties to appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, a group that resolves any issues that pop up.

The committee is expected to meet sometime in July or August before the convention when it could take up the matters of Florida and Michigan.

The DNC has even floated the idea of organizing caucuses in Florida and Michigan to select the actual delegates.

"If there's a way of organizing something in those states where both Sen. Clinton and I can compete and we have enough time to make our case before the voters there, then that would be fine," Obama has said.

Clinton supporters, meanwhile, say that's unfair.

"You can't undo an election with a caucus, and especially you can't undo an election where 1.7 million Florida Democrats have gone to vote in a secret ballot and replace it with a caucus ... [where] maybe 50,000 people would show up," said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a one-time Democratic delegate, says it is possible this scenario could happen.

"They will be represented, because the Democratic Party is not so foolish as to write off those two states and then try to rely upon the other 48 to get them the victory," he told Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.

Brown is no stranger to contentious convention-floor politics. When the Democratic National Committee's credentials committee wanted to strip Sen. George McGovern of 151 of California's 271 delegates at the convention in 1972, Brown helped lead the California delegation to back McGovern.

And he hopes to help this year -- if it comes to that.

"But I can tell you this ... if asked and given an opportunity to be the mediator, I bet you I could come forward with a proposal that each of the sides would buy," Brown said.

Video Watch experts weigh in on the Democratic delegate race »

Carville, who ran former President Clinton's successful 1992 campaign against George H.W. Bush, says the party should keep the voters' interests in mind, and that the Democratic Party "ought to be very reluctant to disenfranchise those Democrats in Florida or those Democrats in Michigan without some consideration."

And Democratic voters in Florida have even created their own campaign objecting to their disenfranchisement.


"We are going to go all the way to the convention to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear on that convention floor," said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Interests can be compromised, principles cannot. That's why the fight over seating the Michigan and Florida delegates is getting tough. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's chief political analyst Bill Schneider contributed to this report.

All About Democratic National CommitteeDemocratic PartyU.S. Presidential Election

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print